BALANCHINE: THE CITY CENTER YEARS
November 12, 2018
Ballet is a spectacle to behold live. Even in this digital, virtual age, there still remains
a magical sense of defying gravity, of achieving the impossible and performing feats that
are practiced to the point of near perfection, all while understanding that things can still go
wrong onstage. Do we as the audience secretly hope something does go awry? Yes; if only
so that we might catch, for an instant, the astute reactions of professionals at work.
The lights dim. The show begins.
Set against a cobalt blue backlight that remains constant throughout the entirety of
the show, the performance opens with The Four Temperaments, danced by The Joffrey
Ballet. As the work flows across the stage, so do many themes from Balanchine’s unique
style; his enjoyment of angles, his fierce sense of directionality and his marriage to
virtuosic repetition were all brightly-lit by and deeply-saturated in this man’s choreographic
At times, the costuming of the men, composed of white tops and black tights, felt
as though Balanchine had multiplied himself, stretching his technique through the limbs of
dancers who continue to prove the prowess of his movement.
The roles within The Four Temperaments were that of traditional male and female,
bringing with them sexual undertones that were both artistic in nature and vague in
narrative. The choreography was also very depictive of the classical, symphonic score,
written by Paul Hindemith and conducted by Andrews Sill.
The next piece to grace the stage was Divertissement Pas de Deuxfrom A
Midsummer Night’s Dream, danced by Sae-Eun Park and Hugo Marchand of Paris Opera
Ballet. Immediately, the audience is captivated by the strong physical relationship that both
dancers have to the ground and to one another. Throughout most of the dance, Marchand
stands solidly atop a modest and functional first position, sending his energy not only
toward his turnout, but through his own, rooted base and into the lithe, twisting balances
of Park. It is clear that this man has ‘got his lady’. As Park’s effortless shapes sail through
the air, Marchand maintains perpetual contact with the floor, his feet and toes reaching
through the ground as an extension of his partner’s security. Time did suspend. It was as
though it was a dream the audience was witness to; a private frolic in the forest where
every dancer could be, for a moment, nestled in the limbs of Hugo Marchand’s branches.
The Mariinsky Ballet was by far the most virtuosic and adventurous performance of
Tchaikovsky Pas De Deux. From Viktoria Tereshkina’s repetitions of five consecutive pirouettes to the
silently stable grand jetés executed by Kimin Kim, the dancers’ stage presence, energies
and strong technique were phenomenal. They made full use of the weight of their head,
arms, upper torso and overall port de bras, which gave their movements both a finished
look and clean, consistent execution.
Tereshkina and Kim were able to enthrall the audience with some very risky and
exciting moves Tereshkina and Kim were able to enthrall the audience with some very risky and
exciting moves as well, in particular, a partner lift in which Tereshkina performes a glissade,
soubresaut then fish-dives, torso-first, into the woven net of the arms of her partner. This
feat was danced twice, and both times, took the audience’s breath away.
To witness ballet at the level that Tereshkina and Kim were able to present, is to be
able to both vicariously and viscerally understand what it could feel like to perform the
dance oneself. Each movement was intentional, each position had a purpose, and the
feeling of boundless flight and rebounding muscle resounded throughout the theater with
each and every leap and turn.
The costumes in this piece, by Karinska, flowed beautifully
and expertly-described the choreographic space through which the dancers moved. Kim’s
white vest and billowed sleeves complemented Tereshkina’s blood-orange, coral dress,
both garments carving into the air rippling wakes of vibrant motion and color.
The final piece was Symphonie Concertante, danced by American Ballet Theatre. As
this was the largest corps of the evening, the energy of the overall body of the dance was
slightly more tense than that of the former pieces. The first tendu created onstage was a
collective one made by the entire corps, but felt as though it was being produced by one,
integrated body. Each dégagé thereafter had the same quality: made by many but felt as
one. With this unity in technique, it was interesting to also feel the internal air of
individualism between the members of the company. Contrary to
the three earlier pieces, Symphonie Concertante was most certainly a dance created to
spark the tone of competition within the company and to give honor to those who have the
ability to rise to the top. The allowance of subtle showboating by individual dancers was
slightly distracting from time to time, but by the final pas de trois between Christine
Shevchenko, Devon Teuscher and Thomas Forster, the strong group support of all
members proved that even though stress can be high in rehearsal, each member must
work together to carry the body of the corps all the way through to the end of the show.
It is a privilege to be able to work among such stellar contemporaries in our artistic
careers. The choreography of George Balanchine will continue to live on in the
hearts, bodies and minds of dancers who continue to allow his work to permeate their
souls. And we, as audience members, will continue to be possessed by the magic that he
created, the humors he arose, and the time that will forever stand still while his work is in
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Brandon Kazen-Maddox