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City Ballet performances at Kennedy Center March 4-8

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I'll be at the performance Saturday afternoon. Washington Post critic Sarah Kaufman's generally enthusiastic review of the same program contains the very disappointing news that Sara Mearns did not dance in "Brahms/Handel" due to injury.

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I attended last night's performance. Teresa Reichlen substituted for Sara Mearns in the 4th movement of Brahms-Schoenberg. I was a little disappointed not to get to see Mearns in this but Reichlen was amazing--technically flawless and radiant in the part. This was especially impressive given that she had just dance in the very demanding Slice to Sharp, which was the second piece on the program. Ashley Laracey was exceptional as a demi in the third movement of Brahms-Schoenberg--I wish I could see more of her!

I enjoyed Slice to Sharp more than I thought I would--lots of pyrotechnics but also great dancing from all the performers. I especially enjoyed getting to see Robbie Fairchild in this--really impressive turns! De Luz was fantastic as well.

Mercurial Manoeuvres took a little while to warm up to but Tiler Peck was phenomenal--amazing control. I like her much more in these types of roles than in the tutu ballets. Alina Dronova substituted for Kathryn Morgan as one of the demis and did a fine job, but I was disappointed not to get to see Morgan. Morgan still appeared in the third movement of Brahms-Schoenberg.

Overall a very enjoyable evening.

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Well, it wasn't the most exciting afternoon ever at New York City Ballet, but I'll happily take what I can get. The company is probably dreaming of vacation after a long home season, but they looked to be in very fine form. Sarah Mearns' injury (and Janie Taylor's absence from the cast list) were major disappointments, but I was prepared for them, and the dreaded program insert was just a confirmation to sigh at, not a major letdown to gasp at, after the long drive into town. But this is the second time in three years Mearns has been replaced in D.C. Makes a man want to move to New York.

As the lead in "Chaconne," Maria Kowroski did not entirely transport me as she had the last time I saw her, in "Diamonds," but she made me very glad I'd come. "Sculptural" is the word that kept coming to mind, and it may have come as much from the choreography as from the performance, but Kowroski's ease did help me fix certain moments in memory. And then there is that moment in the first pas de deux where the woman is, as it were, swung around three times before she pirouettes and falls towards her partner. In the Dance in America recording Farrell looks to me as if she just about loses control there. I don't know if anyone else reads it that same way, but I do know that risk was Farrell's trademark, and I wanted some of that from Kowroski today. But at least the fall looked graceful.

The whole cast was a joy. I don't know who it was that fell in the pas de cinque, but she carried on with aplomb, spurred on, I hope, by the knowledge that Balanchine would have been pleased by her effort. Beskow, Muller and la Cour were fresh and strong in the pas de trois, and Erica Pereira was lovely and radiant and just looked ready and able to dance rest of the program by herself if the need arose. I'm not sure I would have minded.

I hadn't seen "Brahms/Handel" since 1988, and it didn't thrill me then. Today too my pleasure was mostly in the confident and spirited dancing, especially that of Veyette and Garcia, both strong masculine personalities I'd like to see in meatier roles. The choreography itself rarely engaged me.

"Vienna Waltzes" too was very much alive for the most part, and while it's not my favorite Balanchine, it's a ballet that's enhanced by the appreciative murmurs of the audience members seeing its sets and costumes and its humorous middle movement for the first time. Jenifer Ringer and Nilas Martins always delight me together, and perhaps in the Merry Widow segment most of all. They always seem to enjoy their partnership, and to enjoy flirting in character; they look like they really do have a relationship. Not to mention how beautiful Ringer is in black.

I don't think I've seen anyone besides Kistler and Nichols in the lead of the Der Rosenkavalier segment since 1992, and while I remember fans and critics complaining as far back as 10-12 years ago that Kistler trivialized the role, she has never failed to move me in it. Until today. I didn't notice any of the frou-frou stuff (if I have that correctly) that she's said to bring to this role, and I knew to expect her back to appear stiff, but I never expected her whole performance to be so careful and so lifeless. Studied doesn't even do it justice. What she looked like at times was an extraordinarily flexible old lady. Her face too looked much older than when I'd last seen her, but that shouldn't be a handicap in this role. It could even be an aid -- this woman has a history. But this face told no story, this face said nothing at all, except maybe "I don't feel good." Perhaps she really was sick. I could hardly believe what I was seeing.

The people around me seemed enraptured anyhow, so I was half enraptured for them. I hope Kistler has a long and satisfying teaching career. And I hope Sarah Mearns is healthy next March.

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Thank you so much for your review, kfw!

I'm always interested to hear how other people who see NYCB intermittently note the differences between performances by dancers they see intermittently. I know that when I see the same dancers after several years, it's a very different experience then seeing them regularly over the same period.

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