The second program in New York City Ballet’s Black & White series this spring season was dedicated to Stravinsky and Balanchine's partnership. The orchestra, led by Clotilde Otranto, made it a showcase of wonderful music. It was also a showcase for the stellar Sterling Hyltin who danced the lead in two ballets.

The evening opened with Apollo which is not technically a Black & White ballet but rather a precursor. It all started here, back in 1928, and Balanchine pared down his creations as he went to arrive at his signature neo-classical style. As muses go, the trio of Sterling Hyltin, Sara Mearns and Ana Sophia Scheller was about as good as it gets. They are all wonderful dancers, serious artists and drop dead gorgeous. As Calliope, Scheller lingered over her piqués playfully, letting you know that she could stop and hold the balances anywhere she wanted. The duet she danced with Mearns’ Polyhymnia was beautifully nuanced. For her part, Mearns has a sort of old world, movie star type glamour that made her Polyhymnia glitter. Then there was Sterling Hyltin. There were so many layers and details to her performance, coupled with such a warm and intelligent musical presence that sent her Terpsichore into the stratosphere. When she did the bourrées on her heels, one of those moves in this ballet that is surprisingly difficult to make seem natural, she made it look as fluid and poetic as if she were doing it on pointe. This ballet contains bourrées on pointe, demi-pointe and on the heels and no one else did it all nearly as well as Hyltin. She gave such a full and rich portrayal that Zachary Catazaro’s Apollo was a letdown in comparison. He has the physique to be a great Apollo one day but that is well in the future. He is as yet un-Olympian, lacking charisma and the physical certainty necessary to pull it off. There were too many extraneous movements, little slips of the feet, miscalculated movements and a general lack of focus. It all added up to not having enough experience to understand the role of Apollo and how to play it. 

Agon was up next and Teresa Reichlen made a perfect partnership with Adrian Danchig-Waring in the pas de deux. Their lines meshed so well and their movement was exquisitely harmonious. This duet has understated eroticism that is greatly enhanced by dancers who move like these two. Their long legs matched line for line, with perfect harmony. Ashley Hod and Unity Phelan were a fun pair in the harp driven Gailliard, moving in nice synchronicity. Anthony Huxley, an under-rated dancer, gave a great account of himself in the Sarabande. He’s short, compact and built for speed. He might never move with great lyricism but he is nonetheless an appealing dancer.

Duo Concertant has its fans and detractors but I’m willing to wager that no one had anything bad to say about this work after Sterling Hytlin got done with this performance. She not only danced perfectly, she also paired well with Russell Janzen who seemed on the tall side for her at first glance. Hyltin has a way of molding herself to her partner which is another special gift. She is able to make subtle shifts that establish intimacy with a wide range of partners. The musical accompaniment supplied by pianist Nancy McDill and violinist Arturo Delmoni was sensitive, articulated, richly rendered.

The closer was the Symphony in Three Movements, a solid crowd pleaser that serves well to end a performance. The eye popping opening with a long diagonal of women, all in white with pony tails flying, makes a powerful statement. It’s an assertion of potency and this piece says that it’s by a master with no budget concerns and few, if any, restrictions on talent of content. It celebrates contemporary classical ballet by combining elements of the old with the new. There’s the flexed feet, angular geometry of positions, thrust forward hips and super sharp attack of the steps. It all works together. The supporting couples, Lauren King with Antonio Carmena and Megan LeCrone with Sean Suozzi, did fine, but they lacked charisma compared to Tiler Peck and Amar Ramasar. Peck is a petite but powerful dancer who takes over the stage and moves with complete confidence. I wouldn’t want to be the one who tried to upstage her because it wouldn’t be easy. Ramasar is as strong a presence and as fine a dancer as any of the men in the company right now. She and Ramasar have a nice rapport and their duet was frequently mesmerizing. All in all, it was a really strong show. And Symphony in Three Movements' closing tableau is a real monument to geometric abstraction that lingers in the mind long after you leave the theater, much like the paintings of Piet Mondrian.

Attending a matinée performance at New York City Ballet is not like at other dance companies. There are no concessions to having a distinctly second string cast that only sees action in early weeknight or matinee shows. City Ballet has so much talent that you can never go wrong.

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