A Star-Studded Evening at NYCB

In nearly every one of my blogs, I write about how great it is to work at Dance Spirit. Last night, as I lingered outside NYC's always-breathtaking Lincoln Center with my eyes glued to the star-studded red carpet, I found myself (yet again) thinking that I have the best job in the world. The celebration: New York City Ballet's spring gala, which included two world premiere ballets by Benjamin Millepied and Alexei Ratmansky. The evening kicked off NYCB's Architecture of Dance festival that will be going on all season. Take note, people: There are some must-sees coming from the company, so get your tickets now!

 

The first part of my night was, of course, spent standing by that illustrious fountain in the middle of Lincoln Center and watching the glitterati parade into the David H. Koch Theater. There were dancers galore (those not performing that night) all decked out, and they looked amazing. My favorites: Maria Kowroski in a stunningly bedazzled gown, Tiler Peck in a short, bright green frock and Joaquin de Luz, looking dashing in a perfectly fitted tux. Sarah Jessica Parker posed on the red carpet with NYCB's Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins, and Darci Kistler, while Mikhail Baryshnikov strolled through the lobby. Natalie Portman, who is dating Benjamin Millepied, was there as well, in a shiny red ensemble, looking dainty and darling, as always. Not bad for a Thursday night at the ballet!

 

Onto the show... In a great opening video presentation by Kristin Sloan, the audience was introduced to Santiago Calatrava, the brilliant architect who designed the sets for NYCB this season. His designs ("scenography," as he calls them) will appear in five pieces throughout the season, including those by Melissa Barak, Mauro Bigonzetti, Peter Martins, Millepied and Christopher Wheeldon. It was incredible to see the way architecture and dance can come together to form visual artistry. After a lovely (and truly appreciative) speech by Mr. Martins, including a toast to Mr. Calatrava and his wife, the evening got underway.

 

First up was the world premiere of Benjamin Millepied's Why am I not where you are. I was thrilled to see Kathryn Morgan, a DS favorite, taking the place of leading lady Janie Taylor for the evening. When we first wrote about Morgan, she was quickly rising through the corps at NYCB. Now, as a soloist, she's getting tons of opportunities to shine, including debuting in Millepied's piece last night. Also taking center stage in the piece: Sara Mearns, Sean Suozzi and Amar Ramasar. When the curtain rose, revealing a giant arch-like set by Calatrava, the audience gasped. But for me, that was the most exciting part of the ballet—the set. The dancing didn't do it for me. The costumes (bright, shiny and a bit too circus-like for my taste) were distracting, and the choreography seemed too quick for the dancers to keep up with. Even Mearns, who is always so beautifully poised and controlled, didn't totally seem in her element throughout the work. I did adore Sean Suozzi the whole time. He's a firecracker of a dancer and I look forward to seeing more from him this season.

 

What I loved about the evening: Alexei Ratmansky's world premiere of Namouna, A Grand Divertissement. And I think it's quite safe to say the whole audience loved it as well. The piece began with an energetic (though never over-the-top) female corps parading onto the stage in lovely, pale yellow dresses and black wigs (they looked sort of like shower caps—silly at first, but they grew on me). One thing I found particularly impressive about Ratmansky's work was his staging and formations. The lines were always perfect (Great for me, I've got a touch of OCD when it comes to that stuff!) and he really knows how to utilize a big floor.

 

The leads in Ratmansky's piece were Wendy Whelan (regal, amazing, always breathtaking to watch), Robert Fairchild (arguably the most gorgeous male dancer of our time), Jenifer Ringer (hilariously adorable as a flirty sparkplug), Sara Mearns (much more in her element this time around), Daniel Ulbricht (in his typical jester-like, trick-filled role) and the dancing duo of Megan Fairchild and Abi Stafford who, for me, were the highlight of the piece. Ms. Fairchild and Stafford not only look remarkably alike, but they also dance so well together. Their whimsical, bouncy, playful jaunts onstage with Daniel Ulbricht had the audience in a fit of giggles. A true testament to the genius that is Alexei Ratmansky: He had the crowd laughing, gasping and smiling over and over throughout the hour-long piece.

 

All in all, it was a fantastic evening with New York City Ballet. I'm so excited for the spring season. Hope to see you there!

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