City Ballet: Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Namouna: A Grand Divertissement and Estancia

Last week, I once again headed over to the State theatre for the second week of City Ballet’s 2010-2011 season. Upon arriving on this warm fall night, the Lincoln Center Plaza welcomed me with a beautiful fountain show. This is one of my favorite places in the city, especially on a nice, clear night. The halls are all lit up and the fountain shoots into the air, as if in celebration of your arrival. What a way to start!

On Thursday night’s program was “Stravinsky Violin Concerto”, “Namouna: A Grand Divertissement” and “Estancia”. Only “Namouna” was new to me but as you might guess, dear readers, I was most excited to get to see Christopher Wheeldon’s “Estancia” once again. More on that later. As usual, we’ll start with the first piece.

I first saw “Stravinsky Violin Concerto” last May, and enjoyed it quite a bit. This time, the ballet was performed by almost the same cast, with one exception: Instead of seeing my favorite, Robert Fairchild, dance opposite Sterling Hyltin, as in May, on Thursday soloist Ask La Cour was Hyltin’s partner. While he was good and Hyltin never fails to disappoint, I missed the chemistry Hyltin and Fairchild have and the way they both seem to have so much fun dancing together. You may remember that “Concerto” is the ballet in which the dancers quite literally wrap themselves around one another. While watching the piece for a second time, I wondered what it was about Stravinsky’s score that made Balanchine think, “They’re going to wrap themselves up in each other”. But I suppose you could wonder that – from where does inspiration come – when pondering any ballet, or any piece of art, for that matter. Whatever the inspiration, it’s a fun twist on some classic moves.

Next up was “Namouna”, which I was seeing for the first time. Despite great dancing by all, this was disappointing. This new work by Alexei Ratmansky set to Edouard Lalo’s score premiered last season in April. I found it a little too avant garde for my taste. It began with a gaggle of Millies, the thoroughly modern kind, complete with retro-bob wigs and flapper-looking dresses. But then the men came out and they looked – as impossible as it sounds – like futuristic Robocops dressed in retro, 20s garb. Very strange. I’d say that maybe I just needed to get over the costumes and focus on the dancing, but not even all the dancing made sense. This was a story ballet and thrown into the mix was an incomprehensible bit with cigarettes. I have no idea what any of it meant.

The saving grace of “Namouna” was getting to watch Tyler Angle dance. You’ll remember that last week I mentioned that Tyler’s brother, Jared, danced in Spring during “The Four Seasons” and that his feet never touched the ground. Well, I guess it ain’t nothing but a family thing because Tyler can jump! Still, at almost an hour, “Namouna” took much too long to tell a very simple boy-meets-girl story. Thank goodness “Estancia” was waiting in the wings.

Now, of course, I knew going in to “Estancia, take 2”, nothing would compare to the thrill of seeing it on its world premiere night. And true to expectations, this time around it wasn’t quite as exciting, but it’s a testament to Wheeldon’s wonderful choreography that it was still, easily, the best part of the night and something I’d go back to see again and again. Reprising the role he originated, Andrew Veyette was back as the Wild Horse. Unfortunately, Tiler and Tyler were not back in the roles they originated. Adrian Danchig-Waring did a fine job as the City Boy but Ana Sophia Scheller, as the Country Girl, lacked the energy and sense of urgency Tiler Peck brought to the role. This is not to say she wasn’t good; her technique cannot be questioned. This is just another case of a “replacement cast” not living up to my memory of the original. No matter who is dancing in “Estancia”, though, it is not to be missed. Wheeldon does an expert job of using choreography to tell his story, instead of having his dancers walk around and make gestures, as is usually the case with narrative ballets. And still, the pas de deux is among the loveliest I’ve seen.

As always, visit for more information and to order tickets. And, head over to to learn more about the 24 principal dancers and to see the beautiful portraits that make up the 2010-2011 marketing campaign.