David Koch Theatre, New York, NY; June 1(m), 201

Colleen Boresta

The afternoon begins with a See the Music segment where Interim Music Director, Andrew Sill, gives a talk on Bach’s “Double Violin Conceto in D Minor” which is the score for George Balanchine’s ‘Concerto Barocco’.  The talk went on way too long.  I don’t think I was the only one in the audience bored by a discussion of music, not dancing.

Finally the ballet begins.  ‘Concerto Barocco’ was created by Balanchine in 1941.  It was on the program when New York City Ballet made their debut at City Center in 1948.  ‘Concerto Barocco’ features an all female corps of eight dancers and two female principal dancers.  There is also one male dancer who dances a pas de deux with one of the ballerinas.

The leading ladies on Sunday afternoon, Rebecca Krohn and Abi Staford, are tolerable but I far prefer Maria Kowroski and Sara Mearns in the central roles. I missed seeing how well Kowroski and Mearns complement each other.  I don’t find this quality in Krohn’s and Stafford’s performances.

The next piece is ‘Other Dances’, a pas de deux choreographed by Jerome Robbins to Chopin’s piano music.  The ballet was created for Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Barysnikov in 1976.  On Sunday it is danced by Ashley Bouder and Joaquin De Luz.  It is a fantastic duet performed with virtuosity, flair and humor by both performers.

After the intermission it is time for ‘Neverwhere’ which was choreographed by Benjamin Millepied to music by Nico Muhly.  It is a strange work performed in almost total darkness.  The stage is so black that I have great difficulty identifying the dancers.  The costumes are futuristic in design, made of some kind of black plastic material that crinkles when the dancers move.  The women’s boots are also toe shoes which is a new sight for me.  The music is loud and somewhat atonal.  The dancing goes absolutely nowhere.   Is this a ballet I would choose to see again?  The answer is a resounding no.

The matinee ends on the highest of notes with George Balanchine’s ‘Who Cares?’.  It is set to 33 George and Ira Gershwin songs.  The first part of the ballet features ten female corps dancers and ten soloists – five girls and five boys.  The piece comes into its own when the soloists dance to classics like “Do Do Do” and “Oh, Lady Be Good”.  All these dancers are equally wonderful.

Then the lights are lowered and the second segment of ‘Who Cares?’ begins.  This section of the ballet has often been compared to Balanchine’s ‘Apollo’.  There is one boy and three girls.  Each girl dances once with the boy and once by herself.  Then the boy dances a solo.  ‘Who Cares?’ ends with the entire company performing to “I’ve Got Rhythm”.

The weakest of Sunday’s principal dancers is Savannah Lowery.  Lowery lacks the sparkle and coltish playfulness of Teresa Reichlen in her solo to “I’ll Build a Stairway to Paradise”.

Ashly Isaacs is demurely coy in her pas de deux with Robert Fairchild to “Embraceable You”.  She tosses off limitless fouettes and chain turns with aplomb as the orchestra plays “My One and Only”.  Isaacs is a performer with great charm and personality.  It is hard to believe she is still in the corps.  I hope Ashly Isaacs is promoted to soloist before too long.

As good as Isaacs is, the real standouts in ‘Who Cares? are Robert Fairchild and Tiler Peck.  Fairchild’s timing, his phrasing, the snap of his fingers – all remind me of a young Fred Astaire.

When I first saw Tiler Peck in ‘Who Cares?’ (June of 2010) I found her to be the equal of Patricia McBride, the role’s creator.  Since then Peck has surpassed not only McBride but her own incredible performances in the ballet.  It’s hard to fathom but Peck just gets better and better every time I see her dance.  Her solo to “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” shows off Peck’s timing and musicality.  The way she plays with the music is just delightful.  Her precise footwork is equally amazing.  I have yet to see anyone else whirl across the stage at such a breakneck pace.

Peck’s duet with “the man she does love” (she and Fairchild are getting married this summer) is magical.  The luminous yearning of their love brings tears to my eyes.

If only New York City Ballet would replace Santo Loquasto’s tacky and garish costumes ‘Who Cares?’ would be a perfect ballet.  That being said, it was a splendid afternoon at the ballet.