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New York City Ballet Leaps at Bard

Ballet review
by Kevin T. McEneaney
Sat Jul 1st, 2017

In Creases dancers and pianists

This weekend Bard College’s Sosnoff Theater at the Fisher Center hosts the New York City Ballet with three classic pieces from its extensive repertoire. Friday’s Opening Night Performance was delayed about twenty minutes so the cast might arrive in the dressing room. Dancers were housed in Kingston and there was an accident on the bridge after the thunderstorm that featured hail and high winds. I had to sit and wait for Central Hudson workers to repair a power pole on the way to the concert. Small roads were littered with downed tree branches.

They opened with Dances to a Gathering with music by Fryderyk Chopin ably played by pianist Susan Walters, choreography by Jerome Robbins, and costumes by Joe Eula. This performance is a long cascade of numerous vignettes about courting. A man is in love with two women and they discover this. The usual lonely ending for all three would-be lovers manages a surprising reversal and they live in harmony. Couples flirt while men toss the girls into the air, they break up, change partners, yet there is always a charming finale as one would expect from the Romantic salon music at which Chopin excelled. Historians should never forget the pivotal role of music, poetry, and painting that fired the Romantic Movement.

Leaping and leading that movement on stage was Jared Angle and Joseph Gordon; their powerful and graceful cavorting carried the flow as Joaquin De Luz excelled in rapid twirling. Mr. Angle was especially memorable in a short Russian insert dance. The men definitely out-danced the ladies, although Sara Mearns and Sterling Hytlin delivered notably strong performances. There was an amusing macho-duet with Angle and De Luz. Overall, the women needed a dollop of character rather than appearing as décor lifted on high. Some of the traditional leaps and small solos might be considered out of date, but there is real dancing in this material—also delicate humor, the dances of the sexes in their most delightful and mischievous narratives. Robbins’ 1969 choreography captured, in less than an hour, the genteel sentiment that changed the landscape of Europe forever. Robbins had a story line in each piece that carried a hook.   

After intermission Duo Concertant (1972) with choreography by George Balanchine, set to music by Igor Stravinsky with violinist Arturo Delmoni, featured two dancers. There were several parts: Megan Fairchild’s marvelously adroit, athletic, and hypnotic seduction of Chase Finlay. His solo at winning her over, where Finlay cavorted with marvelous speed and force about the stage with accomplished leaps and astonishing twirls. Then the proposal with special lighting effects by Ronald Bates. And the celebration of the marriage dance where it was clear that Fairchild’s buoyant enthusiasm would be dulled by Finlay’s dominance.

In Creases (2012), set to music by Philip Glass with vigorous choreography by Justin Peck, presented a more contemporary social take. There was more arm gesture than dance here amid ensemble performance—much emphatic pointing with straight, straddling legs that evoked odd and imaginative geometrical shapes that continued to change like a mutating kaleidoscope. The ensemble performed as a unified machine. What was so accomplished in this performance was that robotic gestures encoded parody, an effect difficult to achieve. Here was social commentary writ large. Glass’ music appeared wedded to the choreography—everything was seamless in a series of evolving gestalts. When the ensemble broke apart to perform simultaneous, small solos (as if recalling for a moment what freedom from corporate life was like) it was Taylor Stanley—his natural grace, fluid gestures, rhythmic panache—that locked the eye of the audience on a remarkable dancer.

It is an unusual treat to have the New York City ballet in our neighborhood just a drive away with free parking. There will be only three more performances: July 1 at 2 and 7:30 pm; and Sunday at 2 pm with a free pre-concert talk at 1 pm. For tickets: call 845-758-7900 or online visit fishercenter.bard.edu.