In front of the curtain at New York City Ballet’s opening night at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Ballet Master-in-Chief Peter Martins told the audience that no one loved Saratoga more than company founder and spiritual leader George Balanchine. With cheers and a booming applause of approval from an unusually large crowd, the 47th ballet season at SPAC began.
Appropriately, the Tuesday night program was dedicated to Balanchine, the choreographer whose designs and visions help to build the SPAC. And it was a very full evening, featuring four works displaying Balanchine’s range: modern, classical and theatrical.
The night opened with a divine rendering of “Concerto Barocco.” This Bach ballet can frequently appear dull and/or overdone. But with regal Teresa Reichlen and understated Ask la Cour, along with Savannah Lowery, and an all-girl corps de ballet of eight, this delightful ballet was beautifully executed. The second movement, in which the dancers revolve in and around La Cour, was so exquisite that it was moving.
Unfortunately, “Concerto Barocco” was paired with the ultramodern “Kammermusik No. 2” to music by Hindemith. While both ballets are similarly designed — pairs against a group of eight — “Kammermusik” appeared crass, a jarring interruption to the bliss that “Barocco” created.
This was unfortunate, but “Firebird” and “Symphony in C” made up for distress the audience might have felt. “Firebird,” with a dozen young dancers from the Capital Region, was a splendid as ever. Even with the dancers standing stock still in the final scene, the tableau was flamboyantly glorious.
The can-do Ashley Bouder delivered the lead role with a tautness that one would expect from a magical bird. As she hovered in arabesque, she also revealed a fragility and conviction that was heart-wrenching.
Of course, the glowing scenery and costumes, designed by Chagall, and the music by Stravinsky, are legendary. The orchestra sounded tremendous, startling the audience with its crashes signaling the entrée of the grotesque monsters who menace the romantic hero, danced on Tuesday by Justin Peck.
However, few ballets are more wonderful than the sparkling “Symphony in C,” In this elegant work, Balanchine poured all that he knew of the classical ballet vocabulary. Each movement outdid the next, but most memorable were Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle in the swooning adagio movement. Kowroski is the most sublime adagio dancer. Every movement she made was juicy, fully of the luxury that Balanchine wanted to impart.
Sterling Hyltin and Joaquin De Luz were dashing in the allegro vivace section. But all the lead dancers were tremendous, sending the audience’s hearts soaring with every grand step.
With new costumes, too, “Symphony in C” looked especially glittering. It is one of those ballets that is perfect and a must-see for this two-week season.
Sadly, there was a bit of melancholy in the air with the announcement that SPAC cannot afford to keep the ballet on for two weeks next year. So see them while it can.
New York City Ballet remains in residence at SPAC through Saturday, July 21.