New York City Ballet's fall season is in full swing, and on Thursday night I got to see a mixed repertoire program that included one piece from each of the company's four leading choreographers.
First up was Duo Concertant, one of the many pieces on which George Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky collaborated. Unlike all the other pieces on Thursday night's program, I had never seen this before, but with Robert Fairchild and Sterling Hyltin as the sole dancers, I knew I'd be in for a treat.
And what a treat it was. Stravinsky's composition is for one piano and one violin. It's simple yet so effective. In the first movement, Fairchild and Hyltin just stand and thoughtfully watch the musicians. Then they begin dancing and it is nothing short of breathtaking.
Balanchine created a beautiful love story that isn't expressly narrated but rather suggested in the movements, and Fairchild and Hyltin's chemistry enhances the 40-year-old piece. They begin by mirroring each other, expressing the music through their movements. Then they transition into a slow, more typical pas de deux, which is following by a spritely vignette.
If that was all there was to Duo Conertant, that would be good, but there's a coda to it that's extraordinarily moving. Carefully incorporating a follow spot, thereby focusing our attention, Fairchild and Hyltin appear for one final moment of passion, one final embrace that nearly broke my heart. It provided an unexpected ending to a refreshingly lovely ballet.
Next up was Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain, only not entirely. This was just the pas de deux, the part that actually comes after the rain. Of everything on Thursday night's program, I was actually most curious to see the pas de deux because I wondered if it would have the same effect sans the chaotic prologue that begins the complete ballet.
It turns out the pas de deux stands on its own (no surprise there, really), but it doesn't quite have the same poetic potency without the rain. Yes, Wendy Whelan and Craig Hall were in top form; yes, the dance is still beautiful; yes, you can still pick up on the themes of exploration, but it simply does not pack the same emotional punch as it does when it follows the rain sequence.
Of course, I know what's missing so I was watching with biased eyes. The pas de deux drew a chorus of "oohs," "ahhs" and "whoas" from the impressed audience. Certainly, someone seeing the pas de deux for the first time—unaware of its place in the full ballet—would not be disappointed in the ballet and would, without a doubt, find it exquisite. But for those who've seen the piece in its entirety, the tease just doesn't satisfy.
Jerome Robbins's choreography made an appearance courtesy of his experimental piece Moves. I enjoyed this on Thursday night just as much as I did when I saw it the first time, back in June (with the same cast, including principal dancers Jared Angle and Rebecca Krohn). The musicless ballet shows us just how powerful a hand gesture can be. A musicless ballet also teaches us that audience members cannot sit still or be silent. Though I'm sure no one was ill-intentioned, there were folks audibly fidgeting with their program, rubbing the stubble on their face, harumphing loudly or doing any number of other noise-making things (including a slew of coughs and sneezes) throughout what is supposed to be a silent, focused ballet. Great ballet, lousy audience.
Closing out the night was Peter Martins's Hallelujah Junction, a fast and furious ballet set to a dueling piano composition by John Adams. Janie Taylor, Sebastien Marcovici and Daniel Ulbricht danced lead and were accompanied by a corps of eight able members. It's a solid ballet that served as a pleasant punctuation on the evening.
New York City Ballet continues its fall season through the end of the month. Visit nycballet.com for more information and to purchase tickets.