The romantic Meditation, which stands alone, was a success, with Magnicaballi at her best. “The Unanswered Question” section of Ivesiana, also intact, was highly effective. And it was a delight to see the “Pas de deux Mauresque” from Don Quixote, even in a somewhat charmless performance. But snippets from Apollo, La Valse, La Sonnambula (in which Bonnie Pickard gave a particularly vacuous performance) et al. don’t and can’t work out of context. They do, however, succeed in demonstrating yet again the amazing breadth and depth of Balanchine’s genius. Suzanne Farrell is devoting her professional life to this task—doing God’s work in Washington.
THERE WAS NO Balanchine from Morphoses—Wheeldon has “closed that chapter” in his life. He gave us a new ballet, Commedia, set to Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite score from 1920. Since I have a lifelong resistance to commedia dell’arte ballets (the exception being Balanchine’s Harlequinade), I was less than enchanted by this quirky, cool and, to me, empty exercise. Wheeldon seems intent on following in Diaghilev’s footsteps by emphasizing décor and costumes. In this case they were striking—too striking. Morphoses, in fact, promises a centenary homage next year to Diaghilev’s great artistic venture, the Ballets Russes. Good luck!
Though I was disappointed in Wheeldon’s Commedia, I was extremely pleased to like his Fool’s Paradise far more than I did last year. Perhaps it’s deepened; perhaps I’ve deepened. Perhaps it was more strongly danced this time around (by Whelan, Kowroski, Reichlen & Co.). But what seemed to me a year ago an efficient but forced and derivative effort now looks to me like a substantial achievement. Its propulsive score, golden lighting and unflagging invention climax with its nine dancers piled on each other in an original and powerful tableau.
There were two novelties on the second program: a very clever and ingenious short duet, Shutters Shut, by Lightfoot León, set to words by Gertrude Stein; and a derivative but harmless dance for two called One, choreography by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. And there was an extended ballet—the first Morphoses commission—by the Canadian Emily Molnar. It’s called Six Fold Illuminate; the music is by Steve Reich; and I’m afraid it’s yet another post-Forsythe jumble of endless energy and drive and no point. You’ve seen it all before, and I’m afraid you’ll see it all again.
The second Morphoses season was considerably more appealing and cohesive than last year’s effort—and with less hype. Wheeldon may not be really growing as a choreographer, but he’s growing as an impresario. This time out he gave us two special pleasures. One was the youngest dancer onstage. (On any stage?) Her name is Beatriz Stix-Brunell, she’s 15, she’s from Miami, she studied at the School of American Ballet and in Paris, and goes to the Nightingale-Bamford School. She’s a phenomenon—pretty, petite, dark, lyrical, poised, charming. A star.
If she was the youngest person onstage, the greatest ballet on view was the oldest: Frederick Ashton’s Monotones II, from 1966. One woman flanked by two men, all in moon-white. The exquisite “Trois Gymnopédies” of Erik Satie. The mysterious, serene flow of Ashton’s genius. And two City Ballet ballerinas—Whelan and Kowroski—alternating in the central role. If given the opportunity, they’ll both grow more secure in this simple-seeming but deeply challenging role; as it was, both of them were beautiful to watch. If Wheeldon decides to give us more Ashton, that alone will justify the existence of Morphoses.