New York City Ballet
David H. Koch Theater
New York, New York
Might 29 and 31, 2019
A Midsummer Night time’s Dream
It seemed as if Spring would never get to the New York space this yr: whereas Winter 2019 was neither notably snowy nor extraordinarily frigid, the seemingly fixed barrage of chilly, wet air was debilitating. So the return of George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night time’s Dream, which closed New York City Ballet’s Spring, 2019 season and its 2018-2019 yr, was notably welcome.
Shakespeare’s story require no elaboration, and Balanchine’s adaptation of it only minimal comment. Balanchine primarily covers the story’s fundamentals in Act I of his ballet, and creates an Act II, which includes a lot (although certainly not all) of the dance’s choreography, out of thin air: transferring the “Wedding” to the beginning of Act II, and then creating a celebration of it. The highlights, except for the comedy and the way the 4 dancers enjoying the human lovers carry it off, are the portrayals (each characterization and execution) of Titania and Oberon, the Act I pas de deux for Titania and her Cavalier, the Act II divertissement pas de deux, Puck, the execution by the Amazon Queen, Hipollyta, Butterfly, the characterizations, and the young dancers from the Faculty of American Ballet who play butterflies and fairies. That about covers every little thing in it, however, as is all the time the case, the devil is within the particulars.
But Dream is excess of its element elements, and heretical as it might sound, Dream can also be greater than its element forged members: at this degree, anyone in the Company will ship superlative performances. Dream is guaranteed to ship any viewer, whether conversant in ballet or not, house comfortable – and the collective “aahhh-that’s where it comes from” as the orchestra opens Act II with Mendelsohn’s Wedding ceremony March might alone be well worth the worth of admission. Dream is a … dream.
I saw two performances during Dream’s seven-performance run: Wednesday, Might 20 and Friday, Might 31. Neither forged disillusioned, and with just a few exceptions, the highlights of one have been primarily the identical because the highlights for the opposite.
Though not part of the story per se, for me probably the most magical part of the ballet (apart from its concluding image) is the Act II pas de deux. For his first full length ballet choreographed in America (it’s troublesome to consider, however it opened NYCB’s first season at Lincoln Middle in 1964, and was created two years before that), Balanchine correctly determined to save lots of the perfect for last. However to try this, in addition to another additions to the story, he needed to augment Felix Mendelsohn’s score (Overture (Op. 21) and Incidental Music (Op. 61) for A Midsummer Night time’s Dream) with further Mendelsohn music. With respect to the Act II pas de deux, the musical augmentation match within completely inside the ballet’s parameters. The choreography does too.
I can’t say that the Act II pas de deux is Balanchine’s most romantic pas de deux – there are so many of them. But I think it’s his most blatant paean to love, and in one dance it encompasses (apart from the comedy) what A Midsummer Night time’s Dream is about. Every time I see it, I sense that I’ll never see another executed as meaningfully, and with such muted however obvious ardour. And Balanchine summarizes it in a single sensible moment: the pas de deux’s ultimate shifting picture of the danseur cradling the ballerina in his proper arm, and then virtually imperceptively nudging her right into a momentarily unsupported “free fall,” only to be once more cradled – this time inside his welcoming left arm. In a ballet full of magical moments, this is probably the most choreographically magical of all of them.
On Wednesday, Sterling Hyltin and Amar Ramasar danced the pas de deux. Hyltin never fails to ship an exceptional performance in any position, and this was no exception. But for this performance, Ramasar’s presence was extra meaningful. I as soon as wrote that Ramasar was probably the most underrated of NYCB principal dancers. That tide turned shortly thereafter, and he’s been acknowledged by audiences as one in every of NYCB’s greatest. His absence in the previous few seasons was bewildering, but having him now back the place he belongs is nearly as a lot of a joy for audiences because it doubtlessly is for him. And here, the warmth between Hyltin and Ramasar, and between them and the viewers, was palpable.
Two nights later, Lauren Lovette returned to this position (her solely efficiency of it this season), partnered by Andrew Veyette. Lovette was as magical as she all the time is, delivering a superlative portrayal, perhaps much more dreamy than I’ve previously seen. But the shock, to me, was Veyette. Veyette steadily seems distant and a bit underachieving, however he all the time one way or the other manages to tug a finely executed performance seemingly out of his hat. This was no exception. My preliminary take was that he and Lovette did not look like the most effective of pairings, however by the pas de deux’s finish, Veyette had satisfied me, yet again, that he’s a superb companion who might appear much less exciting than others, however he will get the job carried out. And this was his position debut.
Sara Mearns and Anthony Huxley (changing Gonzalo Garcia) have been Wednesday’s Titania and Oberon, and Teresa Reichlen was Friday’s Titania, with Huxley repeating his position.
Mearns is a primary price Titania, as is Reichlen. Each executed with flawless precision, every executed Balanchine’s choreography (together with her Act I solo) with uncommon flair, and every introduced a vital degree of heat to their portrayals to accompany the equally essential appearance of the Aristocracy. Perceived differences between their performances are subjective: to my eye, Reichlen’s Titania appeared to me more “fairy-tale” real, and her presence fit the position barely better, however she was aided in that respect by a superlative efficiency by her Cavalier, Silas Farley, who introduced a compelling presence to his position that Wednesday’s Cavalier, Russell Janzen, lacked. Consequently, the Act I pas de deux which frequently seems perfunctory, appeared regally (i.e., coolly) passionate.
Huxley’s Oberon is a remarkably completed portrayal, not simply because he overcomes his slight look to seem legitimately and naturally regal. It virtually goes with out saying that his execution was each immaculate and thrilling.
Puck is the engine that makes A Midsummer Night time’s Dream move, and the hyper-energetic character that’s most indelible. Harrison Ball and Roman Mejia assayed the position on Wednesday and Friday, respectively. Perhaps unintentionally, Ball added a contact of seriousness – perhaps malevolence – to his portrayal, making the position look more complicated and fascinating, and positively totally different from the norm. Mejia, who debuted in the position earlier in the week, was squarely in the extra traditional lovable rascal camp, and his Puck was notably endearing.
I’ve seen Georgina Pazcoguin’s Hippolyta previously, and she or he all the time delivers the requisite commanding portrayal befitting an Amazon Queen. Wednesday’s performance, nevertheless, seemed more bullish than royal. However, Friday’s Hippolyta, Emily Kikta, gave one of many best portrayals of this position that I’ve seen. Apart from sterling execution, her Hippolyta was a compelling Warrior Princess, making the position compelling in addition to thrilling, in addition to a plausible bride to Aaron Sanz, her effusive Theseus.
Wednesday night time’s lovers have been played by Erica Pereira, Lauren King, Lars Nelson, and Daniel Applebaum (respectively as Hermia, Helena, Lysander, and Demetrius); on Friday these roles have been assumed by Emily Gerrity, Unity Phelan, Andrew Scordato, and Alec Knight. Comedian timing is important for these roles, and though both casts have been commendable in that respect, Friday’s was a bit cleaner. Both Pereira and Gerrity shined of their respective Act I, with Pereira showing more appropriately frazzled, but that’s actually a distinction with no difference. In roles which might be much more demanding than they seem, Kristen Segin and Claire Von Enck have been equally positive as Butterfly.
Lastly, the 24 young SAB ballerinas-in-the-making who portrayed Butterflies and Fairies in Oberon’s Kingdom add an plain and invaluable magical ingredient to Dream, they usually’re an exceptionally capable group. As a lot as any of the other elements of the ballet, they’re a breath of recent air, they usually make A Midsummer Night time’s Dream the dream it all the time is.
The conclusion of a season is a time to take stock, and to opine on NYCB’s accomplishments and its future. General, the company is performing at a really excessive degree, and is quickly and adequately filling holes created by current departures and inevitable injuries. But, as I’ve noticed previously, the corporate’s place as probably the most thrilling ballet company in New York is a precarious one, and one which depends in large part not only on the standard of its dancers, however on the alternatives offered to its youthful dancers to grow. Since Peter Martins’s departure, and for whatever purpose, these alternatives appear to have considerably diminished. An example is this yr’s Dream: of the seven performances, there were no debuts as Titania or for the ballerina in the Act II pas de deux, and those latest in the roles (Lovette in the pas de deux, and Miriam Miller as Titania) got one efficiency every: the remaining have been divided among more senior dancers. The identical was true of the past Winter season’s casting for The Sleeping Magnificence.
Make no mistake: these “senior” dancers are not at all beyond their prime (quite the opposite, within the general scheme of issues, most are comparatively new principals, and few could be thought-about unworthy of the roles they’ve been given), and all are capable of delivering superlative performances. That’s not the difficulty. A stability is important to maintain the company rising, to insure its future, and to avoid a sense of same-old same-old stodginess. As the corporate’s new leadership becomes safer, I belief that NYCB’s excitement will return. And on the very least, returning subsequent Spring will probably be another week of A Midsummer Night time’s Dream.