There was barely a dry eye at the end of the New York City Ballet’s Thursday matinee performance of Prokofiev’s “Romeo and Juliet” at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The level of dramatic acting on the part of the dancers, especially Lauren Lovette who played Juliet, was so high that the huge crowd was swept along as the plot unfolded to the tragic end.
There were many superlatives: the wonder of the score and incredible playing of the orchestra under music director Andrew Litton; the costumes’ vivid color palette and sumptuous materials; the excellent blocking of the large cast and fight scenes; the clever set designed by Per Kirkeby that served as castle, office building, ballroom, bedroom, chapel and tomb; Peter Martins’ satisfying choreography especially for the famous love scenes – the lifts were amazing; but mostly for the dancing from Lovette, Anthony Huxley as Mercutio, and corp dancer Peter Walker, who was superb as Romeo. The lovers’ chemistry, too, was ecstatic with Lovette initially the elegant gamine until Walker sweeps her off her feet.
What made the day even more interesting is that Lovette was also the choreographer for “Not Our Fate,” which is her second ballet for the company and was premiered that night. Four new works were presented and the huge crowd was totally into each one. Talk about pumped.
Resident choreographer Justin Peck had two: “Easy” to Leonard Bernstein and “Pulcinella Variations” to Igor Stravinsky. Lovette’s was to Michael Nyman, and Gianna Reisen of the L.A. Dance Project, whose “Composer’s Holiday” to Lucas Foss is her first ballet for any professional company. All were danced superbly and each was very different from the other.
“Easy” was hip, jazzy, fast paced with three couples clad in day-glo colored clothes and sneakers spinning, running, and leaping to Bernstein’s jazzy, percussive score, which featured principal clarinetist Steve Hartman wailing away. That got a roar from the crowd.
Reisen put her eight dancers into interesting poses, unexpected and even novel patterns or connections and some quirky but endearing kind of moves that worked the stage’s angles. Concertmaster Arturo Delmoni and pianist Susan Walters played. At intermission, the crowd was all abuzz about the music and the dancing.
Lovette’s ten dancers were couples seeking partners to Nyman’s relentless, driving rhythms. They ran together, then apart, always moving. Black and white designer costumes were a hit as were the two men who danced together: Preston Chamblee and Taylor Stanley. Andrew Sill conducted. The audience gave a standing ovation.
“Pulcinella” was classic ballet with a seamless stream of great steps. Each of the nine dancers in Tsumori Chisato’s marvelous, whimsical costumes got solos. Litton conducted. Another winning performance.
Saturday night is the gala with three of the four ballets not seen this week.