Several of my recent blogs have been about New York City Ballet — I'm addicted to this company and have been going to Lincoln Center as often as possible. Last night I saw Founding Choreographers I, which was a series of four works choreographed by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.
I've definitely got a few favorite NYCB dancers, but last night I was hoping to expand my horizons and learn to love a few more. While everyone was spectacular, it was the usual suspects (Maria Kowroski, Kathryn Morgan, Sterling Hyltin and Daniel Ulbricht) who brought me to my feet at the end of the night.
To recap: First up was Monumentum Pro Gesualdo, a Balanchine piece. Maria Kowroski danced the lead role, hitting penches that extended beyond 180 degrees. She's such a classic dancer, which is why I think being a principal at NYCB is such a good fit for her. She's got the legs and lines of a prima ballerina and the kind of natural stage presence that only comes from a dancer who truly loves being on stage. I loved the simplicity of this piece and the one that followed, Movements for Piano and Orchestra, also choreographed by Balanchine. In both works, the female dancers were outfitted in simple white leotards while the men wore white shirts and black pants. The basic costumes made it easy to focus on the precise movements of each dancer. In true NYCB form, everything was executed perfectly.
Next was Robbins' Dances at a Gathering. This slow, romantic piece was so easy on the eyes. The girls all wore different colored pastel dresses — I liked the blue dress best, worn by Kathryn Morgan. I expected Morgan to steal the show for me, as she always does, but this time Sterling Hyltin was the one who really grasped my attention. My seat was close enough to the stage that I could really see the dancers' facial expressions, and Hyltin won me over with her ever-present smile. She's absolutely adorable to watch. The highlight of this piece was when three of the girls — Rebecca Krohn, Morgan and Hyltin) were tossed from one male dancer to the next. The audience gasped when Hyltin made at least two axel-like rotations in the air before she was caught.
The last piece — and the main reason I went to the show last night — was Balanchine's Stars & Stripes. You may remember this costume from the January 2008 cover of DS — Kathryn Morgan was wearing it then! This high-energy, fun piece is broken up into five campaigns. The first, Corcoran Cadets, was led by Erica Pereira. She's only a corps member right now, so I'm picking her out as one to watch. Her technique was flawless and she's already got a decent resume, having danced the Marzipan and Dewdrop roles in The Nutcracker. She commanded her cadets well! The second campaign, Rifle Regiment, was led by Savannah Lowery. Admittedly I watched this entire piece waiting for the next one: Thunder and Gladiator, led by my all-time favorite dancer, Daniel Ulbricht. This all-male campaign is tight, precise and includes lots of jumping. Ulbricht didn't necessarily have a breakout role here, as he mainly stayed with his group rather than solo choreography, but his star quality is still undeniable. He can jump, leap and turn, all the while showing off a smile that'll make you melt. The fourth campaign, the Liberty Bell and El Capitan pas de deux, was danced by Sara Mearns and Charles Askegard (You know this one: Ethan Stiefel and Julie Kent danced it in the movie Center Stage!). It was beautifully done, as was the fifth campaign, Stars and Stripes, which was a grand finale number.
All in all, another great night spent at the David H. Koch Theater. NYCB, you never let me down!