Balanchine And Robbins:  Masters at Work

This review was written by Debra Randall

(contribution by Bob Lebensold)

The Saturday matinee performance of NYC Ballet opened with Alexander Glazounov’s Raymonda Variations, a ballet choreographed by George Balanchine.

The original production of Raymonda was choreographed by Marius Petipa.  It was mounted into a full length production for the Ballet Russe in 1946, by ballerina Alexandra Danilova working alongside Balanchine.  For the NYC Ballet, Balanchine produced three works to portions of the Raymonda score, Variations being one of them with music from the first act.

This is typical Balanchine with separate entrances of ensembles, (plural) pas de deux, and solo performances.  The nine variations include principal, soloist and corps dancers.  There was a stand out solo performance by principal Ashley Bouder, during which she spends an incredible time on point, both unassisted, then assisted by her male partner.  But no less of an achievement to stay up for so long.  I have heard that ballerinas’ toes show the abuse but I have never had the opportunity to look for myself—yet.  I will try to bring you that report at a later date if I can find a ballerina who will show me her toes.

There was also a display of bravura dancing by principal Andrew Veyette with significant leaps turns and entrechats. (5th position - leap w/ crossing ankles at least twice, then land in 5th position.)

The music, grand and joyous, propelled the intricate footwork, leaps and turns performed by the rest of the cast.  It truly was a most enjoyable production.

The second selection was Jerome Robbins’s religious ghost story, “Dybbuk.” In Central European Jewish folk lore a dybbuk is a restless spirit who claims the body of another.  The body possessed acts and speaks with the voice and behavior of the dead one.  The most well-known treatment of this theme is S. Ansley’s play, “The Dybbuk.”  The ballet is not a retelling of the play but uses it to project a succession of related dances concerning rituals and hallucinations.  It is a dark, mysterious investigation into Jewish folklore with an electrifying and pulsating score by well known American composer Leonard Bernstein, (need I say more?!)  The choreography showcased the powerful ensemble dancing of the company’s male principal (Joaquin De Luz) and several other soloists.  A job done magnificently. 

The closing dance was again by Balanchine, invoking his signature intricate and complex foot movements.  The music was Igor Stravinsky’s violin concerto.  The costumes were simple leotards which allowed the dancers bodies to express the  effortless fluidity which is, after all, the essence of ballet. 

Special kudos to Sterling Hyltin, Nilas Martins, Maria Kowroski and Amar Ramasar for absolutely inspirational dancing.