The same program brought rare revivals of Peter Martins’s tiresome “The Red Violin” (2006), to John Corigliano’s violin concerto, and Jerome Robbins’s “In Memory Of…” (1985), to Berg’s. The eight “Red Violin” dancers all look mindless, the women all too ready to open their crotches to the audience as the men carry them around.
Maria Kowroski and Zachary Catazaro made debuts in the mysterious realm of “In Memory Of…,” which suggests life, death and transfiguration. Ms. Kowroski’s long-limbed loveliness made a clear impression, but as yet she lacks decisiveness. Mr. Catazaro always scores on sheer stage presence, as in “Swan Lake,” where his Prince Siegfried was another debut; standing, walking, gesturing, he commands attention. He remains a flawed dancer: long phrases of any complexity tax him visibly.
Three other Balanchine ballets returned last week: a triple bill of “Square Dance” (1957), “La Valse” (1951) and “Cortège Hongrois” (1973). Balanchine’s women still often seem the most free-willed in ballet: They keep taking the initiative, even when, as in “La Valse,” it leads to doom. In “Cortège,” which has been absent longer than the others, both Sara Mearns in the prima ballerina role and Georgina Pazcoguin leading the character corps were riveting. Though Ms. Pazcoguin is a soloist, she’s long registered as one of the company’s most memorable dancers; the blaze and drive she shows here are stunning.
Ms. Mearns’s dancing, as in “Swan Lake” in the first weeks, is more illustrious than ever, with thrillingly timed delivery that fills the theater. I’m awed. Yet, though I often find her the most sensational ballerina in America, I’ve been unmoved by her this season. She’s dancing with a torrential force that — despite her color, vehemence and precision — is in danger of overpowering her roles.
“Cortège” itself, though marred by costume excess, fascinates. (It returns both in the season’s final week and in early 2018.) At its frequent best, it’s one of the ultimate demonstrations of Balanchine’s love of theme-and-variations invention. As in Marius Petipa’s three-act “Raymonda” (1898), on which it is based, you see both the Hungarian folk material and how classical ballet absorbs it. And the supported adagio for eight couples, starting with a double-diamond geometry is one of Balanchine’s most wonderful demonstrations of multidirectionality. Nonetheless, there are sections when his love of revisionism seems unusually detached from the music.
Megan Fairchild and Anthony Huxley weren’t at their finest on Friday in “Square Dance.” But these are roles in which they’ve been admirable; I’m happy to assume they were thrown by a fire alarm that made them vacate the theater not long beforehand. The ballet itself exhilarates; the way it fuses the music of Vivaldi and Corelli with latter-day classical dance virtuosity crosses historical borders with exuberant imagination: the baroque is remade in modern American terms.
More than any other company, City Ballet has exemplified the union of music and dance— but here, despite generally high musical standards, there have been obvious problems between conductor and stage. If the “Swan Lake” music usually associated with Odile’s fouetté turns must be taken at so brisk a lick, can’t the step be rechoreographed? Most of the five Odiles I saw lagged behind the beat, turning with the most obviously anti-musical pulse all season. Subtler music-dance fissures have opened elsewhere. If they grow, they could shake the company from its foundations up.
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