DanceView Times, New York edition
Treats at the Ballet
Four Seasons/Stabat Mater/Symphony in C
New York City Ballet knows how to throw a party. On Friday night, in the midst of their year-long celebration of George Balanchine's centennial, the company rejoiced in style. As part of the centennial's “Vision” season, it performed a varied program that included work by Jerome Robbins, Peter Martins and the Master himself.
The evening began with Jerome Robbins’ The Four Seasons.
Choreographed in 1979, the ballet is set to a score written by Giuseppi
Verdi and originally intended for the third Act divertissement of the
opera I Vespri Siciliani. It is a technical powerhouse of a ballet,
which in the hands of the fine dancers at this performance was a barrel
of fun to watch.
After a slinky Summer in which an orange sun was projected on the backdrop, Fall exploded with the advent of Daniel Ulbricht, a gifted jumper, who ushered in a fuchsia-clad cast that included Alexandra Ansanelli and Damian Woetzel. Fall was the most jovial of seasons, best captured when the sixteen corps members sat cross-legged in a U-shape and shrugged their shoulders playfully as Ulbricht performed in front of them, center-stage. Ansanelli and Woetzel elicited many a gasp with their perfectly executed turns, jumps, lifts and partnering. Ansanelli was particularly engaging with the sheer lusciousness and joy her dancing conveys.
Stabat Mater, the second ballet on the program and Peter Martins’ elegy to renowned School of American Ballet teacher, Stanley Williams, is a ballet entirely devoid of substance. Despite its most appropriate dedication, the 1998 ballet lagged, particularly after Robbins’ delightful The Four Seasons. Danced before a set that recalled columns and statues one might find in an ancient Greek marketplace, this ballet was the low point in New York City Ballet’s otherwise exceptionally vibrant performance.
The cast of six consisted of three co-ed couples that danced in solos, duets, and trios of almost every derivation one can achieve with a group of six. Yvonne Borree and Benjamin Millepied danced a particularly frenzied pas de deux in which Borree repeatedly leapt in one direction only to have Millepied shove her the other way mid-air. While many choreographers have employed such jumps in quite successful ways, Martins never managed to place this, and other harried movements, at musically comfortable moments for the dancers. The result was beautifully trained dancers who sometimes appeared frantic and unprepared while performing the simplest of steps.
When not dancing, the dancers formed various tableaux by leaning or sitting on the elaborate set. The choreography included many reaches—towards the sky, towards partners, and towards the ground—and concluded with the six dancers connected in a straight line facing the audience, with Darci Kistler at one end, reaching towards the wings.
Crisply conducted by Andrea Quinn, George Balachine’s Symphony in C impressively concluded the program. With its seemingly never-ending formations and complex segments of “call and response” between the corps de ballet, demi-corps and soloists, Symphony in C felt much like the unfurling of a tricky geometry problem.
Maria Kowroski was regal in the Second Movement, particularly during a series of swoons when she fell backwards into the arms of an awaiting Charles Askegard, only to recover through a past-perfect penchée and repeat the step to the other side. As in the Winter portion of Robbins’ The Four Seasons, Ashley Bouder danced with exacto-knife precision in the Third Movement, in which she was perfectly paired with the compact and delightful Joaquin De Luz. Although some of the trademark Balanchine mannerisms including thrusted hips and loose arms were greatly restrained, the typical Balanchine love of music and breakneck dancing shone through.
Photo: Jenifer Ringer in a previous performance of The Four Seasons. Photo: Paul Kolnik.