Two performances of this mixed September rep.
Allegro Brilliante, one of Balanchine's most engaging and wonderful ballets, was the curtain raiser here. There is an interesting interview on the NYCB website with Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette about AB, dancing it together, the perils of married couples dancing together--Veyette says that he thinks although the ballet may not be that famous among nondancers it is deeply respected and admired in the profession, and I agree. (Fairchild as always is extremely pleasant and well-spoken in interview--I wish I liked her dancing more, and particularly her dancing in AB more. ) The two ballerinas were April Daly, a company stalwart, and Jeraldine Mendoza, who is probably the Joffrey's current Young Dancer Most Likely To Succeed; Mendoza is about twenty-one and has already danced five or six leading roles, including name parts, for the company. Both were fine; Mendoza seems quite young in this role (first time I have seen her) and will doubtless be more finished and more daring with experience. She has excellent balance and potentially very good turns, although the notorious pirouettes in the cadenza had a wobble or two (I am not sure if Balanchine actually set double/triple for those sequences or if that has just become something NYCB ballerinas usually do--in any case, Mendoza didn't do triples and I missed them a bit. Have not seen the Tallchief video in years, so I don't know.) Daly was more assured, more mature, and a bit cleaner generally, but Mendoza is lovely on stage--almost a more gracious and lyrical young Paloma Herrera--and will only get better. They were both competently partnered by Dylan Gutierrez. The corps distinguished itself both nights, looking vibrant and smooth; the ballerinas could both have used more of that vibrancy. Technical correctness and efficiency a la Fairchild do not work in Balanchine parts requiring risk and bravura.
Victoria Jaiani, the de facto prima of Joffrey, did a Possokhov pas de deux made on her with husband Temur Suluashvili, and I must say Possokhov could have given this dancer infinitely more to do than a rather trashy recycled Bolshoi acrobatic adagio from the fifties or sixties. Jaiani's entrance, in a sort of slouch, was notably uglifying, and her costume was actionable--something a hootch dancer might wear, not even covering her backside (This ballet is not convincing as soft porn...) The music--the Spartacus/Phrygia pas de deux from Spartacus--is certainly not great, but that's no excuse. The one brilliant step--a grand jete where he catches her in mid-leap--was so pleasant it made the rest look even less good. Jaiani is long, fluid, flexible, strong, ultra-stretched, and lyrical (a bit like Bessmertnova) and made the choreography look far better than it was (her husband is a superb and rock steady partner, especially in Bolshoi tricks like tosses where she does double barrel roll in the air and he catches on the way down), which probably accounts for the shrieking ovation this ballet received when Allegro Brilliante got no more than polite applause. Ugh.
The Bells, which was next, is also Possokhov and was also done for Joffrey, to selected Rachmaninov piano ditties. The pieces are a bizarre mixture (including a two piano piece, I believe from the First Suite, at beginning and end), by no means all Rachmaninov's best compositions (the big pas de deux is the formless, weird, and very unsuccessful slow movement from the B flat minor Sonata). It is a sort of shorter Russian Dances at a Gathering, without any of the charming Robbins schticks. Five couples, various permutations, etc. Anastacia Holden was marvelous in the first pas de deux--funny, witty, crisp, bright. The angle of her elbow in her one-hand-on-head pose repeated twice was scintillating. Jaiani again made her choreography look good. I was under the impression that all the dancers worked very hard here to put the piece over. The gentleman next to me commented that he only enjoyed the pas de deux in this piece--said that the ensembles were very pointless... I agreed completely.
The finale was the reconstructed Nijinsky Le Sacre du Printemps, which I had not seen and which is by far the best version I ever have seen--beautiful lighting, fascinating costumes (ugly sets, but one can't have everything), highly energized and rhythmic dancing from everyone, and what intriguing choreography! Almost no solos but for the old crone and the Chosen One (dancers interestingly alternated in these roles) and a lot of use of circular groups round the stage, as well as line formations. Erica Lynette Edwards, who had the difficult task of standing frozen in a Petrouchka-like pose (head on one side, drooping) for fifteen minutes and then being shot out of a cannon with a difficult jumping solo, was great as the Chosen One--she looked as if she'd been at the backstage barre seconds before, which was VERY impressive Her air positions in the jumps were superb and she falls extremely well. Sadly the end, as it usually seems to, took the audience by surprise and there again was not the applause there should have been: the entire company is in this ballet and more than distinguishes itself.