New York City Ballet in Glass Pieces, photo by Paul Kolnik
A last-minute program change at New York City Ballet on Saturday evening placed two Balanchine works side by side: one was sharp and sexy while the other was chipper and sweet. Jerome Robbins’ Glass Pieces, which shifts from urban chaos to otherworldly calm, rounded out the evening to create a wonderfully moody triple bill.
Sandwiched between the two darker works on the program was Donizetti Variations, a cheerful piece complete with pink peasant dresses for the women. A few utterly silly moments didn’t contribute much to this breezy ballet, but Megan Fairchild and Joaquin De Luz were in command of the furiously fast footwork and bravura jumps. Fairchild beautifully maintained her composure and sweet expression even during the most technically challenging moments, but she is often cast in roles likes this one – with lots of technical pizzazz and little emotional depth. To see her in darker roles that allow for more emotional investigation would be both interesting and beneficial to her growth as an artist.
Stravinsky Violin Concerto was the more enticing Balanchine work on the program. While the opening Toccata and closing Capriccio are playful and upbeat, the first and second Arias evoke deeper moods. Debuting in the first Aria, Rebecca Krohn and Amar Ramasar gave a nuanced performance that emphasized Balanchine’s intricate partnering and the spirituality of Stravinsky’s score. Sterling Hyltin and Robert Fairchild brought dramatic flair to their performance in the pricklier second Aria, which is filled with sexual tension and tangled limbs. They’ve mastered one of the signature moments of this ballet: Fairchild dramatically places his hands over Hyltin’s knees as she, standing on pointe with arms extended overhead, turns in her legs and pliés so her knees are touching. Such riveting, innovative partnering has never looked better.
Jerome Robbins created the rhythmically pulsating Glass Pieces in 1983. Although the ballet was most likely named because of the three works it includes by composer Philip Glass, perhaps Robbins considered the large ensemble in the first and third sections to be shattered pieces of glass, each one set out on its own course while still part of a larger chaotic engine. The corps de ballet’s pedestrian walks in the first section reflect the repetitive structure of Rubric while establishing a chaotic streetscape. Three couples in neon unitards emerge, soaring through the space as cool, unearthly creatures that are utterly distinct from the chaos. They provide a preview of the second section’s slower duet to the eerie, hypnotizing sounds of Facades. While a line of women in silhouette rhythmically traverse along the back of the stage, Kaitlyn Gilliland (debuting in her role) floats across the stage with Sébastien Marcovici. Dramatic poses are interspersed with more fluid extensions and lifts that look mysterious under Ronald Bates’ golden lighting. Gilliland was occasionally reserved and cautious, but over time she will undoubtedly grow into this role. The third section is a return to chaos as a pack of men stomp to the percussive sounds of Akhnaten and the stage is flooded with bodies moving in every which way. The scene abruptly halts and there is a brief moment of calm before this thrilling ballet – always a powerful end to an evening of dance – comes to a close.