Review: Balanchine – The City Center Years: Programs III and IV

Paris Opera Ballet Pas de Deux from Agon (Stravinsky) Hugo Marchand and Sae-Eun Park

It would be interesting to know what George Balanchine would think of the festival held at the New York City Center, his first permanent stage in America. He created over 60 pieces here,  created dancers here, gave New York the first look of his “ American” style here. And now his dances – his legacy, has returned for welcomed encores.

Friday night’s Program III began with the San Francisco Ballet in Scotch Symphony, a work from 1952. It was a somewhat of a shock to see  Balanchine’s early use of elaborate costumes.

The dancers are dressed in the highland style of parts of Scotland. Balanchine was impressed by the military regiment and incorporated their marches into the final movement. Set to Mendelssohn’s romantic music, it’s a marvellous fusion of Balanchine’s use of ballet and folk steps. There are ensemble dancing as well as a solo by a dancer in red garb including red pointe shoes.  The San Francisco dancers gave a moving portrait of a distant time and place. Mathilde Froustey, Joseph Walsh and Dores Andre each gave clear, sharp and enthusiastic performances especially in their quick footwork and rapid turns.

San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine's Scotch Symphony. (Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust; Photo © Erik Tomasson)
San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine’s Scotch Symphony.
(Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust; Photo © Erik Tomasson)

Next came the Russians, The Mariinsky Ballet to be exact. Here we have a different style dancing to the vision of Balanchine’s Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux. Dancer Viktoria Tereshkina was coy when she could have been more flirtatious.  Her partner, Kimin Kim’s high and suspended leaps evoked gasps from the audience. Each leap went a little higher and was held longer.

Sae-Eun Park and Hugo Marchand of the Paris Opera Ballet gave a tender rendition of the Divertissement Pas de Deux from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. They were convincing as lovers and their pas de deux was filled with lots of adagio movements and graceful lifts.

The Joffrey Ballet gave a thoughtful offering of The Four Temperaments, with music by Paul Hindemith. In a ballet that showcases the modernism of Balanchine, the cast did a wonderful job with the various temperaments, there was a boldness to the piece. The ballet was created in 1946 and it still feels like a relevant statement to the human experience today. The Four Temperaments ended  Program III and also began Program IV.

The Joffrey Ballet 4Ts. Photo by Cheryl Mann
The Joffrey Ballet 4Ts. Photo by Cheryl Mann

It was a rare privilege to see Miami City Ballet’s performance in the Pas de Trois ( Glinka).  Miami City Ballet opened The New York City Center Program I  on Wednesday with Serenade, which saw the company in good form. They did not disappoint in the rarely seen Pas de Trois. Nathalia Arja, Kleber Rebello and Ashley Knox each displayed exciting moments with lyrical dancing. They moved with great speed and split-second timing, executing a wide variety of steps with great musicality.

The Paris Opera Ballet presented the Pas de Deux from Agon. Sae-Eun Park and Hugo Marchand gave a wonderful performance and seemed to understand the essence of the work.

The San Francisco Ballet closed out program IV and truly seem to understand the nuances of Balanchine’s work. Their Divertimento No. 15 was outstanding, they have the timing, musicality, quick footwork of a Balanchine dancer. This piece to Mozart was the conjoining of two great artistic giants. Balanchine left it up to his legacy to make an encore, some deserved to do so more often.

Read the review of the first and second nights!