Tiler Peck and Andrew Veyette in Balanchine's "Allegro Brillante" (Photo by Paul Kolnik)
An evening to celebrate the mastery and versatility of choreographer George Balanchine ended up being an evening that elevated the object of his affection – the ballerina.
The stars of Thursday’s New York City Ballet All-Balanchine program at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center were Tiler Peck in “Allegro Brillante” and Sara Mearns in “Swan Lake.” Both gave performances that were outstanding, worthy of remembrance for all time.
First, let’s talk about Peck. She has always been a favorite with audiences. But now, at the peak of her abilities, she has become one of the most lovable and accomplished ballerinas in the company. Her vivacious optimism seduces audiences to follow her anywhere. And in this bravura role, she combined her iron technique with her sparkle; and she became perfection.
Swooping and swirling into the arms of Andrew Veyette, it appeared that Balanchine created the role for her. Peck transcended human limitations to become the Tchaikovsky music.
Then there was Mearns who shattered hearts in with her delicate rendering of Odette, the bewitched princess in Balanchine’s condensed “Swan Lake.” Her strength, her beauty and her emotive capacity took audiences through the joys and sorrows of unrequited love.
The adagio sections with Prince Siegfried Jared Angle were especially affecting – her backbends, her fainting falls, her trembling arms and her tiptoeing through her tenuous position spoke of her desire and despair.
Angle, for his part, was a mere adornment, hardly noticed in the presence of Mearns. And perhaps, that is how Balanchine wanted it as he was known to say that ballet is woman. Certainly, the founder of New York City Ballet would be touched by how his ballets continue to inspire dancers and audiences.
Also wonderful was Balanchine’s “Tarantella,” the humorous, sporty ballet, which was danced by Erica Pereira and Joaquin de Luz. De Luz was especially saucy as he kicked up his heels, showing off his firecracker style, in this short and lively ballet.
It’s a shame that the evening ended on a sour note. “Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto” looked awkward and twisted. Taylor Stanley and Rebecca Krohn in the first aria appeared unprepared. At one point, Krohn knocked Stanley in the face with her foot.
Sterling Hyltin and Chase Finley were better, but also out of touch with each other. One of the most memorable moments is when the two dancers jump, turn and land together, facing each other. Hyltin and Finley didn’t coordinate their movements, which ruined what should have been a memorable visual spike.
The bright Capriccio finale with the ensemble somewhat redeemed the duet dancing, but it was hard to shake from the mind’s eye what went before.
Of course, every night, the New York City Ballet Orchestra hits all the right notes. Under the baton of Daniel Capps, the music soared.