I have been surprised not to be reading more about the Stravinsky festival at NYCB--wonderful programming for many of us I should think and based on what I saw this weekend, the ballets are receiving some excellent performances. I went up to NY with a special eye to the program w. Stravinsky Violin Concerto/Monumentum/Movements/Duo Concertante/Symphony in Three Movements. I have to say that, previous to this trip, the last time I saw Stravinsky Violin Concerto at NYCB it was a dull affair and though I tend to defend NYCB in the Martins era, after that particular performance I thought 'well, that it is the sort of thing his detractors are talking about.' And the last time I saw Monumentum/Movements at NYCB it was with a past her prime Kistler. So I was particularly curious how this program would look.
I thought that at the Saturday matinee and Sat evening performances with partly overlapping, partly differing casts the company looked energetic, intelligent, and engaged. Overall, the dancers were terrific. And the ballets!!! Classical ballet broken down and reassembled from the inside out--to become something utterly astonishing and deeply moving. I have to admit that for me it's also a very challenging program, even mentally exhausting, like a blockbuster art exhibit; by the time you are looking at your 60th Cezanne you are just a little dizzy...
I don't have time to go into detail re performances plus or minus, but I will say that Sterling Hyltin was electric in Symphony in Three Movements and Megan Fairchild playful, womanly, and quietly radiant in Duo Concertante. Fairchild was also excellent--musical and even witty--in Danses Concertantes the night before, despite an opening slip; in fact, these three performances were the best I have seen her by far; she seems to have reached a new maturity and artistry as a dancer. In Duo Concertante Finlay and she made a nice Martins/Mazzo after image, but by comparison with her, he needs seasoning.
This weekend was also my first chance to see Robert Fairchild in a substantial dancing role (the Martins role in Stravinsky Violin Concerto) and I was very impressed. I had seen him in Double Feature and Liebeslieder last spring--in both of which I thought he was excellent,but this performance really sharpened my impressions of him as a dancer. In some ways, he seems to me the quintessential American male dancer of our era. I'm not forgetting Hallberg, but the latter seems to belong more to the Bruhn/Dowell line of elegant classicists; one recalls Hallberg's French training, supplemented more recently with the note of drama that the Bolshoi seems to be injecting into his persona. Fairchild more obviously recalls the NYCB lineage of D'Amboise, Villella, and Woetzel -- while also being just entirely himself. He is wonderfully easy and yet still precise in the quality of his movement--likewise boyish and yet manly, graceful and yet sculptural. The last quality is something particularly pleasing to see in a role created on the very sculptural Martins. Call me a fan.
Other highlights? Well, when the curtain went up on Stravinsky Violin Concerto Saturday afternoon and Janie Taylor was standing facing the audience with two men on either side of her, there was something so relaxed, attentive and subtly galvanizing in the way she held her body while just standing for the first few bars of the music, that I felt instantly that this was a performance it had been worth my while to get on a plane to see.
Lots more to say about the weekend--including my enjoyment of Reichlen in Movements for Piano and Orchestra Sat night (and the final sensual moments of her berceuse in Firebird the night before)--but I'll stop. For myself, I think that if NYCB can consistently perform the major Balanchine modernist works at this level, then they are doing very well indeed. Was every performance a home run? No. And in patches Symphony in Three Movements could perhaps have used more of a charge from the entire ensemble. (Actually I was a little pooped myself at that point in the program.) But no-one I saw dance was lax or out of their depth, as I have sometimes seen at NYCB. As for the ballets: I find them to be among the most wonderful works of art ever created. Sorry I can't see the Agon program as well.
Thank you for the long and detailed review, Drew. You make me sorry not to have been there.
Brian Seibert in the Times bounces up and down in his seat over the Peck ballet, along with many others, one gathers:
But the Friday debut of his “Year of the Rabbit,” slotted between the most recent contributions of Benjamin Millepied (‘Two Hearts”) and Christopher Wheeldon (“Les Carillons”), was the true coming-out party. It was a triumph not just for Mr. Peck but also for the institution that has nurtured him. The dancers looked happy. The audience responded with ovation after ovation. I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who wished the whole 30-minute dance could have been encored immediately.