The New York City Ballet celebrated its founding father on Friday night at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
In an all-George Balanchine program featuring “Serenade,” “Tarantella,” “Square Dance” and “Stars and Stripes,” the many talents of this masterful choreographer were feted. It was all there: his formal, his playful, his poetic and his showmanship.
The evening was also a nod to his adopted country, as “Square Dance” is a courtly and spritely affair that parallels baroque with country-western dance. And then there is the pomp of “Stars and Stripes,” the Sousa-inspired ballet that literally salutes the flag-waving American spirit.
And as the dancers have done in the week past, they gave it their all. Among the standouts were Ashley Bouder and Andrew Veyette as Liberty Bell and El Captain in “Stars and Stripes.”
Bouder astonished with her strength and pure abilities. Few dancers can balance on one leg as casually as her or whip off double and triple fouettes in a snap. But it was not just her technique; it was also her personality that thrived in this frolicsome role.
Veyette matched her zest with his own, soaring through his high-flung solos with a cool and charming brashness. Veyette continues to grow as a dancer, amazing for one who is already tops among his peers.
More great dancing was seen in the melancholic romance of “Serenade,” the evening’s opener. Again, Janie Taylor moved her audience to tears with her tender and transformative performance.
Also amazing was Sara Mearns, who was ravishing in her high-kicking entrance and as she guided the sensitive and kindly Ask LaCour. He was so angelic, it is certain if he wasn’t blindfolded, he would never have left the bereft Taylor sprawled on the floor.
The corps de ballet was wonderful too — from the first flick of their foot into to their final tip-toeing away. Their travels in those billowing blue skirts were like watching wispy clouds sail across a sky.
Also brilliant was irrepressible Tiler Peck and Daniel Ulbricht in “Tarantella.” The duet, with tambourines, is one that put their stellar technique to the test — with a lot of fast footwork and pyrotechnics. They pulled it off with ease and grace, making it a pure delight to take in. Ulbricht was especially amazing as he hangs in the air on every bounce like no other dancer.
Of all the works, “Square Dance,” from 1957, has aged into a nice ballet, but not a spectacular one. Megan Fairchild’s can-do confidence set a festive tone, and Anthony Huxley, as her partner, was terrific — thoughtful and reserved in his approach in a way that fascinated. But still, the ballet felt dated. It has lost its ability to surprise.
Happily, every other ballet on the bill was timeless. Those works will ensure that Balanchine and his legacy will live on.
One correction: Sebastien Marcovici’s name was spelled incorrectly in Thursday’s edition of The Daily Gazette. I regret the error.