ABT Mixed Bill: Morris, Ashton, Balanchine

There’s something about walking into the Metropolitan Opera House for American Ballet Theatre’s spring season that always reminds me why it is I live in New York. While I sometimes find their counterpart across the plaza, New York City Ballet, more exciting for the chance to see dancers rising through the ranks and a wide array of ballets new and old, ABT offers a certain grandeur that never fails to draw me back. While the spring season primarily consists of evening-length classics (think Swan Lake, Don Quioxte), Thursday night’s program offered three disparate ballets, ranging from Mark Morris’s breezy modernity to Balanchine’s ode to classicism.

First up was Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, originally made for the company by Mark Morris in 1988. The ballet is set to a number of piano etudes by Virgil Thomson (an important modernist composer, who also composed Gertrude Stein’s opera Three Saints in Four Acts, which Morris later choreographed) played by Barbara Bilach on a piano at the back of the stage. The ballet’s easy classicism is intermixed with a sense of grounded-ness that belies its creator’s modern dance background. The loose white costumes echo this sense of ease, as the dancers come and go, creating intricate patterns and surprising images.

 

Melanie Hamrick, Yuriko Kajiya and Marian Butler in Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes. Photo: Gene Schiavone.

Melanie Hamrick, Yuriko Kajiya and Marian Butler in Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes.
Photo: Gene Schiavone.

Although this work is largely non-hierarchical, with no clear principals, there were a few dancers in particular who caught my attention. Joseph Gorak, still in the corps de ballet, was a standout in the central role. With feet and extensions that would make many a ballerina jealous, he breezed through a series of pirouettes which ended in controlled extensions with grace. Kristi Boone’s clarity and daring was stunning, yet assured.

A Month in the Country, by British choreographer Frederick Ashton, is “freely adapted” from the play by Ivan Turgenev. The set for this ballet is absolutely stunning—richly detailed layers frame a central living space, a smaller piano room, and the garden beyond. The ballet tells the story of Natalia Petrovna (Hee Seo), the bored wife of an older man, whose life at her country house is interrupted by the arrival of a tutor (David Hallberg) who becomes entangled with both Natalia and her young ward (Sara Lane).

Hee Seo in A Month in the Country Photo: Marty Sohl

Hee Seo in A Month in the Country
Photo: Marty Sohl

I had never seen Seo dance a principal role before this performance, and was quickly converted. She exuded elegance in her pristine lines and silky movements and was convincing in her portrayal of Natalia’s jealously and later heartbreak. Hallberg was wonderful as always, even out of his usual princely element.

Everyone seems to have an opinion about ABT doing Balanchine—whether they should, if they’re doing it right, which company members are cut out for it—so anticipation was high for their performances of Symphony in C. The ballet is a study in structure and style, and Balanchine’s particular brand of classicism. Each of the four movements features a principal couple, two secondary couples, and a corps de ballet of women in white tutus and tiaras like the principals (the men are in black).

Stella Abrera was regal and refined in the 1st movement, ably partnered by Eric Tamm. In the grand and lyrical 2nd movement, Marcelo Gomes’s gaze and attentive partnering immediately focused our attention on Polina Semionova (although sadly, we don’t get to see much of his own dancing in this role).

Polina Semionova and Marcelo Gomes in Symphony in C Photo: Marty Sohl

Polina Semionova and Marcelo Gomes in Symphony in C
Photo: Marty Sohl

Natalia Osipova and her partner Ivan Vasiliev soared with the incredible buoyancy we have come to expect from these Russian superstars in the 3rd movement (she even more so than he), but I found myself wishing they would turn down the Bolshoi showiness a notch (an open-mouthed ah-ha! smile seemed to punctuate each movement). Simone Messmer, along with partner Jared Matthews, was a breath of fresh air in the spirited 4th movement, executing the difficult choreography with élan and airy confidence.

While the corps de ballet looked a bit uneven at times, the dancers pulled together for the always-thrilling finale, in which the entire cast returns to the stage, dancing in unison at high speed. Purists may argue that ABT doesn’t have the appropriate style or speed for Balanchine, but it is always a delight to see this ballet, and was a fine opportunity to see some of their soloists in particular shine.

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ABT at City Center

See my review in the GC Advocate of ABT’s the City Center Season, including Alexei Ratmansky’s intriguing new work Symphony #9, Jose Limon’s The Moor’s Pavane, and that eternal favorite, Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room.

ABT in Alexei Ratmansky’s Symphony #9
photo credit: Gene Schiavone

On Interdisciplinarity, Collaboration, and Attribution (Or Lack Thereof): Elad Lassry’s “Untitled (Presence)”

Thoughts on what happens when dance is framed as, or used in service, of art (in the “art world”/visual art sense of the term)…

The description for Elad Lassry’s “Untitled (Presence),” an exhibition of photographs, a film, and a dance performance presented at The Kitchen, was quite vague. According to the press release, his work to this point has been concerned with “the question of when the photographic image obtains presence,” an inquiry that, with this performance, would be extended into “real space.”

The exhibition upstairs featured a number of portraits, some of which featured the dancers who would perform later. The dancers in the portraits looked directly ahead, with the same impassive gazes they would later wear in the performance. Their portraits were interspersed with a number of black and white screenprints of Hollywood types, generally looking away from the camera, as well as two of artfully arranged dishes. All of these subjects were titled generically: “Man 065,” “Women (055, 065),” or “Dishes (Strawberry).”

Heading downstairs, I was surprised, upon walking into the  theatre, to receive no program. There had been no mention of dancer or choreographer names in the press release, and apparently, no further materials were forthcoming.

We were facing a stage set with large, colored-saturated pieces, like over-sized blocks, which formed a series of frames. A mint colored block at the front of the stage would soon obstruct our view of the dancers’ bottom halves; there were two more walls behind that, with various apertures. These pieces would be moved around throughout the performance, creating different frames through which we saw the dancers.

The performance consisted of a number of sequences in which the lights came up, and different groupings of dancers either stared out at the audience, performed a repetitive sequence of simple steps or gestures, or some combination thereof. There were five men and five women, all dressed in button down shirts and high-waisted trousers, yellow for the men and blue for the women (pointe shoes included). A series of blackouts, which seemingly signaled the end of a particular scene or image, were cut short as the lights came back on while dancers were still walking off.

The choreography frequently referenced Balanchine, with jazzy inflections and mannered port de bras. However, it was never more than that: a Balanchine reference here, a classroom exercise-like series of steps there, all performed in a repetitious manner with an impassive stare. The gender divisions so endemic to classical ballet remained, unquestioned: men and women were dressed in different colors, and all of the heavy lifting (of the various set pieces) was done by the men, in the manner of glorified stage hands. There were no bows by the performers.

Perhaps the generic labeling by numbers of the dancers in the portraits upstairs was a clue here (we were supposed to see them as generic men or women?), yet, why use dancers from such elite companies–ABT & NYCB–and highlight this affiliation multiple times in promotional material, if they were to remain unidentified and to perform unremarkable choreography? If they were meant to suggest some generic image of ballet, why use potentially recognizable dancers from well-known companies?

I must admit to feeling generally annoyed by the way that dance, dancers, and choreographers are expected to become transparent—to signify nothing (other than perhaps, presence) in and of themselves—when in the service of art. While the choreography was far from inventive, it was clear that the movements in the piece were conceived of and put together by people with ballet training and knowledge and yet, no choreographer is given.

The press release suggests that the repetition of these “limited movements” suggests “a kind of historical compression.” I’m not entirely sure what is meant by this, but I don’t think it worked. Taking these movements out of their context and distilling them to this limited expression isolates them, but performs no sort of compression, historical or otherwise. These are still classical ballet steps and positions, performed by highly skilled dancers.

I’m sure some of this has to do with my lack of familiarity with art world conventions, but in dance and performance works, there is typically much more acknowledgement of collaboration, and of the other artists involved. Did Lassry design the costumes as well? The lighting design? No mention.

When one art form is juxtaposed with or framed through the conventions of another, it doesn’t necessarily lose its formal and aesthetic qualities, or become emptied it of its original significance. Rather, this juxtaposition or framing should complicate the way we view both forms, and perhaps adds unexpected dimensions as we make new connections. (This of course ignores the very desirable possibility that lines between art forms are often not so clear to begin with and become even more blurred in interdisciplinary works.)

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that you can’t just put watered-down choreography within an art piece as some sort of interesting statement on presence, because it is still watered-down choreography. Not acknowledging this, and expecting dance and dancers to signify only a generic concept of presence, inevitably undermines the project’s potential.

From The Shins to Ancient Greece: Smuin Ballet at the Joyce Theatre

The choice to set a ballet to contemporary music can be a dangerous one: Complexions Contemporary Ballet’s Rise, for example, recently performed at Prospect Park to a live U2 recording, made the company seem like backup dancers for the (absent) band. On Wednesday afternoon at the Joyce however, Trey McIntyre’s “Oh, Inverted World,” danced to songs by The Shins, skillfully avoided such pitfalls. The piece, which the San Francisco-based Smuin Ballet premiered in 2010, began with the eight dancers crossing the stage in a pack, backs slightly hunched, hands on others’ shoulders, to familiar opening strains of “New Slang.”

Smuin Ballet in “Oh, Inverted World”
Benjamin Behrends, Jane Rehm, and company
Photo Credit: David Allen

The dancers were dressed in hipster-inflected casual clothing—striped athletic socks and short gym shorts for the men and a colorful assortment of similar attire for the women, with some skirts and bra tops thrown into the mix. The movement style was loose: undeniably balletic, but tempered by flattened arms and hands.

McIntyre’s response to the songs was continually inventive: quick movement of a head, arm, or leg drew out the music’s punctuations without being overly literal. He also drew our attention to the different songs’ different layers, with, for example, two dancers responding to the melody line, while a group behind them highlighted the underlying beat with a simple walking pattern.

As the mood shifted from song to song, now playful, now pensive, so did the groupings of dancers and their relationships. One section began with Christian Squires dancing alone, striking a balance between earnestness and casualness before he was joined by three other men. The four danced in shifting groups, often partnering each other, their various groupings and interactions complicating the imposition of any one narrative on the ballet. A later grouping of three dancers, who finished heads on the floor, backs to the audience, and limbs askew, injected an element of pure fun. In the final section, John Speed Orr danced an affecting solo, often casually pausing near the front of the stage while the other dancers continue behind him.

On the whole, the choreography for the men was stronger and more interesting. I find myself making this observation often in contemporary ballet choreography, and can’t help but think that it is linked to the dearth of women ballet choreographers. This is not to say, by any means, that women choreograph better for women and men for men (there are countless examples to the contrary, not to mention the fact that gender binaries are notoriously unhelpful). However, in an art form in which men and women are trained differently, it seems only natural that this different training would result in a different body (literally) of knowledge and experience upon which to draw. The contemporary ballet choreographers who get the majority of opportunities and attention are a pretty homogeneous group, and ballet could only benefit from an increased diversity of perspectives.

It was hard to give company founding Michael Smuin’s Medea an unbiased viewing, having recently been immersed in feminist-inflected dance history and criticism. Unlike Martha Graham’s pioneering re-visionings of Greek mythology, Smuin’s version did not give us any glimpse into Medea’s side of the story—we rarely get any real sense of her motivation. Danced by Robin Semmelhack, Medea is the evil villain from the moment the curtain rises: glaring out at the audience from within her imposing robe. This woman, in her tellingly red unitard, clearly has only one emotional setting: icy, calculating anger. Cresusa (Janica Smith), for whom Jason (Joshua Reynolds) leaves Medea, is presented as her rival, in the worst tradition of comparing women: Cresusa is light where Medea is dark (she wears a strange pale blue and nude unitard), and all smiles to Medea’s glares. Both of the women danced with strength and authority, but the scope of this production seemed too small to encompass their complex drama.

Robin Cornwell as Medea
Photo Credit: Marty Sohl

Orr and Squires, as Medea’s sons, were appealingly boyish, horsing around and partnering each other in a sprightly manner. They were clearly in thrall to their mother, their disturbing devotion presaging their unfortunate end.

It was strange that murder of Cresusa was much more central and affecting than the murder of Medea’s sons, which ought to be the horrific climax of the story. (Instead, the revelation of their death in the final scene comes off almost as an afterthought.) There seems to me something off in the fact that the strangling of this woman, with the help of Medea’s sons and a long rope, is danceable, while the murder of her sons must happen offstage.

The final ballet, choreographer-in-residence Amy Siewert’s “Soon These Two Worlds” was set to a lively score of selections from the Kronos Quartet’s Pieces of Africa. I was nervous that the piece was going to be an appropriative attempt to graft “African” themes onto ballet, but the sculptural arm and hand motifs and wide, bent-kneed second positions came across as natural permutations of ballet vocabulary. The piece was least successful in responding to the percussive, weighted elements of the score: the dancers did not convey a sense of weight or grounded-ness, and were more comfortable in the more buoyant passages. Susan Roemer in particular stood out for the clarity and openness of her movement.

Members of the Smuin Ballet in “Soon These Two Worlds”
Photo Credit: Scot Goodman

The lovely costumes by Sandra Woodall—strapless, flowing dresses for the women and tights for the men—were covered in wide vertical stripes of yellow, green, magenta, and turquoise, echoing the cheerful good-nature of the piece (hugging was a recurrent motif). It was a joyous ending, and one that allowed us to revel in the dancing of this engaging company.

Haunting Parisians: Paris Opera Ballet’s “Giselle”

As if I needed another reason to daydream about moving to Paris, the Paris Opera Ballet recently performed as part of the Lincoln Center Festival, their first New York appearance in sixteen years. I saw “Giselle” on Wednesday night, with a cast led by étoiles Dorothée Gilbert and Josua Hoffalt, and was enchanted by the entire company.

Dorothee Gilbert as Giselle
Photo credit: M. Lidvac

The scenery for the first act (designed by Alexandre Benois of the Ballets Russes) looked like cut-outs from a richly-illustrated storybook. The action begins with the entrance of the grape-pickers, and later Giselle’s friends, clad in yellow, pink and tan peasant costumes. The strength of the corps de ballet was immediately evident, as they danced the quick “peasant” choreography with ease and grace. Across the ranks of the company, I was enthralled by the women’s feet: beautiful arches and remarkable articulation in each step and jump.

In some productions, Hilarion is played as the meek boy-next-door passed over for Albrecht, but Yann Saiz was quite the opposite: brash, passionate, and indignant that Giselle was not interested in him. The peasant pas de deux was danced nobly by Héloïse Bourdon and Axel Ibot—both young and very full of promise.

Gilbert was technically stunning without being overtly showy. Her exquisite dancing added to, rather than distracted from, her portrayal of Giselle as a radiant, fun-loving young woman. Albrecht, danced by Hoffalt, does not have much dancing in the first act, but what we did see—long, elegant lines and jumps in which his legs beat with exquisite clarity—left me eager for his second act solos.

As Giselle begins to realize that her supposed lover is in fact, nobility, and engaged to one of his own class, there are two instances which might be called “freeze frames.” As everyone on the stage remains frozen in their place, Giselle breaks off, conveying to us the progression of her “madness.” These scenes make it clear that her consciousness is no longer operating on the same level as those around her. Time is slowing down for her, and she is having difficulty perceiving herself as part of world as others see it.

After Giselle collapses into Albrecht’s arms at the close of the mad scene, he attempts to blame her death on Hilarion and his insistence on revealing his identity. Hilarion and Giselle’s mother however, intimate that he is clearly the one responsible, a realization he contemplates for the first time as he looks around at a sea of unsympathetic faces.

The second act opens with a group of gamblers in the forest trying to tempt the mourning Hilarion, soon scared away by the entrance of a few threatening wilis. No mere white wisps bouréeing across the stage, these wilis were actually frightening, and you could believe these men would actually have felt impelled to run away. As they forcefully announce their presence, furiously echoing the pantomimed motion for dancing from the first act (in which hands held above the head circle each other), it is clear that these are spirits to contend with.

Every review I’ve read of the production has gushed about the corps de ballet of wilis in the second act, and with good reason. Their shared training at the Paris Opera Ballet School shines through in their perfect synchronicity and symmetry—each arabesque is the same height and shape as the one behind it. In this ballet, where the corps de ballet is at once ethereal and terrifying, their uniformity has a particularly strong effect—as when they reject Hilarion’s plea for his life with 24 outstretched palms and turned heads.

All of the women, from Gilbert through the corps, evoked the image of the Romantic ballerina to perfection: the slope of the shoulders, the forward lilt of the torso, and the demure position of the head.

Laura Hecquet as Myrtha was appropriately severe, although her large jumping passages were not as intimidating as they might have been. When I teach bourées to my young dancers, I say that if someone was looking only at your upper body, you should look like you are floating across the floor: Hecquet pulled this effect off enchantingly.

The “Two Wilis,” Ammandine Albisson and Sarah Kora Dayanova, were excellent, and the dancer in the second variation (the program did not identify Moyna and Zulma specifically) made a particularly strong impression, with haunting balances and authoritative renversés.

Gilbert had a number of breathtaking moments in this act, from the way she carried her arms into the crossed position of her sister wilis, to more virtuoso effects like lightning fast bourées and seemingly weightless jumps. Hoffalt was an impeccable partner, invisibly assisting Gilbert as she floated in and out of his arms. He was stoic during an impressive series of entrechat sixes (jumps in which the legs beat three times) and truly looked as if he were dancing for his life against exhaustion. In their variations and pas de deux, Gilbert and Hoffalt were so thrilling that the frequent applause was almost distracting, but the two never strayed from their intimate mood: she, resigned and yet determined to save him, he, desperate in his inability to hold on to the love he acknowledged too late.

This was a Giselle I won’t soon forget.

A Study in Contrasts: “La Bayadère” at ABT

Friday night’s performance of “La Bayadère” at ABT was a battle of the Russian women: the impossibly long-limbed Veronika Part (replacing Diana Vishneva) as Nikiya, the temple dancer, and the inimitable Natalia Osipova as Gamzatti, the Radjah’s daughter. The juxtaposition was most striking when the two ballerinas fought it out over the warrior Solor (Marcelo Gomes) in Gamzatti’s room: Part was the tall, womanly, and sensuous temple dancer to Osipova’s precise and fiery princess. Their stark differences highlighted the very different worlds to which their characters belonged.

Osipova’s acting, as an entitled, haughty princess, was pitch-perfect, from the lift of her chin to the arch of her eyebrow. The subtle sidelong glances at her distracted fiancée while the two watched Nikiya perform her tragic dance were the only hint of her vulnerability. Every time she felt Solor was slipping from her grasp, she amped up her regal air, hiding her doubts behind the façade of confidence created by her crystalline technique.

Despite her tiny frame, Osipova effortlessly matched the height of Gomes’ jumps. In the finale of their pas de deux, her series of Italian and traditional fouettée turns were a dynamic force that seemed to set the entire colorful scene in motion. While I agree with many others that “home-grown” ABT dancers should be getting more shots at principal parts, I can’t deny the pleasure it is to see this astonishing artist perform.

What’s interesting about the first act divertissements is that, being set in this “exotic” location of India, the character dances no longer have to be ethnically specific as in other ballets of the period—no character shoes here! (I’m not at all saying that character dances always reflect their purported culture, but mazurka and czardas are actual dances.) By placing the ballet firmly in a location that is not-Europe, it becomes fine to have the “locals” dancing very classical ballet, in sparkly tutus, with a few broken-wrist, upturned palm gestures to add “exotic” flavor.

That said, the dancers in these groups took these absurd opportunities and ran with them. The women in purple tutus in particular (Yuriko Kajiya, Sarah Lane, Luciana Paris, and it looked like Nicola Curry although Misty Copeland was listed?) were exquisite. The d’jampe dancers, with scarves attached to their pants, foreshadowed the shades who would arrive in the second act, with scarf-like arm adornments, as well as the scarf that connects the lovers parted by death, Nikiya and Solor, in their opium-induced reunion. These scarves also seem related to the veils that Nikiya and Gamzatti wear in their first entrances—symbolizing the mysterious exoticism projected onto India in a colonial era.

The first act’s only flaw was the inability of the dancers, from principals to corps, to finish on the music (this may be partly attributed to the orchestra). Osipova in particular finished out more than one set of partnered turns to a few counts of silence before the concluding beat.

From that famous scene when the Shades descend down the ramp in hypnotic synchronicity, the second act belongs to the corps de ballet. What struck me watching this scene was just how hard it is. Take away the tutus and scenery, and this could be a class at the Vaganova academy: développé side…and hold; precise directional change, développé arabesque…hold again. That the scene transcends its academic bones and becomes something dream-like is a testament to the alchemic power of classical ballet at its best.

Part exuded an otherworldly sort of languor in her second-act pas de deux with Gomes. The passages where she executed a series of turns, in arabesque and then passé, while holding a scarf above her hand, held at the other end by Gomes, were breathtaking. Gomes was, as usual, fantastic: regal lines, buoyant jumps, and attentive, selfless partnering. He went from ecstatically passionate lover in the first act—exemplified by exuberant variation-ending backbends—to entranced cavalier in the second. His Solor was unable to comprehend the forces in play around him, making his bewildered shock at Nikiya’s death all the more poignant.

In the final act, Osipova revealed her desperation in a dramatic departure from her first-act persona. No longer confined to sidelong glances, her insecurity about Solor’s devotion to her was evident in the way she carried herself and danced with him, now colored by submission and deference. In the “candle dance” section, in which she and Solor are separately encircled by two groups of temple dancers, their reactions to their impending nuptials were telling: her glances at him illustrating her fear of losing him, his indicating his panicked, claustrophobic realizations: “How did I end up here? Is it too late to escape?”

It is, of course, too late to escape. Part returns once more as a spirit, interrupting the wedding proceedings with her luxurious saut de chats (big leaps), just before the entire temple comes crashing down. In the wake of this destruction, we are left once again with that symbolic scarf, as it connects the two lovers, Nikiya and Solor, in the afterlife.

A Glamorous Evening at New York City Ballet’s Spring Gala

New York City Ballet’s galas are always a glamorous affair, and this year’s, entitled “A La Française,” was no exception, featuring premieres, fashion-inspired costumes, and a glitzy red carpet. Peter Martins’ opening piece, “Mes Oiseaux,” was an enjoyable opportunity to see some of the company’s newest talents (Taylor Stanley, Lauren Lovette, Ashly Issacs, and Claire Kretzschmar), but not much more. The women, who each made a dramatic entrance into a spotlight, had gorgeous lines and admirable attack. They did not yet have assurance of more senior dancers, but this will surely come as they gain experience. There was a beautifully liquid quality to Stanley’s movement in his solo (one of the highlights of the piece) that I wish we had gotten to see more of.

Claire Kretzschmar and Taylor Stanley in Peter Martins' Mes Oiseaux

Claire Kretzschmar and Taylor Stanley in Peter Martins’ Mes Oiseaux
Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik

Millepied’s new work, “Two Hearts” (excerpt available here) began with Tyler Angle performing a series of playful yet sensitive lateral movements within a circle of light. Millepied skillfully manipulated his corps of twelve dancers, dressed in black-and-white costumes by Rodarte, through a range of geometric patterns, using uneven numbers and ever-changing groupings to great effect. Tiler Peck, as the principal woman, was both soft and dynamic. In one sequence in which she was repeatedly caught and held mid-air by the male corps, you almost believed she could have stayed suspended without assistance. The score, newly commissioned from Nico Muhly, was reminiscent of Philip Glass in its simplicity and repetitiveness, but with touches like echoes of a music box tune complicating its underwater-like quality.

Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle in Benjamin Millepied's Two Hearts

Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle in Benjamin Millepied’s Two Hearts
Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik

The chic-ness of the off-the-shoulder straps of the womens’ costumes was accentuated when Peck removed her skirt for the final pas de deux with Angle. More tender and fluid than their first duet, even simple walks took on emotional significance. Seemingly out of nowhere, Dawn Landes began singing an old English folk song, “Lord Thomas and Fair Eleanor” over the score. Rather than providing an interesting contrast to the ultra-modern costumes and music, this song was continually distracting, particularly as one caught snatches of the lyrics (did no one involved feel uncomfortable with the implicit racism of this evil “brown girl” who kills the “fair maiden”?). I couldn’t wait for it to end. Thankfully, what stuck in my mind was the image of the two dancers quietly embracing on the floor, a subtle conclusion to their sensuous pas de deux.

The debut in Symphony in C was the new costumes by Marc Happel, which closed the evening on a glittering note. They were not a major departure from the original Karinska costumes, keeping the same black-and-white color scheme and general look, but with modernized and streamlined shapes. Others have complained that they were too glitzy, but from our perch in the fourth ring, there was just enough sparkle.

Megan Fairchild sparkled in the quick, precise movements of the first movement with partner Jared Angle. Sara Mearns was luscious in the penchées and back bends of the second movement adagio with Jonathan Stafford. The contrast between movements was remarkable as Ashley Bouder bounded onto the stage with partner Joaquin de Luz, injecting life and excitement into the previously languorous atmosphere. Peck was, as she has been all season, breathtakingly crystalline in her delivery in the fourth movement, well-matched by the noble Adrian Danchig-Waring.

While we prize the freshness of new patterns in contemporary works, it is sometimes delightfully refreshing to revel in beautiful lines and symmetry, and this is the opportunity Symphony in C gives us: the pleasure and excitement of perfectly executed arabesques or pirouettes, multiplied by an entire stage of dancers in perfect formation.