Four of the new ballets that premiered at the recent New York City Ballet gala at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center were on view Friday and Saturday before huge crowds.
On Friday night they were “Polaris” choreographed by Myles Thatcher to William Walton’s Piano Quartet; Robert Binet’s “The Blue of Distance” to Ravel’s piano music; and Troy Schumacher’s “Common Ground” to Ellis Ludwig-Leone’s score.
Thatcher’s work had three women and five men seeking partners, sometimes men dancing with men or men dancing with women, often putting them into tableaux while one or another spun or leaped separately. There was a sense of space between steps. Only Chase Finlay found someone steady in Emilie Gerrity and they had interesting lifts that had her rolling sinuously in his arms. His final snatch of her into the wings was terrific. The crowd roared its delight.
Binet had three women and four men dancing to lush, undulating piano music played splendidly by Elaine Chelton but his choreography had the couples each doing something different in an agitated mode or in a kind of slow motion while one male dancer did his own thing. The lack of connection was distracting.
Schumacher’s “Common Ground” had no common ground among the colorful garbed three women and four men. The music was electric and pop-y and so was the choreography. Leaps, arms stretching high, a female dancer tossed into the arms of the men and Anthony Huxley spinning so fast and leaping high made for a vibrant picture. Andrews Sill conducted a spirited orchestra.
Audiences also saw Balanchine’s inspired and ethereal “Serenade” to Tchaikovsky’s gloriously lilting score; Peter Martins’ jagged “Ash” to Michael Torke’s off center, rhythmic music; and Alexei Ratmansky’s “Concerto DSCH” to Shostakovich, which had intersecting lines with circles, a pas de deux, and two guys and a girl in zippy steps and playful moods. Tyler Angle and Brittany Pollack were silken smooth and Huxley thrilled with his tight turns and clean edges to his steps.
The orchestra under Daniel Capps was fabulous.
On Saturday’s last matinee of the season, Justin Peck’s “Scherzo Fantastique” to Stravinsky had its second performance. Jules de Balincourt’s scrim in an explosion of floral colors was reflected in the colorful costumes and Peck’s light, unfussy, and very classic choreography. The dancers were like bees buzzing forming a small group like a hive to have Huxley emerge for a solo journey or Taylor Stanley and Brittany Pollack trying their hand at romance. All rather a delight with the orchestra under Andrews Sill in fine form.
The performance of Barber’s Violin Concerto was, however, so inspired on all levels that no one was talking about anything else at intermission. Choreographed with inspiration by Peter Martins in 1988, danced exquisitely by Megan Fairchild, Jared Angle, Sara Mearns and Ask la Cour, and performed superbly by the orchestra under Daniel Capps with concertmaster Kurt Nikkanen as the soloist, it was a memorable experience and got a standing ovation.
The afternoon also included a splashy Bernstein/Robbins “Fancy Free,” and another performance of “Concerto DSCH,” which easily matched Friday’s show. Saturday night was the final night of this 50th season and closed with Balanchine’s “Jewels.”