New York City Ballet
'Serenade', 'Stravinsky Violin Concerto', 'Stars and Stripes'
by Colleen Boresta
June 9(m), 2013 -- Koch Theater, New York, NY
New York City Ballet ended their 2012-2013 season with a ballet from each of the three composers honored this year. ‘Serenade’ has music from the Tschaikovsky Festival, ‘Stravinsky Violin Concerto” from the Stravinsky Festival and ‘Stars and Stripes’ from the American Music Festival. Even better, all three works were choreographed by George Balanchine.
The afternoon begins with ‘Serenade’. ‘Serenade’ is the first ballet Balanchine made in the United States (1933). This ballet is as moving as ever, starting with those 17 girls in blue raising their right arms to the moonlight. ‘Serenade’ is not a story ballet but Balanchine discovered the passion, mystery and drama in the Tschaikovsky music.
As the waltz girl, Sara Mearns is so hauntingly beautiful that it brings tears to my eyes. She loves and loses two men and at the end of the ballet is raised into the air and carried off the stage by three men. Has she died? Is she being taken to heaven? There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. Great art can be construed in many different ways.
Dancing the other main roles are Megan Fairchild as the Russian girl and Teresa Reichlen as the dark angel. Fairchild stands out for her quicksilver footwork, but her jumps lack height. Reichlen brings grandeur to the role of the dark angel. Her extensions are glorious and her arabesques look like they could go on forever. The corps dancers, whose movements are somewhat evocative of the wills in ‘Giselle’, are flawless. ‘Serenade’ is a ballet I hope to see many more times.
Next on the afternoon’s program is ‘Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto’. It is divided into four sections – the Toccata which introduces the dancers, Aria I and Aria II, which are both pas de deux for the principal dancers and the finale Capriccio.
The first pas de deux, Aria I, is very athletic and acrobatic. Maria Kowroski stands out for her amazing back bends. Her partner, Amar Ramasar, performs with exuberance and wit. The second pas de deux, Aria II, has a frail feeling about it. It is danced by the delicately petite Janie Taylor and her partner, the much taller Ask la Cour. Aria II ends with la Cour holding his hand over Taylor’s eyes and bending her head back. It is a beautiful moment. ‘Stravinsky Violin Concerto’ concludes with the entire cast dancing to Capriccio, which is inspired by Russian folk music.
The last ballet of New York City Ballet’s 2012-2013 season is one of my very favorites, ‘Stars and Stripes’. The work is divided into five campaigns, each based on the music of John Philip Sousa (adapted and orchestrated by Hershy Kay). The first two sections to “Corcoran Cadets” and “Rifle Regiment” are danced by female corps members led by a female soloist. The third segment “Thunder and Gladiator” is performed by the men in the corps de ballet with a male soloist as their leader. All the corps members impress with their perfectly synchronized dancing to Sousa’s stirring marches.
Both female soloists (Erica Pereira and Savannah Lowery) are very good, but Daniel Ulbricht is beyond compare as the head of the men’s regiment. His leaps and turns are thrilling. As much as I love Ulbricht in this role, I would like to see him dance the part of El Capitan. He is a principal dancer and it’s long past time for him to dance principal roles.
The El Capitan on Sunday afternoon, Andrew Veyette, was absolutely sensational, as was Ashley Bouder as Liberty Bell. Bouder stands out for the way she holds her balances and her scissor leaps. I also love the way she plays with the music and has so much fun dancing the role. Veyette is all great leaps and spinning turns. I really enjoy his bouncy steps which highlight his unbelievable ballon. Both Bouder and Veyette perform their solos at the fastest speed I have ever seen. Lesser dancers would have crashed and burned, but Bouder and Veyette handle every move with aplomb.
The last campaign is danced by the entire company to “Stars and Stripes Forever”. At the ballet’s conclusion, as the American flag rolls down the entire back stage of the David Koch Theatre, I find my eyes welling with tears (as usual). This time the American flag is received with thunderous applause. What a fantastic way to end New York City Ballet’s 2012-2013 season.
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