Sinners and Saints At City Ballet

Kowroski is only one of the younger dancers to be blossoming (at last). Janie Taylor gave us a glorious performance of Afternoon of a Faun–the combination of lyricism and narcissism with her unique feral intensity was revelatory. Tiler Peck is brilliant in everything–I missed an unannounced Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux that’s reported to have been the best in years (no surprise), but was thrilled by her Tarantella; she actually made me forget Patty McBride.

The two young women who have been dominating the repertory–Ms. Mearns and Teresa Reichlen–are so unalike that I found it difficult to watch them together in Concerto Barocco (not that the two female leads are meant to be a perfect match). Their looks are so dissimilar that you’re immediately startled: Reichlen with her impossibly long limbs and torso and her small head; Mearns with her compact yet soft form, more flesh than bone. A more important difference lies in the way they dance. Reichlen is cool, remote, authoritative; Mearns is personal, full-out, going for broke even when, as in Barocco, there’s no broke to go for. For me, though both women danced superbly, they seemed less in contrast than in opposition. When they were onstage together, I didn’t know what ballet I was in.

Megan Fairchild, who was rushed to the top so quickly that she frequently seemed bewildered, has been growing more confident, which means that she’s relying less on adorable punctuation. She still lacks the authority for the central ballerina role in Divertimento No. 15, but she isn’t dragging it down the way she used to. Sterling Hyltin showed the grace and attack needed for the second variation, and Lauren King, still in the corps but dancing on a soloist level, was a particular delight in the first. The ballet wasn’t ideally cast, but overall it was respectable.

The senior dancers who are left are looking good too. Whelan, so foolishly deployed in The Seven Deadly Sins, was at her absolute finest in Wheeldon’s masterly Polyphonia, the ballet that first identified her special talents–and his. And Jennie Somogyi demonstrated the value of experience and a mature dance intelligence in such varied roles as “Sanguinic” in The Four Temperaments and the Coquette in La Sonnambula.

Finally, in Andrew Veyette the company now has a major male talent, the first in a long while. His growth as a technician and as an artist has been spectacular–we’ve seen it this season in Agon and again in Divertimento. If you can meet the challenges of those two radically different ballets, you can presumably do everything.

How to explain the seismic shift in performance level at City Ballet? Everyone’s asking, and no one has the answer. Certainly, rehearsing and dancing so much Balanchine has to be part of it: you don’t learn a lot from dancing Thou Swell or Susan Stroman. And as I say, the recent wholesale clearing of dead wood has provided new opportunities to the up-and-comers. Or maybe the ballet masters have just had more time for the fundamentals–apart from The Seven Deadly Sins, no energy has been wasted on worthless distractions. Whatever the reasons, this is the company’s–and Peter Martins’s–finest hour since Balanchine died.

editorial@observer.com

 

 

Sinners and Saints At City Ballet