During my last visit to the Big Apple, I was able to catch a Saturday afternoon matinee of the New York City ballet, entitled Inspirations. Upon first entering the Lincoln Center, I was immediately struck with awe at the dazzling oversized rhinestone chandelier hovering above the audience. I was excited to be seeing an extremely reputable company in a first class theatre, all within my favorite city. The opening number, Divertimento from “Le Baiser de la Fée,” a sweet soft-spoken duet, was choreographed by the company father, George Balanchine to the music of Igor Stravinsky. It consistently enthralled the audience with two bodies delicately mingling and connecting like divinely intended puzzle pieces. Especially memorable was Megan Fairchild’s passage of bourees diagonally down stage, intersected by Benjamin Millepied into a subtle lift as if to bypass an invisible onstage water trench. The sculptural body shapes created illusions of cohesive solid objects rooting and sprouting before our very eyes like the decades old ivy on a charming Victorian home. In a moment of bittersweet division the two incomplete beings were visually separated by the corps of dancers onto two parts of the stage, an unattainable love, denied by the masses.
Following this tender duet was a larger scale piece set to the minimalist music of John Adams. Chairman Dances immediately enticed the audience with the spectacular eye-catching scenery, a giant red silken banner. The soloist for this piece, Abi Stafford, wore a teal bodice and translucent camisole with hot red pointe shoes. Stafford’s costume stood out drastically against the red and violet pieces worn by the corps members. This piece was filled with sweeping arm gestures and full body movement. Chairman Dances was choreographed by the Ballet master in Chief, Peter martins, in 1988. There were flexed foot pas de basques complimented by flexed hand in the upper body, reminiscent of traditional Cambodian dance. Slightly camp, but absolutely glamorous, there was a canon echoing through the corps of dancers morphing into all different poses like snapshot photos from a fashion magazine. The piece didn’t carry much of an underlying message but spoke to the spectacle and elegance of Chinese royalty.
The third piece of the show held a lasting significance to the City Ballet. Rococo Variations is Chris Wheeldon’s final work as the Resident Choreographer. He has decided to graciously progress to the development of his own dance company, Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company. Rococo Variations took the stage cautiously by first building a small visual landscape, layering one dancer at a time in the downstage left corner. There were two costume coordinated couples, the women in deep violet tutus trimmed in gold, and the men in tan tights, a princely white blouse and gold vests. The repeating theme throughout this piece was the fulfillment of symmetry. Several times the women would repeat a sequence of romantic movements. For Sterling Hyltin and Giovanni Villalobos, it was the Hyltin’s collapse over the top of her pointe shoes, knees folded to the ground, followed by Villalobos’ unwinding her and spiraling through the space under his arm to guide her back to her feet. The other woman’s repeated sequence was a flawless 180 degree penche that elusively slipped into his arms unwinding her body and then melting the two together as one, the male then guided her gracefully offstage as the next woman once again entered. The most unusual and unique lift I saw at the show was between Sara Mearns and Adrian Danchig-Waring. It was an arabesque into a horizontal back lift, Danchig-Waring rotating Mearns as if she were the blades atop him, the helicopter. I was pleased to see this same lift repeated later to take the dancers offstage.
Stars and Stripes is still as flashy and technically correct as when Balanchine first choreographed it in 1958. The piece is filled with undeniably impeccable line formations, reminiscent to an award winning marching band field show. Stars and Stripes displayed wonderful timing coordinated with the John Phillip Sousa march. I was pleased to see the consistency of characters, for example never just walking between steps, but always marching. In the fourth campaign, Liberty Bell and El Capitan stole the show. Not only did she demonstrate an impressively stable and strong developpe, but she held it long enough to be rotated by her soldier en pointe, 360 degrees. This was followed by an eye catching solo by El Capitan with double turns ending in a salute. I commend Mr. B on his exquisitely impeccable usage of formations and disbursement of males among the females considering the ratio. This is probably one of the most famous ballets as far as popular goes. This was my first time seeing Stars and Stripes live, but I had actually seen a clip of the ballet in the movie, “Center Stage.” In the program notes, I learned that the ballet has been performed for many special occasions, including the inauguration of Nelson Rockefeller as governor of New York, as well as tributes for President Kennedy and President Johnson. Overall the show was absolutely dazzling and a memorable first experience with the New York City Ballet.