On my way to Lincoln Center to see this New York City Ballet all-Robbins program, I was thinking that it was going to be different not to see Georgina Pazcoguin (who has been appearing in Cats on Broadway) onstage. She’s one of the current dancers I most associate with Robbin’s fun, vampy roles for women. Imagine my delight when it was announced, just before curtain, that she was going on to replace Gretchen Smith in Fancy Free. Pazcoguin has a knack for finding the character in Robbins’ choreography and she was pure pleasure to watch. The trio of sailors, Joaquin De Luz, Tyler Angle and Amar Ramasar, were all excellent but Ramasar ran away with the climactic dance competition with his sly rendition of the Cuban Danzón. He had a keen rhythmic sense that made every hip swivel significant. Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle were just about perfect in the pas de deux. This ballet never gets old for me.

Amar Ramasar in <i>Fancy Free</i> © Paul Kolnik
Amar Ramasar in Fancy Free
© Paul Kolnik

Moves is a dated piece that comes across as a strained attempt at modernism. Robbins seems to be trying to get with the avant garde choreographers of 1959, when it was created. There’s no music – isn’t that a cool concept? Well, no, it isn’t. It’s more of an ill-conceived conceit. Taylor Stanley, one of the company’s most lyric and musical dancers, seemed out of sorts here and I sympathized with him heartily. There are lots of mercurial shifts of temperament with the dancers but it barely registers. Their faces don’t reflect what their bodies are doing. It’s hard to see why this piece stays in the repertoire and I don’t see the appeal.

New York City Ballet in <i>Moves</i> © Paul Kolnik
New York City Ballet in Moves
© Paul Kolnik

Sterling Hyltin owns The Concert. As the dancers come on stage for the beginning of the pianist’s recital, everyone is full of self-centered posturing. Robbins seems to be commenting on the various ways people fail to connect with music, and by extension, art. There are the two posers, there to be seen rather than to listen, the couple who are more concerned with their own squabble than the music, the dramatic dancer who just wants to show off how deeply she feels it with extravagant gestures designed to draw attention to herself and away from the music. But it’s Hyltin who comes out and places her seat directly next to the piano and hugs it out of pure love. Her daffy character is full of pettiness and off-kilter weirdness but she flat out loves the music and seems to be having the best time of anyone. Her best moment is the hat sketch in which she tries on several hats without success. She finally finds one that looks like Dr. Seuss’s Thing One and Thing Two. She is absurdly happy with it and saunters off joyfully until she runs into another woman wearing the same hat. Her deflation is epic. Andrew Veyette was riotously funny as the henpecked husband yearning to be free. Also great in this show was the Mistake Waltz in which the women kept messing up the steps and blamed each other. Pianist Elaine Chelton got into the spirit of the piece to get her own laughs and she was a fine accompanist.

Sterling Hyltin in <i>The Concert</i> © Paul Kolnik
Sterling Hyltin in The Concert
© Paul Kolnik

Special shout out to Andrew Litton’s See the Music mini-lecture that preceded the show. He gave some great background on Leonard Bernstein and Jerome Robbins hooking up to create Fancy Free which later became the Broadway hit, On the Town. I was skeptical at first of having to listen to a lecture but the stories he told enriched my enjoyment of the ballet. I could have lived without seeing Moves (and honestly, I hope never to see it again) but the rest of the show was vintage City Ballet. The ballet scene looks be hot and heavy this Spring. And welcome back to Georgina Pazcoguin from your Cats hiatus, you were missed.