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New York City Ballet

'Swan Lake', 'The Garland Dance', 'Allegro Brillante', 'Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3'

by Colleen Boresta

January 19(m), 2013 -- Koch Theatre, Lincoln Center, New York, NY

In honor of George Balanchine’s 109th birthday (Balanchine was born on January 22, 1904.) New York City Ballet presented its audience with a special program of Balanchine ballets set to the music of Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky. The afternoon begins with Balanchine’s one act ‘Swan Lake’. It is based on Lev Ivanov’s choreography for Act II of the ballet and uses music from Acts II and IV, the lakeside acts. Balanchine’s “Swan Lake” is usually considered a distillation of the four act work, but on Saturday afternoon Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle’s palpable chemistry and passionate acting bring the story to the forefront.

Kowroski’s Swan Queen has wonderfully undulating arms and a marvelously pliable upper body. The creamy flow of her long-limbed musical phrasing is glorious. Tyler Angle is a fervently ardent Prince Siegfried who dances his main solo very well. The swans dance in wonderful tandem with the music and each other, but strangely enough they are dressed in black. Only Kowroski’s Odette wears the traditional white swan tutu. I missed seeing the dance of the cygnets (little swans) but overall Balanchine’s ‘Swan Lake’ is a beautiful ballet. One can only dream about how marvelous a full-length Balanchine ‘Swan Lake’ would have been.

The second piece of the afternoon is ‘The Garland Dance’. Balanchine had a special love for both ‘The Sleeping Beauty’ and young performers. Both are clearly shown in this short work. Those wonderful little ballerinas from the School of American Ballet bring warmth and joy into the David Koch Theatre. Peter Martins incorporated Balanchine’s ‘Garland Dance’ into his 1991 full-length ‘Sleeping Beauty’. Martins’ ‘Sleeping Beauty’ will be performed during the last two weeks of NYCB’s winter season. I can’t wait to see those little girls again.

The next ballet on the program is ‘Allegro Brillante’, set to Tschaikovsky’s unfinished third piano concerto. This work is one of Balanchine’s most delightful pure dance ballets. As the lead ballerina in the piece, Tiler Peck’s joyous musicality and glittering footwork are beyond perfection. Her every movement draws the audience into the rich world of Balanchine’s choreography. Peck is well partnered by Amar Ramasar.

The afternoon ends with Balanchine’s magnificent ‘Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3’. In 1947 Balanchine choreographed ‘Theme and Variations’ for American Ballet Theatre to the last two movements of this work. In 1970 he created a ballet from the entire piece of music. The first three movements are performed behind a scrim to add to the dreamlike atmosphere.

Teresa Reichlen and Ask la Cour are achingly beautiful in the “Elegie” movement. In ‘Valse Melancolique’ Janie Taylor dances with a frenzied intensity, but I prefer the sultry richness of Rebecca Krohn in the role. In the “Scherzo” section Daniel Ulbricht thrills the audience with his leaps and turns. As his partner, Erica Pereira matches Ulbricht marvelously

When “Scherzo” ends, the scrim goes up and a gorgeous chandeliered ballroom is reveled. The last part of ‘Tschaikovsk’s Suite No. 3’ is “Theme and Variations”, one of Balanchine’s most exciting works. I always love this ballet, whether it is danced alone by ABT or by NYCB as the finale of ‘Tschaikovsky’s Suite No. 3’. On Saturday afternoon, I am disappointed by Megan Fairchild’s performance in the ballerina role. It does not live up to my mind’s eye image of Ashley Bouder in “Theme.” (I saw Bouder dance this role twice in 2012.) Chief dance critic of “The New York Times”, Alistair Macaulay, summed up my feelings about Fairchild’s dancing perfectly when he wrote “ In the “Tema” finale Fairchild’s many virtues (speed, attack, precision) are canceled by lack of grandeur. As I myself wrote about Bouder’s performance in “Theme and Virtues” in February of 2012 …“Her manner is that of the grandest ballerina.”

As Fairchild’s cavalier, Andrew Veyette is not only an attentive partner but an exciting virtuoso performer. His series of double air turns are absolutely spot on.

All in all it was a splendid afternoon at the ballet. I can hardly wait to see my next NYCB performance.

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