David Koch Theater, New York, NY; January 26, 2014 (m)
It is always a special treat when New York City Ballet dances an all Balanchine program. Sunday’s matinee is definitely no exception. The afternoon begins with ‘Concerto Barocco’, which was created by George Balanchine in 1941. It was on the program when NYCB made their debut in 1948. Set to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Double Violin Concerto in D Minor, it is, like so many Balanchine works, all about the music. It features an all female corps of eight dancers and two female soloists. There is also one lone male who dances a pas de deux with one of the ballerinas.
Everyone in the cast is superb, but the leading ladies stand out. Dancing the roles of two strings
on one violin, Maria Kowroski and Sara Mearns complement each other beautifully. Mearns dances with joyous abandon and Kowroski’s supple body and glorious extensions are shown to their best advantage.
Every time I watch ‘Concerto Barocco’ Peter Anastos’ satirical piece, ‘Go for Barocco’, which he created for the Ballet Trocks, plays in my head. I often wish I could see the NYCB dancers play patty cake and get tangled up in long twisting daisy chains like the Trocks do.
The second work of the afternoon is Kammermusik No. 2’, with music by Paul Hindemith. ‘Kammermusik No. 2’, which was choreographed by Balanchine in 1978, is very different from ‘Concerto Barocco’. Whereas ‘Concerto Barocco’ highlights the ballerinas’ stretched-out classical lines, ‘Kammermusik No. 2’ features sharp angular movements. There is also an eight person corps in this ballet but it is all male. There are four leading soloists, two female and two male, but the ladies are the stars of this show.
‘Kammermusik No. 2’ is an interesting piece, but not one I totally enjoy. I find the piano music for the duets to be somewhat atonal and redundant. I feel like it is almost a sin to criticize any creation of George Balanchine’s, but the choreography for these pas de deux is very repetitious.
My favorite parts of ‘Kammermusik No. 2’ are when the leading ballerinas, Rebecca Krohn and Abi Stafford, perform together. They are wonderfully paired as they dance on their heels, perform high kicks or leap across the stage, ponytails flying. The leading men don’t have as much to do, but Amar Ramasar proves himself to be a very attentive partner for Rebecca Krohn. Jared Angle’s lower body is so noticeably out of shape, however, that I can’t concentrate on his dancing.
The program ends with ‘Who Cares?, set to 33 George and Ira Gershwin tunes. The first part of the ballet features ten female corps members and ten soloists – five girls and five boys. The ballet comes to life when the soloists perform duets to songs like “S’ Wonderful” and “Do Do Do”. All these dancers – Erica Pereira and Joseph Gordon, Brittany Pollack and Andrew Scordato, Emily Kikta and Allen Peiffer and Lauren King and Devin Alberda – are equally fantastic.
Then the lights are lowered and the second part of ‘Who Cares?’ starts. This segment of the ballet has often been compared with Balanchine’s ‘Apollo’. There is one male and three female principal dancers. Each girl performs once with the boy and once by herself. Then the boy gets his own solo. The ballet ends with the whole cast blissfully dancing to ‘I’ve Got Rhythm’.
‘Who Cares?’ ended the program the first time I saw NYCB perform (February of 1980). I loved it then and have loved it every one of the close to forty times I’ve seen the Gershwin/Balanchine classic. At Sunday’s matinee, however, all the principals are so fresh and joyously musical that I feel like I am seeing ‘Who Cares?’ for the very first time.
Teresa Reichlen is all coltish playfulness, her long legs whipping across the stage as she builds her “stairway to paradise”. Ashley Bouder is sweetly coy in her duet with Robert Fairchild to “Embraceable You”. She effortlessly tosses off endless fouettes and chain turns in her solo to“My One and Only”.
As fantastic as Reichlen are Bouder are, the real standouts in ‘Who Cares?’ are Robert Fairchild and especially Tiler Peck. Fairchild’s timing, rhythm and wonderfully light leaps with the softest of landings – all are beyond compare.
When I first saw Tiler Peck in ‘Who Cares?’ (June of 2011), I found her to be the equal of the role’s creator, the great ballerina Patricia McBride. That was an accomplishment I was afraid I would never see. At Sunday’s matinee, however, Peck ‘s dancing surpasses not only McBride’s but her own incredible performances in ‘Who Cares?’. Her solo to “Fascinatin’ Rhythm” shows off Peck’s quicksilver precise footwork as well as her musicality and phrasing. I have never seen anyone else whirl across the stage at such a breakneck pace.
Peck and Fairchild’s pas de deux to “The Man I Love” is heartstoppingly beautiful. The two are magical together. Peck lights an up with an inner rapture as she dances with the man she really does love. (Peck and Fairchild are getting married this June.) The luminous yearning of their passion brings tears to my eyes.
If NYCB would replace Santo Loquasto’s cheesy and gaudy costumes, ‘Who Cares?’ would be an absolutely perfect ballet. Even so, it was a magnificent afternoon at the ballet.