The David H. Koch building/ “Fancy Free”, “Rondo”, “Solo” and “Episodes”/ Tuesday January 31st, 2023.
Welcome back friends!
Welcome this week, once again, to the dazzling world of ballet, and to 4 wonderful and vastly different ballets, from various eras, danced beautifully by the NYCB.
1)”Fancy Free” is choreographed by the great American artist, Jerome Robbins (1918-1998). It is his first ever ballet wonder, bringing American “style” to the world of ballet, a “piece” from 1944, which absolutely won over audiences and critics, when it was first performed. And even today, Robbins is still considered as one of the most influential choreographer of the 20th century.
Set to wonderfully expressive, lively, entertaining music, by other illustrious American artist, up and coming composer at the time, Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), who himself went on to a flourishing musical career (become later on Music Director of the NY Philharmonic, and wrote iconic music for various masterpieces including the score for Kazan’s illustrious 1954 movie “On the Waterfront”, as well as the score for the 1961 movie “West Side Story” which Robbins co-directed with Robert Wise).
And Robbins choreographic talent is truly apparent in this spirited, funny, lively, American exalting steps, modern, pre-“Broadway/musical like” “Fancy free” ballet, which is a rare delight to admire, and was an inspiration for his hit 1944 full blown musical “On the town”, which develops the storyline of this “Fancy Free” ballet.
And Principal dancers Daniel Ulbricht, Joseph Gordon, and Jovani Furlan, were all incredibly entertaining as the 3 sailors “on the town”, each trying each to seduce young girls, “passer-bys”, the superb Lauren Collet, Indiana Woodward, as well Malorie Lungren, near a bar, during “Fleet week”. All were spectacular and performed with incredible joy, athletics, ease, grace, charm and technique together, leaving the audience awe-struck and blown away.
2) With “Rondo”, let’s move on back to a much more timeless, classical piece which premiered in 1980, again choreographed by Robbins, on wonderfully harmonious music, from Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), his “Rondo in A minor”.
A melancholic piece, “Rondo”, returning for the first time this season, and choreographed by Robbins as a classical duet created for 2 ballerinas, dancing in front of a piano, as is often the case in dancers’ studios, often mirroring each other beautifully. And charming Isabella LaFreniere and athletic Mira Nadon were a vision of grace and introspection.
3)”Solo” is way more recent. It is choreographed by American dancer and choreographer extraordinaire Justin Peck (b. 1987), the current Resident Choreographer Artistic Advisor of the NYCB. This piece has only been given “live” at the recent 2022 Fall Fashion Gala, and was choreographed for an incredibly expressive and talented Principal dancer, Anthony Huxley.
“Solo” is also set to wonderfully moving and sorrowful music, by highly acclaimed American composer, Samuel Barber (1910-1981), his famed, heartbreakingly sad “Adagio for Strings”.
And on Tuesday evening, Anthony Huxley graced us once more with his talent, and performed this piece with wonderful soul searching expression, in a distinctive and striking costume, designed by Raf Simons (an oversized male blazer like costume).
The audience loved the piece of course, filled with introspective steps and melancholy.
So quiet and moving.
Here is a link to Barber’s beautiful, sad and brooding “Adagio for strings”, which you will immediately recognize:
4)”Episodes”, a dazzling and yet streamlined, black and white leotard ballet choreographed by the iconic Georgian-American choreographer, George Balanchine (1904-1983), regarded by critics and audiences alike, as the most influential choreographer of the 20th century, is set to interesting, yet not always easy to listen to, unusual, atonal, and engaging modern orchestral works by Austrian composer extraordinaire, Anton von Webern (1883-1945).
And this “Episodes” piece was actually by far, my favorite ballet of the evening for its incredibly intricate, diverse and unusual choreography by the great Balanchine, matching a wonderfully disruptive and intriguing classical score.
And Megan LeCrone dancing to the Symphony, Opus 21, was by far as well my favorite performer of this piece (I still wonder why she is not yet a NYCB Principal Dancer). And I found Andrew Veyette her partner, in top form as always.
I was less a fan of the Five pieces, Opus 10 performed nevertheless beautifully, by the terrific Emily Kikta and Alec Knight.
And the Concerto, Opus 24 performed by Unity Phelan and Harrison Ball, seemed the most technical and difficult, and yet, as they danced it away with great energy and verve, allowing their expressivity to increase exponentially with each step.
And finally, the Ricercata in 6 voices from Bach’s “Musical offering”, was easier on the ear, and Miriam Miller and gorgeous looking Principal dancer Russel Janzen, were incredibly beautiful to watch, and harmonized perfectly their steps to the score.
Let’s now enjoy a short excerpt of this Balanchine “Episodes” ballet, danced with elegance, a few years ago:
Just beautiful. And one can tell that this unusual and disruptive music by Austrian composer Anton von Webern, truly inspired Balanchine, and allowed him thus, to create an outstanding, beautiful and imaginative choreography.
So, to sum up my feelings, about the “Classic NYCB II” program, admired last Tuesday, in great company: what stunning, diverse, at times fun, at others, melancholic, often wonderfully imaginative, and always quintessential NYCB choreographies, from the 20th and 21st century, set to an array of superb and varied American and Austrian classical music.
Not to be missed!
Until next time friends!
Eternal butterflies 😊