‘New York City Ballet Program A’ at The Kennedy Center by Colleen Sproull

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A full house at the gorgeous Kennedy Center Opera House anxiously awaited the opening of New York City Ballet Program A tonight. Tchaikovsky’s unbeatable score, played triumphantly by New York City Orchestra with guest conductor David LaMarche, is paralleled only by the fascinating, intricately complicated choreography of George Balanchine, (after Lev Ivanov for Swan Lake), and the elegant athleticism of each company dancer. A happy marriage of Tchaikovsky and Balanchine, performed with passion, technical grace, and admirable professionalism, this is an unforgettable experience not to be missed.

Sara Mearns (Odette) and Jared Angle (Prince Siegfried) in 'Swan Lake.' Choreography by George Balanchine  © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Sara Mearns (Odette) and Jared Angle (Prince Siegfried) in ‘Swan Lake.’ Choreography by George Balanchine
© The George Balanchine Trust. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

It’s easy to get lost in the fantasy of Swan Lake if NYCB is in charge. The curtain rises after the famous overture boasts, and at once we are greeted with an amazing scene created by Alain Vaes – a mountainous backdrop complete with icicles dangling from the ceiling, and a lake with a white swan leading black swans one by one as they swim. The original lighting by Ronald Bates and lighting by Mark Stanley portrays a cold atmosphere which grows more intense with the music. Costumes by Alain Vaes dress 30 beautiful ballerinas as swans in sparkling black tutus, who dance in perfect unison throughout the piece, fluttering about with technical precision while maintaining the utmost grace and elegance. They take flight with stellar speed and swanlike movements. The hunters dance with strength and great height, and are excellent partners for the black swans.

Maria Kowroski (Odette, Queen of the Swans), wearing a sparkling white tutu and tiara, is a very compelling swan queen. She possesses an endearing reverence as she dances with such exquisite extension and an extravagant arch in her back as she glides into perfect arabesques. Kowroski and Tyler Angle (Prince Siegfried) are a divine pair. Angle is a manly prince who dashes through the air and makes a perfect protector for the swan. They share tender embraces and intense moments within the choreography, among the many gorgeous lifts and turns, as if they are dancing on air. With the complex score and choreography, brilliantly executed by all involved, this version of Swan Lake takes a beautiful journey that tugs at the heartstrings. It’s one of the most breathtaking ballets to be experienced.

Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette in George Balanchine’s ‘Allegro Brillante.’ Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette in George Balanchine’s ‘Allegro Brillante.’ Photo by Paul Kolnik.

The next movement, Allegro Brillante, is a joyful uptempo movement with a slightly jazzy flair. It features the piano stylings of Elaine Chelton during a solo of Tchaikovsky’s friendly score. When the curtain rises, the mood is instantly set by the smiling dancers wearing beautiful blues and greens (Tiler Peck is accentuated in pink) with costume design by Karinska. A cool blue background and warm lighting accentuate the playfully romantic mood, with design by Mark Stanley. Tiler Peck and Amar Ramasar are a sublime pair who seamlessly transition through numerous lifts and soar through inspiring solos with exquisite lines and balance that prompt the audience erupting in enthusiastic applause.

There isn’t a dull moment with this ever-changing choreography full of lines, angles, jumps, lifts, turns, and levels. The dancers Lauren King, Ashley Laracey, Megan LeCrone, Brittany Pollack, Austin Laurent, Allen Peiffer, Andrew Scordato, and Christian Tworzyanski make four glorious pairs as they dance together fearlessly with alternating angles. The women are so light on their feet that even with their pointe shoes, not a sound is heard when they land. The timing of the men partnering the women is spot on, never missing a beat. The movement is so pure and true, swelling when the orchestra crescendos, and the dancers use their entire bodies in every single piece of choreography. It’s outrageously satisfying.There is never a moment to look away during the final movement, Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3. With four pieces, it is well-developed and features a variety of talented dancers who embody a vivid emotional range. The elaborate costumes and scenery are designed by Nicolas Benois and the well-laid out lighting, originally by Ronald Bates is by Mark Stanley. A scrim with a cloudy starry night painted upon it hangs downstage, producing a hazy dream-world illusion. Low lighting shows only archways with chandeliers hanging.

In the first piece, Élégie, focus is on the gorgeous dancers in long, sheer gowns with their long hair flowing and no pointe shoes are worn. Teresa Reichlen and Ask la Cour perfectly execute a moving pas de deux. Reichlen’s dainty frame displays strength and the extension of the coveted arabesque is astonishing as Ask la Cour sweeps her off her feet. The dancers Marika Anderson, Stephanie Chrosniak, Brittany Hillyer, Dana Jacobson, Emily Kikta, and Unity Phelan echo the choreograph  for a very different feeling, which is enchanting and honest as the music zooms and the flutes flutter. Their tour jetés and sweeping steps carry through as the music swells.

In the second piece, Valse Mélancolique, Abi Stafford and Jared Angle are absolute perfection as they embody seduction and resistance as Stafford is on pointe.  She is powerful as she leads Faye Arthurs, Olivia Boisson, Emilie Gerrity, Ashley Hod, Ashly Isaacs, and Lara Tong through quick choreography as the symphony plays. In the third piece, Scherzo, Erica Pereira and Daniel Ulbricht mirror each other and dance side-by-side in perfect union. His leaps and bounds are astounding and her fouettés and picqué turns are quite exciting. The speed of Meaghan Dutton-O’Hara, Lauren Lovette, Olivia MacKinnon, Alexa Maxwell, Kristen Segin, Sarah Villwock, Claire Von Enck, and Indiana Woodward dancing together in unison with tour jetés and gliding across the floor is very energetic as the drum sounds a marching beat.

NYCB dancer Dana Jacobson soars in Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
NYCB dancer Dana Jacobson soars in Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

For the final piece, Tema Con Variazioni, the scrim is lifted and the archways and chandeliers are shown in full color with the women poised and wearing blue pancake tutus and the men in renaissance-style blue shirts and light tights. They sparkle and radiate with complex, jaw-dropping choreography. Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz, wearing cream, are an outstanding pair with explosive solos and confident, intimate pas de deux. The fast, fleeting footwork of the company is amazing, how much time is spent dancing on pointe and the stamina required. Their soutenus, lovely long lines, attitudes and arabesques remind me of a music box. Sheer perfection and excitement abound in this piece full of many of the most complicated lifts and ever-changing steps. The male and female company members and apprentices who are partnering truly enjoy dancing together and put on a splendid production. This is an ecstatic end to the evening.

Running time: Two and a half hours, including two intermissions.

New York City Ballet Program A plays tonight March 27, 2013 at 7:30 PM with a 1:30 PM matinée on March 31st, 2013 at The Kennedy Center’s Opera House – 2700 F Street, Northwest, in Washington, DC. Purchase tickets online, or call the box office at (202) 467-4600 or (800) 444-1324.

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