May 19, 2022
Before the evening opened on three major Balanchine/Stravinsky collaborations, the orchestra played Stravinsky's playful "Suite No. 2 for Small Orchestra," a fitting start to an evening bowing to George Balanchine's remodeling of American ballet.
Balanchine migrated from Europe to NYC in 1933 at the invitation of Lincoln Kirstein and and over 12 years later, choreographed Orpheus(1946) in collaboration with Igor Stravinsky and Isamu Noguchi (best known for his collaborations with Marth Graham). Nogouchi's eerily ancient abstract sets and mythical costumes (featuring long tail-like fringe, stringy hair and serpentine motifs), animated the Greek myth about Orpheus and the tragic loss of his wife Eurydice to Hades. Blessed with the voice of an angel, Orpheus embraces his signature lyre (handed down by the God Apollo) and fiery love for Eurydice.
With his back to the audience, Orpheus (a sleek Joseph Gordon) stands dejected, his beloved lyre dropped by his ankle. Visited by the Dark Angel (Andrew Scordato) Orpheus is guided through the menacing Furies, Lost Souls and Bacchantes, led by a strong Megan LeCrone, to find his Eurydice (the striking Sterling Hyltin).
Throughout the ballet, Noguchi's sets convert from rocks to clouds, illuminated from behind and shifting silently into mazes and mythic puzzles. As much a visual/theatrical event as a ballet, Orpheus is built on dramatic movement interpretations.
A classical ballet of god-like proportions, Balanchine's Apollo (1928) relies on dancers' clarity and classicism. An introspective Taylor Stanley steps into the role of Apollo, the ancient Greek god of music. As if cut out of white marble, the choreography frequently situates Stanley in profile--like a sculpture in relief.
To instruct the young god, Apollo is joined by the three muses: Tiler Peck (Terpsichore), Brittany Pollack (Polyhymnia) and Indian Woodward (Calliope). Woodward, the muse of poetry, navigates her measured steps with aplomb, gesturing outward from the diaphragm with one hand while pricking the floor en pointe in silvery arabesques.
The muse of mime, Pollack bolts into rapid-fire attitude turns tied to speedy steps. Again, the difficulty level is upped because one hand remains near the mouth in a "sushing" position while the other is extended.
Finally, Peck arrives bending and extending the music's interior, as Terpsichore, the muse of dance and song. Like a youthful colt, she playfully paws the ground, and circles in jetes and springy, coquettish walks on her heels. Unlike the first two muses, Peck 's choreography gives free form to both arms.
Finally, Apollo rises to dance a contained solo marked by legs crisscrossing in front, melting into heroic poses and thoughtful dips. Balanchine brings the three muses together for a romp with Apollo in a jaunty series of exchanges between the muses and their Apollo.
Agon brings into focus Balanchine's neoclassical style. Choreographed in 1957, the ballet opens, unusually, with dancers' backs to the audience. An example of Balanchine's signature speed, it breaks into fractured timings, cutthroat partnering holds and balances suspended over whiplash directional changes.
This season, NYC Ballet is testing the mettle of many younger dancers. From the looks of it, the ranks are well seeded with talent we can all look forward to in the near future.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis