Peter Martins' mostly forgettable Ash (Peter Martins) opened this program featuring music by American composers. Fortunately it was livened up with the presence of Taylor Stanley and Ashly Isaacs. Of all the men currently on the roster, Stanley stands out for his lyrical quality of movement and he had a fine partnership with Isaacs who is obviously on the short list of dancers to watch. She’s moving up quickly through the ranks and deservedly so with her tremendous facility and musicality. She is never less than compelling. They worked well together, especially given the weakness of the material. The vocabulary of steps that Martins used in creating this piece is fairly standard neo-classical but it was put together in such a way that few of the steps are memorable. All of the movements seemed to be of fairly equal importance with little dynamic differentiation. Inevitably, the movement became repetitive. That has to do with the intentionality of the steps as they were choreographed more than the way it was performed.

Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar in <i>Sonatas and Interludes</i> © Paul Kolnik
Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar in Sonatas and Interludes
© Paul Kolnik

Many of the same steps were used in Richard Tanner's Sonatas and Interludes but there the similarity ends. Tanner is able to use something as slight as a small flick of the leg to great effect. The step itself is nothing and requires minimal technical skill but it was used as a taut, tense gesture repeatedly in a pas de deux of feline power and grace. He also made great use of brief moments of stillness in which we saw the pair standing, waiting — though it’s not clear for what. The stellar pairing of Sara Mearns (stepping in for Tiler Peck) and Amar Ramasar probably made this piece seem more significant than it is but they were terrific together. With their powerful physiques and deft partnering they made everything seem easy. Ramasar moved all around his balance point in choreography that gave the impression of wrapping itself around the dancers’ bodies. Mearns moved with such fullness and shading of the musical phrases that every port de bras reached out into the audience and every développé lingered indelibly in the mind.

Tongues were wagging in the audience about Ashley Bouder’s baby bump, the big news of the season, but I couldn’t detect it. In this performance of Balanchine’s Tarantella, Bouder took her partner, Antonio Carmena, to school. She was as crisp, rip-roaring, soaring and effervescent as always. Carmena could sharpen up his use of the tambourine and his movements. His hands and feet were frequently flopping while Bouder’s were sharply accenting the music. Every time Bouder hit her tambourine it was percussively sharp and resounded throughout the house while Carmena mis-hit his enough times for it to be distracting.

Justin Peck's Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes keeps getting better each time I see it. This is such a classic, all-American piece of music and the dance that Peck crafted for it goes with it perfectly. Truthfully, this piece should close programs, not be sandwiched in the middle. Men partnering men is a frequent occurrence in ‘Rōdē,ō as there is only one woman in it and Peck found many different ways to have the men together.

Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz in George Balanchine’s Tarantella © Paul Kolnik
Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz in George Balanchine’s Tarantella
© Paul Kolnik
The opening section was pure, unbridled cowboy enthusiasm with the high flying athleticism of Anthony Huxley, Daniel Ulbricht and Andrew Veyette as they threw one another into the air and ran, tearing across the stage. It was cheerfully infectious. The second episode came as a surprise when the quintet of men led Taylor Stanley gave over into lyric movement. Stanley’s dancing was simply beautiful. His long arms and legs allow him to draw out long phrases with uncommon grace. My cup runneth over when I got a second pas de deux from Mearns and Ramasar in the third episode of this great ballet. It’s works like this that make me optimistic about the state of contemporary choreography. Peck has given us a beautiful statement here about love that is wondrous when danced by a pair like Mearns and Ramasar. He has avoided pyrotechnics in favor of simple, heartfelt embraces of mutual regard and affection that were so deeply moving that the sighing around me was audible. This ballet is destined for a long life as a company classic.

George Balanchine's Slaughter on Tenth Avenue  closed out the show and it is here that I would quibble. The Pepto-Bismol colored set looks awful. I love watching Teresa Reichlen dance as much as anyone else but she was miscast as the Striptease Girl. It’s very difficult to see her as anything other than the super nice girl next door and the ballet is a little too tame to do without the spice. Robert Fairchild took time off from his Broadway show to appear as the Hoofer and was fine, even surviving the loss of a tap from one of his shoes during the show. Overall it was fine but it wasn’t as effective a show ender with Peck’s ‘Rōdē,ō on the program.

Sara Mearns and Company in <i>‘Rōdē,ō: Four Dance Episodes</i> © Paul Kolnik
Sara Mearns and Company in ‘Rōdē,ō: Four Dance Episodes
© Paul Kolnik
I love matinées with New York City Ballet and never more than in the present. They serve as a reminder of how deep the pool of talent is and Peter Martins has created a remarkable legacy, in giving dancers the room to develop. This company is just great from top to bottom.

****1