Entertainment » Theatre

Georges Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco

by Jonathan Leaf
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Monday Jun 2, 2014
Concerto Barocco
Concerto Barocco  (Source:http://www.nycballet.com)

When you match something that's great, wondrous and inspiring to something that's merely interesting and distinctive, you come away with the conclusion that less would have been more.

But you won't be disappointed. Far from it.

That was the inevitable response to Wednesday night's New York City Ballet program of four pieces, two choreographed by Georges Balanchine, one by Jerome Robbins and one by Benjamin Millepied.

The program opened with Balanchine's "Concerto Barocco," which features the music of the Double Violin Concerto in D Minor of Bach. Although the piece gives special focus to the company's superb corp de ballets, veteran Maria Kowroski and gifted principal Sara Mearns still managed to shine brightly in lead roles which are said to be matched to the personalities of Bach's violin parts.

The stately Kowroski and the delicate Mearns managed to do this -- taking on the colors and emotions suggested by the violins -- with enormous grace.

Less satisfying was the playing of the musicians. Couldn't they have worried less about providing the dancers with a steady beat and performed with greater violence and intensity? One is reminded of Pablo Casals' comment that Bach fathered twenty children, meaning that he should not be played at all dispassionately.

Maria Kowroski and gifted principal Sara Mearns managed to shine brightly in lead roles which are said to be matched to the personalities of Bach’s violin parts.

Following this though, the company put the music and the dance together on an equally exalted plain. They accomplished this in presenting another repertory favorite: Robbins' "Other Dances." Performed to the music of Chopin, it is surely among the greatest dance pieces, and in Tiler Peck it had a stupendous and very natural interpreter. Partnered by the elegant and skillful Gonzalo Garcia, it was touching, romantic and wistful -- nothing shy of astonishing.

So, too, was much of the company's last piece of the evening: Balanchine's "Who Cares?," a jazzy assemblage of dances that accompany instrumental versions of many of George Gershwin's best known songs. Leading the performance were four young City Ballet dancers: Megan Fairchild, Teresa Reichlen, Ashly Isaacs and Ask la Cour.

As la Cour is the half-brother of Nilas Martin, City Ballet Balletmaster-in-Chief Peter Martin's son, he has had to face the charge of nepotism during his rise up the ranks. But he's a fine dancer, and he managed to partner well and dance beautifully. And in Fairchild and Isaacs, he had two delightful companions to work with in bringing to life unforgettable melodies like "The Man I Love" and "My One and Only."

All things considered, the only part of the evening that wasn't at least in some measure sublime was Millepied's "Neverwhere." Best known by the general public as actress Natalie Portman's husband, Millepied has promise as a choreographer. My sense though is that he might be best to focus upon story ballet. This abstract work has interesting moments and a highly dramatic if far from tuneful score by ballyhooed composer Nico Muhly. Yet its costumes don't flatter the dancers, and it can't but be harmed by comparison to the other pieces on the program.

What is it saying? That's not at all clear.

More apparent is the current excellence of City Ballet and its central place in the ranking of what's best in the New York's arts scene right now. Dance fans should look to buy tickets for the spring season's few remaining shows.

The New York City Ballet Spring Season continues through June 8 at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. For information and tickets, call 212-496-0600 or go to www.nycb.org.

Jonathan Leaf is a playwright and journalist living in New York.


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