Program A: Mozartiana, Episodes and Romeo and Juliet. In a nutshell, it was a very satisfying and promising start to the season.
Last night's rendering of Balanchine's Mozartiana (1981) will remain in my memory for a long time due to the outstanding performance of Heather Ogden in the lead ballerina role. Blending extraordinarily secure technique with keen musical sensitivity, she took us to a balletic paradise, from the opening calm of the 'Preghiera' to the technical wonders in the 'Theme et Variations,' to the fleet-footed finale. Ogden's languid pirouettes-in-attitude alone were to-die-for; she absolutely floats. No flash - just a lot of class. Michael Cook was her awe-struck cavalier in the T&V segment. Ian Grosh was neat and precise, if a big small scaled, as the Mozart-like figure in the Gigue. My only quibble with this work was that only one of the four junior dancers was a little girl (the one standing audience-far-left), the other three appearing to be significantly taller...so we had one little girl and three "tweens," which altered the effect of Balanchine's choreography, to these eyes.
Balanchines Episodes, to four Webern pieces, followed the now-traditional NYCB staging, i.e., minus the original fourth movement for a solo man (Paul Taylor in 1959). Perhaps due to opening-night jitters, I found most of the movements to be performed tentatively, especially by soloists. The two big exceptions were (1) the second movement -- an unusual acrobatic pdd titled 'Five Pieces' -- featuring the tall blonde sculptural beauty of Jordyn Richter, ably partnered by Ted Seymour, and (2) the precision of the 14 female corps members in the closing 'Ricercata' movement. They were beautifully rehearsed and captured the elegant majesty of the Bach-inspired melody.
The one novelty of the night, Paul Mejia's Romeo and Juliet (to the gorgeous Tchaikovsky score) was a very happy surprise on most fronts, despite some rocky moments, particularly in the high Soviet-style lifts performed by Elizabeth Holowchuk and Kirk Henning as the protagonists. (In general, the piece semed under-reheared.) This brief rendering of Shakespeare's famous tale is set against a mostly-black backdrop with a podium and twin staircases in the back. The large corps of 18 is covered in black long-sleeved unitards for most of the work, changing to white leotards and tights for the final tableau; only Romeo & Juliet wear white throughout the piece.
I found the more 'static' moments of the work to be most effective. Mejia paints the essence of the play by beginning and ending the ballet in the Capulet tomb. Juliet discovers the dead Romeo, triggering a series of flashbacks to their story, such as their ballroom meeting and the death of Tybalt (Ian Grosh). All the while, the black-garbed corps morphs into different characters and, at one point, even pieces of tomb architecture. I found it interesting that, at all times, all but Romeo/Juliet are barely visible...just visible enough to convey an idea of what's going on, while keeping the focus on the protagonists. At times, the dark corps reminded me of the observers in the Alonso Carmen; at other moments, the dark males lift Juliet, as if to convey flight, just as Leonid Jacobsen did in Taglioni's Flight (in which the Sylph appears to be flying in the night). The final tableau is simply breathtaking, with a white billowy cape engulfing the entire stage, emanating from the shoulders of the star-crossed lovers. The piece was very well received, with loud applause and 'bravos' from the public. Not a masterpiece but certainly an effective ballet.
Thank you so much Natalia for your detailed and concise report. Brevity is the soul of wit .