Yesterday I drove up to Saratoga to see City Ballet dance at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. This is a theater in a park with a proscenium stage and a house open on the sides to the elements. I was in the balcony, which is still pretty good seats. The balcony was about 3/4 full; the lower floor more so. There were four dances.
Year of the Rabbit
Music: Sufjan Stevens
Choreography: Justin Peck
This was my favorite piece of the program. I had seen Peck's Paz de la Jolla not too long ago and really liked it, which is one of the reasons I came to this. This didn't disappoint. I don't have a lot of experience with modern choreographers, but from what I have seen Peck is definitely my favorite. He does a great job of capturing the grace and expressiveness of classical ballet in an interestingly new way. He's especially good an handling the corps, which acts more as another character in the interplay onstage than an enhancement of the soloists characters.
The leading dancers were Ashley Boulder, Teresa Reichlen, Janie Taylor, Joaquin De Luz, Robert Fairchild, and Tyler Angle. Reichlen especially stood out for me, showing that long and muscular legs can still be graceful and expressive.
Also worthy of special note was a pas de deux between Janie Taylor and Tyler Angle, titled Year of Our Lord, which was a counterpoint to most of the piece in that there were no other dancers on stage and it was slow and very sensual. Many times after leaving a ballet I'm still entranced by the beauty of a specific dance, usually a pas de deux, and for that day this was it.
The Garland Dance (from The Sleeping Beauty)
The was a big ensemble dance, with colorful costumes, garlands of flowers, and little girls dancing with the corps. It was very lovely, and I'm generally a fan of loveliness, but I think placing it after Year of the Rabbit was a mistake, because the complexity of the earlier piece made it seem kind of light weight.
Barber Violin Concerto
Violin: Arturo Delmoni
This is a piece with two couples, one dancing classically and the other modernly to the same music. The classical couple was Jared Angle and Sara Mearns and the modern one Jonathan Stafford and Megan Fairchild. After a while of that the modern man and the classical woman dance, with the former modernizing the latter's style. Then the modern woman and the classical man dance, again with the former modernizing the latter's style. I think it was supposed to be representative of the injection of modern passion into classical rigidity. (Means literally let her hair down.) Unfortunately, for me the classical dancing was not only more elegant but more engaging. Partly, I think, that was because Mearns was so striking in the role. For her, at least, dancing in the classical style seemed a perfect fit of dancer and dance.
Stravinsky Violin Concerto
Violin: Kurt Nikkanen
This was modern dancing at its blandest. The lead dancers, Rebecca Krohn, Amar Ramasar, Janie Taylor and Ask la Cour were fine, but the choreography left me cold. Of course, I'm a guy for whom Rubies is my least favorite Jewel, so take that as you may.
So, the mixed program was a mixed bag, but on the whole I was very pleased I went. I'll probably go back again next year.
[edit: typo fix]