How lucky I am to live in a city where I can head over to Lincoln Center and catch an entire evening’s worth of Balanchine ballets, performed by the stellar artists that make up New York City Ballet. This gift is not lost on me; I may be becoming a jaded New Yorker, occasionally cynical and impressed by little, but I feel quite a thrill attending the ballet. The show I saw on Tuesday night at the Koch Theater was comprised of four Balanchine pieces – The Four Temperaments, Episodes, Duo Concertant, and Symphony in Three Movements – and the program was called “All Balanchine: Black & White.” (The costumes for each of these pieces were mostly black and white tights and leotards or tops for the men.)

Janie Taylor and Sébastien Marcovici in Episodes, © Paul Kolnik
Janie Taylor and Sébastien Marcovici in Episodes,
© Paul Kolnik

Megan Fairchild, in Duo Concertant, was pleasingly lilting and expressive even as her crisp feet mastered a deceptively swift petite allegro. She is wonderfully poised even in moments of necessary alacrity. Moments where she and partner Chase Finlay, however, took a break from dancing to stand near the two onstage musicians and just listen, with chests heaving from recent exertion, felt cheesy. (I could’ve done without Mr Angle’s collar bling on his black leotard, too.) In Episodes, Janie Taylor was all inverted knees and flexed feet – confident and compelling even in Balanchine’s angular and modern manipulative partnering with Sébastien Marcovici.

The two pieces which bookended the evening, however, were my favorites. Robert Fairchild, in the “Melancholic” solo of The Four Temperaments, somehow managed to combine bravura and vulnerability successfully. His supple back arched again and again, with arms extended back and a toe in tendu in front of him, and nothing felt rushed or melodramatic. In one particularly exciting passage, he traversed the upstage diagonal with a pique arabesque that quickly flipped 180 degrees so that he balanced, effortlessly, with his leg extended in front of him, even as his torso fell backward into air. Each piqué flip was perfectly balanced and nearly gasp-inducing – he had complete control of his body in space. Ashley Bouder, who led the “Choleric” section, was a whirling dervish of movement and turns from the moment she entered. Though she took a spill after the first set, she was up in an instant and so completely centered and fiercely focused that I think she could’ve balanced on the head of a pin. I felt as if I could feel the heat of her gaze and muscle control from my seat in the last row of the orchestra.

But it is Sterling Hyltin, as the lead in Symphony in Three Movements, who I found the most arresting. This piece has a large corps and much unison movement (with ponytails freely flying), and Stravinsky’s intense score is adrenalin-inducing. When you combine these two factors with Ms Hyltin’s thrilling entrance from upstage center, with developpés and piqués so fast as to seem artificially sped up, you get a palpable rush. Ms Hyltin never cuts off a movement; she is on top of the music, speedy without short, exuberant yet controlled, light as a feather and sharp as a tack. Her power and presence pervaded the piece.

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