Mind Your Mannerisms

by Leigh Witchel

Opening night of New York City Ballet’s spring season should have been a sure thing but it looked more like a question mark. A triple bill of some of Balanchine’s best wasn’t the problem: the company looked as if it was relying at first on perfume – and by the end just running on fumes.

The evening started out on solid ground. “Allegro Brillante” was danced by the same leads as reported here. The ballet didn’t faze Tiler Peck technically; she took it full throttle from her entry in a blur of fast tiny bourrées in her entry through the smooth unsupported pirouettes in her solo.

Stylistically, Peck still has her ballerina fantasy. When she extended her leg front, she yawned back as if her torso was independent in balance from the leg she stood on. She varied the speed of her steps to the point where it called attention to itself, but reining it in slightly put her even more in control. She was embellishing, but not pushing as she took a breath upwards before heading down into an arabesque penchée or ended a turn into a soft dip without pounding the last note.

“The Four Temperaments” was more Mannerist than Modernist. The male leads in Melancholic and Phlegmatic (Gonzalo Garcia and Ask la Cour) did standard interpretations of their parts; the women were more exaggerated. Lauren King punched the movements of the Second Theme to the point it started to look brittle. Ashley Laracey also went too far in the Third Theme – when she was braced and rocked by her partner in arabesque, she instead dove low into an arabesque penchée and what should have been long and horizontal headed to the floor.

Sara Mearns’ interpretation of Sanguinic was about 30% Balanchine and 70% Mearns; she threw herself around, showing drama instead of details. The stance of Sanguinic is with the pelvis pushed daringly forward, but atop that Mearns torqued her shoulders, which distorted the focus of the step. Mearns is never dull, but this was Balanchine. The steps still matter.

Teresa Reichlen and Jared Angle in “The Four Temperaments.” Photo © Paul Kolnik

Despite promising New York debuts, “Symphony in C” was at sixes and sevens. Several leads looked as if they were dancing injured, with low, hobbled arabesques and blowing turns or tours they’d usually nail.

Harrison Ball went in for Anthony Huxley to squire Alston Macgill in the third movement; for both dancers it was their New York debut in the part. Macgill handled the role well; turns are no problem for her at all. Third movement presented her with a good challenge to push her jumping; she attacked the soaring jetés with a rocking, rather than smooth, motion, as if clearing a hurdle. Ball handled the sudden opportunity with class, keeping his eye on Macgill, even when heading away from her.

But sadly, just about everyone else had a sticky spot. Ashley Bouder had to save turns in both the first movement and the reprise; Maria Kowroski looked winded. Chase Finlay looked as if he was dancing through an injury. He relied on presence and a matador-like manner as he stood – a good offense as the best defense. Even all the women in the first movement were jamming their pointe work as if their toes hurt.

There’s an obvious explanation. The company is in preparation for the Here/Now Festival starting next week – 43 ballets by 22 choreographers in 10 programs over four weeks. That’s a herculean undertaking. But it’s only the beginning of the season and New York City Ballet already looked as if it had hit the wall.

copyright © 2017 by Leigh Witchel

“Allegro Brillante,” “The Four Temperaments,” “Symphony in C” – New York City Ballet
Lincoln Center, New York, NY
April 18, 2017

Cover:  Tiler Peck and Andrew Veyette in “Allegro Brillante.” Photo © Paul Kolnik

New York City Ballet‘s spring season runs through May 28. The All Balanchine program runs through February 4.

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