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New York City Ballet sparkles before large audience in 53rd opener at SPAC

New York City Ballet sparkles before large audience in 53rd opener at SPAC

The night belonged to founder/choreographer George Balanchine
New York City Ballet sparkles before large audience in 53rd opener at SPAC
The New York City Ballet performs Tuesday night at Saratoga Performing Arts Center.
Photographer: peter r. barber/gazette photographer

New York City Ballet returned Tuesday night to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center and a massive crowd eagerly welcomed them. It’s the 53rd season for the company at the venue.

The night belonged to founder/choreographer George Balanchine’s genius working his magic to the music of Tchaikovsky. The curtain opened on the twilight blue, ethereal world of “Serenade” (1948) with its gossamer-costumed female corps. Their flowing shapes, which changed in number and direction, and their interesting hand and arm gestures made for visual appeal. They all seemed to breathe together. The elegant Ask leCour took a turn with one of the female principals.

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But this is a dance seemingly about love and loss, which only becomes apparent in the mysterious inner segment. A lone man (Aaron Sanz), blindfolded by the hands of a female dancer, comes out to a bare stage where a lone female lies. The trio’s interaction has some of the most spellbinding choreography. The inspired final moves, which take courage from the dancer who is carried aloft, are breathtaking and the crowd responded.

“Mozartiana” (1981) featured the perky fast footwork of Daniel Ulbricht, Sara Mearns spinning and perfect en pointe and the stylish Tyler Angle, who projected a solidly confident air. His entrechats were textbook perfect. Four little local girls also did wonderfully well. 

Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2 (1941) with the excellent pianist Susan Walters brought much of the company on stage. New costumes by company designer Marc Happel sparkled with Swarovski crystals. Teresa Reichlen, known for her marvelous extension, was eloquent and was often assisted by the very able Russell Janzen.

The orchestra under Andrew Litton was superb and got a standing ovation.

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Tonight (Wednesday), it will be all 21st-century dances: Jean-Pierre Frohlich’s “Varied Trio” (2013) with Lou Harrison’s music for piano, violin and percussion. Principal dancers Sterling Hyltin and Amar Ramasar will star. “Principia,” the newest ballet from Justin Peck premiered this year with Sufjan Stevens’ music; and Kyle Abraham’s “The Runaway” (2018) with a variety of music and fabulous costumes from Giles Deacon.

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