The second all-Balanchine program presented by New York City Ballet this season was introduced by principal dancers Tyler Angle and Teresa Reichlen. I’m ambivalent about having dancers who are not accustomed to public speaking coming out to address the audience and I didn’t enjoy it here. It seemed to me inappropriately casual and off the cuff. It did not show them at their best, and whatever its purpose, I think the introductory remarks needed to be more thoughtfully prepared to be successful.

Dancers of NYCB in George Balanchine's <i>Divertimento No. 15</i> © Paul Kolnik
Dancers of NYCB in George Balanchine's Divertimento No. 15
© Paul Kolnik

Balanchine only choreographed two ballets to Mozart’s music and this Divertimento No. 15 always makes me wish that he’d done more. The three leads, Megan Fairchild, Sterling Hyltin, and Lauren King were all exemplary in their courtly grace. Chase Finlay, filling in for Andrew Veyette, had a seamless give and take in the pas de deux with Fairchild. Theme and Variations featured terrific turns by King, Hyltin, Finlay and Fairchild. Hyltin always seems at her most expressive when she’s being partnered and it was noticeable in this ballet. The most defining aspect of this piece is not that it’s especially original or compelling but rather that Balanchine perfectly captured Mozart’s refined spirit of gentility. You feel exalted after seeing this ballet.

The Four Temperaments is a warhorse of the repertoire at City Ballet and it varies greatly depending on the casting. That dimension of endless flexibility is the main reason I never get tired of seeing it. How different Choleric is with Teresa Reichlen compared to Ashley Bouder. Where Bouder is compact and vehemently slashing, Reichlen is assertively linear and angular. With Reichlen in this performance, Choleric was full of geometric angles and lines that highlighted the modernity of this ballet. It’s substantially different but no less pleasing than other casts I’ve seen. Sean Suozzi’s Melancholic hit all the right notes backed by the perfectly balanced duo of Olivia MacKinnon and Meagan Mann. Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle paired up for an outstanding Sanguinic with Emma Von Enck’s ebullient dancing grabbing attention in the background. And Ask la Cour, not normally a favorite of mine, danced well in Phlegmatic.

Sara Mearns in George Balanchine's <i>Chaconne</i> © Paul Kolnik
Sara Mearns in George Balanchine's Chaconne
© Paul Kolnik

Closing the show, Chaconne was a good news/bad news affair. Sara Mearns took the stage with staggering authority. Hers is a regal presence that commands your attention and that was certainly true here. The way she turned, dipping her head in the second rotation, was mesmerizing and her chaîné turns were thrillingly fast. When she stepped out of the chaînés, she looked like she was carelessly dropping her fur coat with the assurance that someone was going to pick it up for her. It’s a truly dominant stage presence. Her partnership with Adrian Danchig-Waring was another matter. These two do not belong together. It was uncomfortable, awkward and lacking rapport. Danchig-Waring is among the finest of the company’s male dancers but there was little pleasure watching him in this. Indiana Woodward, leading the Pas de Cinq, was wonderful. Her cheerful and buoyant dancing was a high point of the night. The bad news for Chaconne is that there were so many apprentices in the cast that it looked at times like a mash-up of a school recital and a professional dance company. It may have seemed like a good idea to give the youngsters a chance but too many of them were lacking in polish and stage presence which resulted in emotions spinning out of control. I’m all for giving the apprentices experience on stage but this was too many at once and it was not a successful experiment.

This past year has been one of political and social turmoil and it has not left the fine arts unscathed. Judging by this show, New York City Ballet is doing fine in the aftermath of Peter Martins’s departure. It’s still one of the greatest pools of dance talent on the planet. Sorting out the emotional baggage will take some time but with a quartet of veterans keeping an eye on Balanchine’s legacy, they have plenty of time to make the right choice for a new director.