City Ballet: All Robbins - Interplay, Fancy Free and I'm Old Fashioned

Saturday night at the ballet was one of those magical nights in New York. You go to your favorite place in the city (Lincoln Center) and you patronize one of your favorite cultural institutions (New York City Ballet), settling in for a night of art that you know you’ll love. And it doesn’t disappoint. 

This was my experience on Saturday when I visited City Ballet for part of the spring season’s American Music Festival. On the bill for this particular night were three Jerome Robbins ballets. Notably, this marked the first time I went to see a mixed repertoire program (i.e., not a full-length ballet) and had seen all three ballets before. Usually, when planning my season, I try to see favorites on the nights they play with a work I’ve never seen, so I can continue to learn the Company’s vast repertoire. But when I saw that Interplay, Fancy Free and I’m Old Fashioned, three Robbins ballets that are right near the top of my "favorites" list, were to be performed on one program, I couldn’t pass it up.

The night began with Interplay, a Robbins ballet that was created around the same time as my very favorite, NY Export: Opus Jazz, and shares some through-lines with that ballet. Expressing a playfulness about youth, Interplay is a series of “games,” with each movement taking on a different tone. (See my first review for a full description.) 

Also like Opus Jazz, Interplay is typically danced by soloists and corps de ballet members, not principal dancers. On Saturday night I watched corps members Devin Alberda and Troy Schumacher and soloists Ashley Laracey, Lauren Lovette, Erica Pereira, Brittany Pollack and Taylor Stanley dance alongside principal Daniel Ulbricht (who’s shorter stature makes him perfect for a less grace ballet like this), and they were all quite impressive. 

I most enjoyed watching the third movement, "Byplay," a pas de deux between Stanley and Lovette. I’ve always liked this movement, and Stanley and Lovette made me discover anew why. It’s sultry and sensuous, and the two partnered very well together, melding into one form that explored the stage. And there’s something wonderfully enchanting about Stanley. Just promoted to the rank of soloist, look for him to have a Robert Fairchild- and Chase Finlay-esque meteoric rise to principal. 

Next up was the delightful Fancy Free, which, when it premiered, marked the first collaboration between Robbins and composer Leonard Bernstein, and the ballet is what begat the beloved musical On the Town. There’s not much more praise I can bestow upon this charming tale of three sailors out on the town (that is, that I haven’t already). 

On Saturday night, Georgina Pazcoguin and Tiler Peck appeared as the ladies who tempted the three sailors, Amar Ramasar, Robert Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz. Everyone danced beautifully, and newly engaged couple Peck and Fairchild’s pas de deux was extra steamy.

Closing out the night was I’m Old Fashioned, Robbins’s homage to the Jerome Kern-Johnny Mercer song and the dance that shows it off in the Fred Astaire-Rita Hayworth movie, You Were Never Lovelier. (Rent it. It’s lovely.) 

The neat thing about seeing it this time is that this is the first time I’ve seen the ballet since becoming quite familiar with the song. Since the last time I saw this ballet, I’ve added Ella Fitzgerald’s recording of the standard to my frequently-listened-to playlists, and so I was contentedly in a position to notice the nuance in the variations Morton Gould composed to complement the Kern theme. And since the scene featuring this song and dance number in the movie is screened before the ballet begins, you can also notice the variations in the dance, making it a more active and interesting ballet. 

The ensemble (which is made up of nine couples, filling the stage nicely) is led by Emilie Gerrity and Justin Peck; Maria Kowroski and Jared Angle; and Ashley Bouder and Tyler Angle. All were wonderful, all were never lovelier.

The New York City Ballet season continues through June. Visit the Company's website for more information and to purchase tickets.