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New York City Ballet off to a soaring start

New York City Ballet off to a soaring start

Returns to SPAC with sensational dancing
New York City Ballet off to a soaring start
The New York City Ballet performs "Stars and Stripes" at SPAC Wednesday night.
Photographer: Erica Miller

The New York City Ballet returned to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center this week with several evenings of sensational dancing.

On Wednesday, huge, enthusiastic and very vocal crowds got the local premiere of Justin Peck’s new ballet (Jan. 2017), a time-honored favorite in Balanchine’s “Stars and Stripes” (1958), and Peter Martins terrific “Fearful Symetries” (1990).

“Stars and Stripes” to arrangements of John Philip Sousa’s marches with its peppy choreography, Karinska’s colorful costumes and the patriotic set had a bit of a slow start for the female corps. But once Daniel Ulbricht entered with the men, things picked up. The crowd went wild and even more so for the jaunty pas de deux from coquette Megan Fairchild and her soldier beau Tyler Angle. She held her balances just a little longer and he seemed to linger in the air for his jumps. The orchestra under conductor Andrew Sills sounded great.

Martins fashioned his dancers’ moves perfectly to John Adam’s hypnotic, ominous, techno pop score with its repeated rhythmic, grinding motifs. Mark Stanley’s atmospheric blood red lighting hinted at danger. As the music shifted timbres and balances, the dancers mirrored with seeking arms, speedy turns or off-center groupings.

Peck’s dancers all wore sneakers and street clothes and danced to a tape by Dan Deacon. They began in a huddle before breaking into running patterns in a flurry of action. There was a sense of freshness and spontaneity, almost a sportive feeling, before they all ended back in a huddle. The crowd screamed its approval.

On Thursday, four of George Balanchine’s vintage ballets got fabulous performances. The elegant, musical Tiler Peck and Andrew Veyette led eight dancers in a joyously light dialogue in “Allegro Brillante” (1954) with the excellent Susan Walters at the piano. Daniel Capps, who conducted all the ballets, led a brilliant orchestra. Peck especially seemed to imbue the spirit of Tchaikovsky’s sunny music. The couple’s final lift to exit was spectacularly dramatic. They got four curtain calls.

In “Tarantella” (1964), the great Joaquin De Luz escorted and teased Erica Pereira. Always a showman with a vigorous style, De Luz executed big leaps using a tambourine for rhythmic emphasis. The dance was great fun and even a bit lusty.

“Swan Lake” (1951) is one of the great story ballets to Tchaikovsky’s music. Alain Vaes re-imagined it in 1986 and put it into an arctic setting and dressed the swans in black except for the white queen, which Sara Mearns danced with great precision and a regal coolness. The icy set that included stage mist and icicles that glittered brought oohs from the crowd. Jared Angle was the heroic prince, and the sorcerer’s black feathered costume was a marvel of menace. The crowd gave a standing ovation.

Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto (1972) was all spunky playfulness with a small corps and dancers Sterling Hyltin, Chase Finlay,Taylor Stanley and Rebecca Krohn in interesting lifts and arm holds to match the angular music with solo violinist Arturo Delmoni in superb form. Thursday’s program will be repeated tonight (Saturday).

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