Koch Theater, New York, NY; October 6(m), 2013
New York City Ballet’s October 6th matinee featured works by Christopher Wheeldon, Peter Martins and Jerome Robbins. All these ballets show that lively music, inspired choreography and dancers performing at the very height of their powers make for a magical afternoon.
The program begins with Christopher Wheeldon’s ‘Carnival of the Animals’ set to music by Camille Saint-Saens. It is the story of Oliver who falls asleep at New York’s American Museum of Natural History and dreams that everyone in his life – his family, his friends, his teachers – have become animals. The narration was written by actor John Lithgow, who performed in ‘Carnival of the Animals’ when it premiered in 2003.
This is a slight work which is often amusing. It is a good way to introduce young children to the ballet. There were many little ones in the audience on Sunday afternoon. As Oliver, School of American Ballet student Maximilian Brooking Landegger is absolutely adorable. In his school uniform, complete with short pants, Oliver looks more like an English lad than an American kid. This could be because the choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon, was born in Great Britain. The Sherlock Holmes inspired costumes for the cockerels are also very British.
As the narrator/security guard/elephant, actor Jack Noseworthy is not quite up to the standard John Lithgow set. Noseworthy has a very heavy New York accent which makes it a bit difficult to understand some of what he is saying.
Georgina Pazcoguin and Brittany Pollack are both funny and touching as the old ladies/turtles/ can can dancers. Amar Ramasar steals the show as the baboon/piano teacher. He shows amazing timing and dexterity as he lumbers along on his super long arms and legs. I am disappointed by Maria Kowroski’s Swan. I know she is supposed to be a retired ballerina thinking back on her days of dancing Odette/Odile in ‘Swan Lake’, but she barely moves her body at all. I expect a much different performance to accompany Saint-Saens’ “Dying Swan” music.
The next piece of the afternoon is ‘Jeu de Cartes’ with music by Igor Stravinsky and choreography by Peter Martins. Stravinsky originally wrote the score for a Balanchine ballet subtitled “Card Game: A Ballet in Three Deals” which premiered in 1937. That ballet had dancers dressed as the four card suites with the Joker as the main characters. Years later Balanchine suggested that Peter Martins create an abstract version of the ballet to the same music. Martins did so in 1992.
I am extremely impressed with Martins’ ‘Jeu de Cartes’. His choreography fits the jazzy Stravinksy music perfectly. I especially love the way the choreography allows the dancers to play with the music – before the beat, on the beat, after the beat – it all works perfectly. ‘Jeu de Cartes’ is by far the best Martins’ work I have ever seen.
All the leading dancers – Megan Fairchild, Joaquin De Luz, Adrian Danchig-Waring and Taylor Stanley – dance at full energy with blinding speed. I am especially enthralled with Joaquin De Luz’s performance in this work. He tosses off multiple air turns and endless pirouettes all while looking like he is having the time of his life.
The afternoon ends with one of my favorite ballets – Jerome Robbins’ ‘The Four Seasons’ set to liltingly buoyant music by Giuseppi Verdi. The music and the choreography complement each other so perfectly that one can imagine Robbins and Verdi having lengthy conversations about how to create ‘The Four Seasons’. The music, the steps and the phenomenal dancing draw me into a celestial world where I would love to spend a good long time.
There are so many wonderful performers in “The Four Seaons’ but a few stand out. In the Winter segment Erica Pereira, Ralph Ippolito and Troy Schumacher are witty and playful. The radiantly lyrical Sterling Hyltin is the personification of Spring. Tyler Angle, Hyltin’s attentive partner, stands out for his airy leaps and beautiful chaine turns.
I am disappointed with Rebecca Krohn in the Summer section. Her dancing lacks the sultriness the part deserves. As her cavalier, Adrian Danchig-Waring seems to be low on energy. This may be explained by the fact that ‘The Four Seasons’ is Danchig-Waring’s second ballet of the afternoon.
The ballet ends on an extraordinarily high note as Fall bursts upon the stage. In this segment Andrew Veyette’s dancing is superb, especially his blazingly fast turns a la seconde. The audience roars as Veyette twists his supporting leg somewhat like a corkscrew. Veyette’s partner, Ashley Bouder, dances with total joy and abandon as she whirls dizzyingly across the stage.
The standout performance of the afternoon belongs to Antonio Carmena as an autumnal Pan-like character. I never thought I would say this but Carmena is the equal of NYCB’s Daniel Ulbricht in this role. His leaps, his turns and his spins are all danced with complete mirth and gaiety. Carmena’s capering and cavorting may be over the top, but it’s exactly what the character needs. What a fantastic way to end an incredible afternoon at the ballet.