The New York City Ballet raced back into full flower Wednesday night at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and the huge crowd was totally into every moment.
Besides a new red curtain, new floor for the dancers to dance upon, new chairs for the orchestra to sit upon and a new sound system, the evening was a joyous eruption at every possible point. The company presented three contrasting ballets and showed that its considerable reputation for precision, symmetry and imagination was all very much intact despite a change in leadership and the pandemic.
Balanchine’s “Chaconne,” which premiered in 1976 to Gluck’s music to his opera “Orphee et Euridice,” was a classical, many movement work that featured Sara Mearns and Tyler Angle along with many soloists and members of the corps.
Against a scrim of sky blue and cumulus clouds and in diaphonous costumes in colors of a pale palette of nudes, blues and white, the flowing choreography mirrored the music. Mearns’ extensions were long legged and exact, the corps was spaced in Balanchine’s famous groupings with his many give and take gestures among pairs of dancers. Footwork was very varied and tight from the numerous entrechats, rond de jam in the air, little jumps and piquet turns. Angle’s partnership was solid and his solos joyous and confident. And the orchestra under conductor Andrews Sill relaxed. A huge applause greeted the final movements.
“Summerspace” from Merce Cunningham was a marvelous contrast. Cunningham choreographed the work in 1958 to Morton Feldman’s unusual score that had bursts of color here and there from a small group of players, which included a piccolo, muted trumpet, clarinet, piano, and a few others. The scrim by Robert Rauschenberg was a smudged floral of bright yellows and oranges. Lighting by Aaron Copp was brightly yellow. The NYC Ballet premiered the work in 1966.
New York City Ballet Wednesday (9 Photos)
Six dancers were in white leotards spotted with all kinds of color, which Rauschenberg also created. They flitted, zigzagged, paused, leaped or stopped in suspended poses in and out much like a bevy of insects buzzing about a garden full of flowers. The music just happened without any real beginning or ending to match their movements. The choreography was not easy especially for a dancer to maintain some of the awkward poses of very long seconds. There was humor amid all this activity and the crowd got it. The six dancers got several curtain calls.
But the piece-de-resistance was the final “Glass Pieces.” One of the most popular works by Jerome Robbins to Philip Glass’ mesmerizing music, it premiered in 1983. After the crowd gave a roaring approval to how great the orchestra had sounded, you could feel their anticipation as the curtain rose. The three couples in the first segment danced with finesse as they wove in and out of their steps. Then came the much awaited second section called “Facades.” In dim bluish-grey light, a female dancer in silhouette at the back of the stage moves slowly in jerky movements only to be joined by another and then another to form a line each exactly a certain distance from each other across the back. In the meantime, the superb soloists of Jovani Furlan and Unity Phelan have appeared. The choreography is intricate and sinuous as they dance to a lone high saxophone line, which creates even more mystery.
This then contrasts with the finale of pounding drums, bass notes and male dancers in tight formation running, leaping as powerful warriors. More dancers and then the entire corps join.
The audience erupted into a huge roar, standing ovation, cheers, whistles and clapping. The ballet was back.
On Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m., the company will present “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” to Felix Mendelssohn’s music and Balanchine’s choreography.