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New York City Ballet

'Allegro Brilliante', 'Zakouski', 'Fancy Free', 'Tchaikovsky Suite No, 3'

by Colleen Boresta

February 25, 2012 (m)-- David Koch Theatre, New York, NY

New York City Ballet’s winter season has been exhilarating. Several young principal dancers and soloists have really come into their own. I am also very pleased to say that the George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins ballets in NYCB’s repertory are in wonderful shape.

This is certainly the case at the February 25th matinee performance. It begins with ‘Allegro Brillante’, one of Balanchine’s most delightful pure dance ballets. It is set to the music of Tschaikovsky and as the great choreographer himself once said “It contains everything I know about classical ballet in thirteen minutes.” As the lead ballerina in ‘Allegro Brillante”, Sara Mearns surrenders herself totally to both the music and the movements of the piece. As usual, Jared Angle is an attentive partner.

The second work, Peter Martins’ ‘Zakouski’ uses the music of four Russian composers – Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Tschaikovsky. It is a slight, but very entertaining ballet. Megan Fairchild is wonderful in the piece, but Joaquin De Luz stands out for his bravura dancing, flair and charisma.

Jerome Robbins’ ‘Fancy Free’ is as fresh as if it had been made last week instead of in 1944. The jazzy score by Leonard Bernstein fits Robbins’ choreography perfectly. It is the story of three sailors on leave in New York City during World War II. The three friends meet up with two girls and therein lies the dilemma. The sailors hold a dance-off to decide who gets to date the women and who has to spend their leave alone.

As the first sailor, Adam Hendrickson is a disappointment. He lacks the energy and high-flying virtuosity of Daniel Ulbricht, Joaquin De Lux and American Ballet Theatre’s Herman Cornejo, all whom I have seen dance the role many times. Robert Fairchild is wonderful as the dreamy second sailor. His chemistry with Sterling Hyltin, very natural as the second passer-by, is palpable.

 

I am most impressed with Sean Suozzi, in a debut as the rumba dancing sailor. For a long time I have been waiting for someone to match ABT’s Jose Manuel Carreno’s and Marcelo Gomes’ performances as the third sailor. With his sly sensuality and playful sense of humor, Suozzi comes very close. I am also glad to see the camaraderie between the three sailors. ‘Fancy Free” is a forever ballet, and that’s how long I hope NYCB performs this work.

The afternoon ends with Balanchine’s glorious ‘Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3’. In 1947 Balanchine choreographed “Theme and Variations” to the last two movements of this work. In 1970 he decided to create a ballet from the entire piece of music. The first three sections of the work are performed behind a scrim to add to the dreamlike atmosphere.

Teresa Reichlen and Ask la Cour are hauntingly beautiful in the “Elegie” segment. The “Valse Melancolique” highlights a sultry Rebecca Krohn who has an exquisitely supple back. In the “Scherzo” section Daniel Ulbricht is all exciting leaps and turns. His performance does not surprise me one bit, but his partner’s dancing is a wonderful revelation. In “Scherzo” soloist Erica Pereira is a very good match for Ulbricht in the virtuoso department. I really think she can go very far with NYCB.

After “Scherzo” the scrim goes up and a beautiful chandeliered ballroom is revealed. The last part “Theme and Variations” is one of Balanchine’s most thrilling works. Since both NYCB and ABT dance “Theme and Variations” (ABT dances it by itself and NYCB as part of ‘Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3’), I have seen it close to 50 times. Sunday’s performance is probably the best “Theme” I have ever seen.

All of the cast are superb, but the real standouts are Andrew Veyette and especially Ashley Bouder in the leading roles. Veyette is a gracious and considerate partner and his double air turns are spot on. In “Theme” Ashley Bouder is the complete package. Her footwork is clear and precise. Her manner is that of the grandest ballerina and her body is the perfect vessel for Tschaikovsky’s majestic music.

What an outstanding afternoon at the ballet it was. I can’t wait for NYCB’s spring season.

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