For New York City Ballet, Future Is Now ; Troupe's Eventful Season Transformed Many Reworked Dances

By Macaulay, Alastair | International Herald Tribune, October 11, 2013 | Go to article overview

For New York City Ballet, Future Is Now ; Troupe's Eventful Season Transformed Many Reworked Dances


Macaulay, Alastair, International Herald Tribune


The troupe's eventful season has transformed many reworked dances.

By ALASTAIR MACAULAY

The usual rule is that a ballet's original cast is never surpassed. Though its first dancers may grow better over the years, as they understand the choreography more completely, it was tailor- made to display their particular gifts. Yet there are a number of cases with today's New York City Ballet where older audience members have been asking: "Was it really this good back then?"

The surest current example of this is George Balanchine's "Duo Concertant" (1972), as danced during the company's current four- week season at the David H. Koch Theater by Sterling Hyltin and Robert Fairchild. True, there remain ways in which its original dancers, Kay Mazzo and Peter Martins, stay unmatched. Ms. Mazzo's face and upper body had an exceptionally legible loveliness, especially in the closing scene, where the lighting used to be far better, while Mr. Martins's imposing height made a great impression. They're both very much around, Ms. Mazzo at the School of American Ballet, Mr. Martins as the company's ballet master in chief; so we can presume that this excellence of their successors owes plenty to them.

Ms. Hyltin's arms have now become heart stopping in the quick grace with which, in the first part, they arrive in one position after another. The airy capriciousness with which she spins blithely across the stage has a ravishingly zephyrlike freedom. When Mr. Fairchild leaps rapidly from side to side, his body bending in the air, the image is one of exhilaratingly playful ebullience. Was "Duo" really this good in the 1970s?

Ms. Hyltin and Mr. Fairchild are among the truest artists in today's City Ballet; and they've reached the state when their mere stance and gait create marvelous theater. In the Spring pas de deux of Jerome Robbins's "Four Seasons," Ms. Hyltin simply enters walking with Tyler Angle, and my heart dances to see her grace and rhythm.

There are lively arguments in the audience as to whether Mr. Fairchild has yet mastered the phrasing and plasticity of Melancholic in "The Four Temperaments" -- I'm among those who find him superb here, though I'm forever haunted by Bart Cook's classic performance -- but there is no question that he enriches the repertory. And he's inherited Wendy Whelan's rare talent as muse to the new; every year adds several roles to the long list of those he has created.

Sara Mearns, Tiler Peck and Teresa Reichlen are other artists whose importance the season has demonstrated. And young Lauren Lovette is so riveting -- she, too, has the stance, the gait, the range of inflections -- that it's a puzzle the company uses her so cautiously. Wouldn't she have transformed almost any section of this season's revival of Balanchine's "Episodes"?

Yet though the company's fall season presents these and other marvelous dancers in several of the world's greatest ballets, it still doesn't add up to enough. One week was given over to Mr. Martins's unchangingly garish "Swan Lake." O.K., that's there to bring in a larger audience, but what's on offer to lure any newcomers back to see the company in other fare? …

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