NYCB's Next Generation

Plus, the gala dinner setup was gorgeous! (photo via NYCB)

For ballet nerds like me, there are few things more exciting than watching young dancers develop into beautiful, authoritative artists. Last night, New York City Ballet's spring gala opened with a work that let some of my favorite rising stars prove just how much they've grown up.

That'd be Christopher Wheeldon's Soirée Musicale, an alternately elegant and playful little ballet that gives nearly every cast member a moment in the spotlight. And what a cast it was!

We got Brittany Pollack, Lauren Lovette, Taylor Stanley and Chase Finlay, recently-promoted dancers I've followed since their apprenticeships. And then there were the newbies I've just begun to pick out of the corps: Sara Adams, Harrison Ball, Indiana Woodward and Peter Walker.  Nearly all of them are under the age of 25—many have only been in the company for a year or two—but they danced with the confidence of seasoned pros. A special highlight came toward the end: a poignant, romantic pas de deux for Lauren and Chase that signaled what might be the beginning of a beautiful partnership.

The gala was packed with many other fun treats too, of course. There was a second premiere by Wheeldon, a pas de deux in homage to Jerome Robbins' West Side Story danced by the sublime Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild. There was the exhilarating nonstop acceleration of the final section of Robbins' Glass Pieces, featuring what seemed like the entire company. Queen Latifah stopped by to serenade Sterling Hyltin and Amar Ramasar as they glided through Balanchine's "The Man I Love" pas de deux from Who Cares?. And Ashley Bouder and Andrew Veyette had a jaw-dropping "anything you can do, I can do better" competition in the cheeky Stars and Stripes pas de deux.

But it was those young, newly-minted stars that stuck with me as I left Lincoln Center last night. In a gala that was all about high-wattage brilliance, they shone brightest.

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