David H. Koch Theater, New York, NY; January 25, 2015 (m)

Serenade, Agon, Symphony in C

Colleen Boresta

At my first performance of New York City Ballet’s 2015 Winter Season I treated myself to an afternoon of all Balanchine ballets.

“Serenade” was the first ballet created by Balanchine in the United States in 1934. It was as poignant as ever, beginning with those seventeen girls in blue raising their right arms to the evening sky. “Serenade” does not have a plot, per se, but Balanchine definitely discovered the emotion, mystery and drama found in the Tschaikovsky music.

As the waltz girl, Sara Mearns was so heartbreakingly beautiful that she brought tears to my eyes. In the course of the ballet she loves and loses two men. At the end, she is raised high into the air and is 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 (which Balanchine’s “Serenade” surely is) is open to many different interpretations.

As the Russian girl, Erica Pereira stood out for her sparkling footwork and lovely light leaps. I don’t think I have ever seen Pereira perform better. Megan LeCrone was an elegant dark angel with magnificent extensions and deep breathtaking arabesques. The female corps de ballet, whose movements are sometimes reminiscent of the Wilis in “Giselle”, were perfect. No one put a hand or foot wrong. “Serenade” is a ballet that should live forever.

“Agon”, which Balanchine choreographed in 1957 to music by Stravinsky, will never be my favorite ballet, but the more I see the more I admire it. Balanchine’s quirkily angular and acrobatic movements fit the Stravinsky score seamlessly. ‘Agon’ is Greek for ‘struggle’ and the competitive push and pull of the Balanchine choreography really impresses. All the dancers were marvelous, creating shapes that were crisp and sharp. The highlight was the pas de deux performed by Teresa Reichlen and Adrian Danchig-Waring. The power of their partnership was palpable.

The matinee concluded with that most glorious of Balanchine tutu ballets, “Symphony in C” which was choreographed to Bizet’s music in 1947. The work is divided into four sections based on the music, with each led by a ballerina, a premier danseur and the corps de ballet.

The highlight was the first movement, Allegro Vivo, which was danced by Ashley Bouder and Andrew Veyette. Bouder showed off her incredible footwork and the way she played with the music’s tempo was delightful. Veyette was an attentive partner with very exciting leaps and turns.

Except for a slight slip at the beginning of the second section, Adagio, Maria Korowski was stunning. Her meltingly pliant upper body, magnificently fluid movements and lyrically lovely extensions helped make Sunday afternoon’s “Symphony in C” a ballet of unforgettable beauty.

Allegro Vivace, was a disappointment. It requires two lead dancers with outstanding elevation and speed. Unfortunately neither Lauren Lovette nor Joseph Gordon have these qualities. I’m all for giving young dancers a chance to see what they can do, but I also want Balanchine’s ballets performed properly.

As has been the case the last few times I have seen “Symphony in C”, Lauren King danced the part of the turning girl in the fourth section. Her turns, however, still lack sharpness and precision. Surely there must be a female dancer at NYCB who can perform this part. King was again outclassed by her partner Taylor Stanley. Every time I see him I am more impressed.

But despite the weaknesses in “Symphony in C” it was still a great afternoon at the ballet.