NEW YORK CITY BALLET/SERENADE/GOLDBERG VARIATIONS
April 22, 2022
What's left to say about George Balanchine's mesmerizing ballet Serenade. As if part of a dreamscape, ballerinas in knee-length, tulle dresses resemble a mystical tribe of ephemeral women bathed in moonlight and poised to move.
Their balletic incantations surface in simple movements--feet snap open from a parallel standing position; arms rise, wrists drop, and soon there's a silent rush into swirls of motion, spiraling inward and outward.
Coinciding with news about the heartbreaking carnage in the Ukraine, watching Serenade delivers an even weightier jolt of melancholy through the tug of Tschaikovsky's mournful score and Balanchine's contemplation on the fleetness of life.
The evening closed with Jerome Robbins' epic Goldberg Variations which comes in at one hour and twenty-four minutes. Effectively an evening-length ballet, it is set to Johann Sebastian Bach's popular "Goldberg Variations" composed in 1742. A veritable ballet time-machine, Variations loops from the delicate, filigree Baroque dance forms and costumes to the athletic and quick modern ballet technique birthed by the courts.
Susan Walters, the valiant piano soloist, accompanied and inspired the dancers. Strong in will and execution, all the company members (regardless of rank) negotiated a flurry of swift footed runs and leg beats happily maneuvering through impish rhythms and surprising changes of focus. At times ballerinas' hips swiveled inside balletic poses, and males cavorted, arms swinging and attitudes swaggering. Each section exuded a different personality tied together by one, very singular vision.
The ballet opens with dancers in Baroque styled costumes, travels into the new-age leotard and tights routine back to the elegance of Baroque. In Part II, six of the company's Principal Dancers usher in an air of resilience and expressiveness to the closing cadences. Unity Phelan and Taylor Stanley fill the ballet vocabulary with warmth and fluency; Sarah Mearns and Tyler Angle exalt in expansive extensions and commanding lifts while Tiler Peck and Joseph Gordon's tight knit turns and explosive jumps radiate inside rhythmic acuity.
A demanding work, Goldberg Variations deservedly received gales of applause.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis