Going back in the evening, I discovered why, as I sat in the 2nd balcony to see the formations on stage: Teen Tix! PNB's policy of offering cheap seats to teens has filled out the show, the house was about 85% full, and the high pitched squeals at the evening show were more obvious from the teens (whooooooooo! at every trick). They were not quite as well behaved in the evening show, I had to shush them a couple of times. Nevertheless it's nice to have some fresh energy and enthusiasm in the building.
Agon: Lindsi Dec and Laura Gilbreath led the women ably, and the debut for Ms Gilbreath and Joshua Grant were fine in the ppd. Benjamin Griffiths took on Sarabande, and while he made no mistakes, he didn't have the verve that Jonathan Poretta brings to the role. At the afternoon show I sat 3rd row from the Orchestra, so the music is very loud, and I wondered if it sounded unbalanced. For the evening show I was 2nd balcony, center section. Agon's string section is so important, and sitting close the vibrations just hum through your body. Sitting up top it's not quite so visceral. But it is fun to watch the formations form, unform and reform on stage.
Tide Harmonic: I still think the music is trite. There is no emotional core, and without an emotional or literal story, you feel a bit like watching a dance behind a thick wall of glass. The choreography itself is a wonder. If it was the middle section of a story ballet, I would think it to be a very entertaining divertissement a la "under the sea". As noted above, the lighting really helps the mood. The same cast danced, and I didn't perceive any changes. I don't know if this is really a "hit". It will probably be performed again in the 2014-2015 season, according to the post-performance lecture statement by Peter Boal. But I don't think this is going to turn out to be a calling card for Christopher Wheeldon in he same way "After the Rain" is his calling card. I wouldn't mind seeing it in an upcoming season, but I wouldn't necessarily buy a ticket specifically to see this ballet. Sorry if that's a downer for some of the PNB fans, but I'm not writing a review for a Fanzine.
Diamonds: I enjoyed seeing this from the 2nd balcony. This time the orchestra sounded a bit unbalanced - the strings were underpowered compared to the brass. PNB dances faster than any version currently available on youtube. It is whippet-fast, and consequently the energy just grows and grows in the audience. Carrie Imler was as reliable as Greenwich Mean Time and I noticed she also didn't go for 180' extensions, as the Russians do. Batkhurel Bold partnered her solidly, but does not offer the panache that Stanko Milov brought to the role. Because the tempi is so fast, the corps is not as carefully precise as the Russians or French with each move. They choose energy over precision. If you're expecting North Korean automon synchronization, you will be disappointed. That said, Peter Boal's program liner notes are worthy of noting, I am not sure if he is quoting Barbara Horgan or Karin von Aroldingen:
Diamonds, the triumphant conclusion of Balanchine's triptych, Jewels, toured to Las Vegas with great acclaim last October. (The founder of the Balanchine Trust was there and deemed it the "best Diamonds ever" and also asked me not to repeat that. Oops)
Are the NBC costume headdresses different this year for Diamonds? I don't recall the swirly, off-center design on the heads of the corps from prior years. But perhaps I am mis-remembering.
At the post-performance lecture, Peter Boal said PNB would perform Stravinsky's Violin Concerto in an upcoming season, that he had performed Stars & Stripes so many times at NYCB that PNB would next perform it circa 2176 for the tricentennial (he gave a mock salute). Same goes for Western Symphony (he gave a mock hat tip). He asked the audience what they wanted to see from the Balanchine rep, and Vienna Waltzes was popular.
When asked for differences / similarities between PNB and NYCB, Laura Gilbreath noted that PNB does not rehearse in the 2 hours leading up to a performance, which allows the dancers to rest their bodies. At NYCB they rehearse all day - and because their rep is so jampacked, they continue right up to the curtain opening. Mr Boal recalled days when it was common for dancers to put on their performance makeup at lunchtime - only because their rehearsal schedules were so full that they would have no time to do it before the 7:00pm curtain rose. The breakneck speed of rehearsals, and caused many dancers' bodies to wear out quickly, while others thrived in the pressure filled atmosphere.