City Ballet: Raymonda Variations; Morgen; and NY Export: Opus Jazz

My final ballet outing of the 2014-2015 season was a mixed repertory program that included my favorite, NY Export: Opus Jazz. But before that Jerome Robbins classic were works by Mr. B and Peter Martins.


First up was George Balanchine's Raymonda Variations. In the program notes, Balanchine is quoted as saying the Alexander Glazounov score for the three-act Raymonda ballet is "some of the finest ballet music we have," and Mr. B's adoration of the music shows in his choreography.

In Balanchine's plotless ballet (having nothing to do with the original ballet), we are treated to, as the title suggests, variations on a theme. The piece begins with the curtain down and the orchestra playing the musical theme, an overture for the ballet, if you will. Once the curtain rises, the ensemble (all women) enter for a pretty group dance, and then soloist Erica Pereira and principal Andrew Veyette perform a nice pas de deux.

Then come the nine variations, all brief, all solo dances. I thrilled over Sara Adams's feat of hopping across the stage on, basically, one toe (she hopped, while en pointe, on one foot) in the first variation, and Emilie Gerrity's lively spinning in the second. I was wowed, as I usually am, with Veyette's skill and athleticism in the third and eighth variations. I was struck by the way Megan LeCrone, in the fifth variation, looked like a jewelry box ballerina, which complemented the music. I was pleased to see the long-absent Savannah Lowery do some magnificent turns in the seventh variation. And I was simply delighted to see the company reassemble for the impressive finale, which includes a dive and a catch that has to be seen to be believed.


Raymonda Variations was followed by Morgen, the Peter Martins ballet that, earlier this season, got a makeover from Carolina Herrera, who designed new costumes for the ballet. I saw this in the fall, and enjoyed it then. I enjoyed it still, especially since I was seeing it with different dancers.

The ballet begins with Teresa Reichlen fluttering about the stage, a lovely way to begin. Morgen is a series of vignettes, with each woman, Ashly Isaacs and Rebecca Krohn being the other two, dancing a pas de deux with each man, Zachary Catazaro, Preston Chamblee and Russell Janzen. (Chamblee is a corps member; keep an eye on him.) Isaacs's vignettes are filled with leaps and catches, and Reichlen continues to show off her grace as a dancer. Krohn has a particularly expressive face, which adds to the story her languid limbs tell. Morgen, translated as "tomorrow" or "morning" in German, is pleasant enough, showing different possibilities for each tomorrow.


But the highlight, of course, was the final ballet on the program, NY Export: Opus Jazz, the Jerome Robbins ballet that is my all-time favorite. It did not disappoint. Every time I see it, I am reminded why I love it (and that it is always over too soon).

To complement the choreography and the theme of the piece, which is to show a youthful exuberance that is fully captivating, this ballet is almost always danced by young dancers. You'll hardly ever see principals dancing in NY Export: Opus Jazz, and if you see it often enough, you'll notice that the more veteran soloists "age out" pretty quickly. This ballet gives newer, rising dancers a chance to shine.

Showing off on Sunday afternoon were Olivia Boisson; Zachary Catazaro; Preston Chamblee; Harrison Coll; Cameron Dieck; Emilie Gerrity; Ashley Hod; Ashly Isaacs; Meagan Mann; Allen Peiffer; Kristen Segin; Gretchen Smith; Taylor Stanley; Joshua Thew; Giovanni Villalobos; and Lydia Wellington.

Smith and Catazaro were featured in the "Statics" movement, the one in which the woman comes in and brings the men under her command. I like Catazaro's presence; he seemed a good alternative to Justin Peck (who I've seen dance the track before and have thrilled over). Smith is getting better with playing the seductress. She did bring a vixen's attitude to the role, though I wish she would dance it with a little more abandon.

Gerrity and Stanley were divine in "Passage for Two," the sultry pas de deux that brings the tempo down but not your heart rate. In the first, third and fifth movements ("Entrance: Group Dance"; "Improvisations"; and "Theme, Variations and Fugue"), which are the ensemble numbers, I was particularly impressed with Isaacs (pictured at right) and Wellington, who "danced like they got to rid of something," to borrow from another iconic Robbins work. Bravo to Isaacs and Wellington, as well as the spirited ensemble, for closing out my ballet season with such a joyous bang.

The New York City Ballet spring season concludes this week with a run of A Midsummer Night's Dream. subscriptions for the 2015-2016 season, which includes a new ballet from Christopher Wheeldon and two new Justin Peck ballets, are now on sale. Visit nycballet.com to subscribe.

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