I came to NY for a chance to see a mix of works new and old--some once familiar to me that I hadn't seen in a long time. But I'd like to begin by saying a word for Bouder: I thought she was fantastic in Rubies Thursday night--really made the case for it as major Balanchine (which I don't really believe it is). Her engaged facial expressions seemed entirely organic arising out of the total performance which I found powerful, sexy, and fun. I also thought she was excellent in Who Cares? on Sat afternoon. Her musical playfulness softened--or, at any rate, lightened the texture of the hard hitting showgirliness of the other lead women (Hyltin and Lowery). She certainly seemed utterly confident, but I would not say the least bit smug.
In other roles, in Acheron, for example on Friday night, her extremely accomplished dancing was presented in an almost subdued way; if anything I wished she would do more to draw attention to herself. I have in the past found that in some roles she seemed more cheerleader than ballerina and in still others put too much of a damper on her personality--but in her dancing this past weekend at least I saw not only extraordinary skill but tremendous vitality.
For me Dances at a Gathering has aged...I did love it at one time, but not since performances in the 70's and perhaps early 80's have I ever entirely enjoyed it as I once did and indeed I stopped trying to see it since I can only go to the ballet occasionally in any case. But this weekend I was in NY for a slew of performances and happy to give it another chance. I liked it, but...and I am still trying to figure out where the "but" comes from. I think the tone very quickly turns too cutesy for me--some of it is performances (I don't remember Verdi being as archly comic as Kowroski as the woman in green), but I think some of it is the choreography. When the music/choreography does seem to go deeper and darker, I did not always feel the dancers got to the same place. I did think the quality of dancing at the performance I saw Saturday night was very fine -- Peck (in pink) is always flawless and dances with subtle musicality and there was one tour jete where, among a group of men, Catazaro (in blue) went lightly soaring with real ballon and I thought--'oh no wonder they are pushing him'--and all the other men as well were very skillful, Tyler Angle especially. Still, with the exception of Mearns the performances mostly remained generic for me and I'm not sure the problem is entirely the dancers. Mearns is another story. In Dances (as in other roles) I found her remarkable in her ability to convey the sense of an entire world within her and around her. (She did slip at one point which broke some of the spell, but then in an instant she restored that spell.) I know Peck can do it--I saw her do it two nights earlier in Emeralds--but somehow even her performance didn't take flight for me.
In general, Mearns was the heroine of my visit, dancing at every performance I attended--Thursday, Friday, and Saturday matinee and evening and indeed Sat night dancing in both ballets on the program. I felt lucky because I find her the most compulsively watchable woman in the company and her Diamonds was especially memorable, even thrilling. (I did think her tights looked odd when I looked through opera glasses from the first ring--one could see her ankles; someone told me she sometimes wears stirrup tights. I don't know if there is a physical reason for that--protecting blisters or some such--but it's not a choice I care for aesthetically and certainly not in Diamonds.) She also helped make Union Jack an event for me: forceful and severe as she led her regiment dancing to a pounding section of the music in the opening and adorably silly and energetic in her sailor suit at the end.
I hesitate to say I was pleasantly surprised by Spectral Evidence, but I found it disturbing in a way that genuinely affected me. It was decidedly not generic and seemed to draw on a wellspring of imagery that percolates through American fantasies about the Salem trials that were its inspiration--hysteria, child abuse, repression, violent death and almost equally violent rebirth. I found it to be a serious work and very powerfully danced by Robert Fairchild, Peck and the entire cast. I had not really been looking forward to it and ended up very glad I saw it.
However the big emotional event for me during my visit to NY was...uh...the Costermonger bit in Union Jack, for it gave me a final chance to see one of my very favorite ballerinas Jenifer Ringer for one final time before she retires. I was so focused on her, so flooded with memories watching her, and so tearful [sic] that I actually missed the donkey poop. That is I knew the donkey was doing something it wasn't supposed to because it was moving and the audience was giggling, but it just passed me by...As for Ringer, she was utterly beautiful and funny/expressive in all of her pantomime/dancing. I found myself thinking what a great Massine ballerina she could have been. And she knows how to wear a costume! I am sorry not to have been living in NY for much of her career--just writing about it makes me emotional.
Union Jack itself is well, an oddity of sorts. I had forgotten Kirstein's typically eccentric program note for it. He refers the "tepid euphoria" of bicentennial celebrations to the Watergate scandal and then refers to the" sacerdotal function" of the soldier--completely leaving out the post-Vietnam mood of the 70's which would rather have complicated his latter point while changing one's view of "tepid euphoria." The opening parade seems to me an impressive tribute to the company qua company, and stunning to watch--especially when the regimental leaders have real stage presence (Mearns, Janie Taylor too, on Sat night) but not all of them do and for me it meant something different and more moving when the ballet was first done and, at the end of the first section, Farrell was at the front of the entire company. Likewise the silliness at the end. I love Reichlen and she has the legs for Wrens--but not the oddly witty sexiness and daring elan that enabled Farrell take the silliness to another realm.
Final thoughts on my visit? An older gentleman sitting behind me Sat afternoon (subscriber I infer) turned to his wife at the end of Concerto Barocco to comment on how wonderful it was--she concurred--then he paused before summing up: "They should do that one more often!" Truer words never spoken.