Brillante," "Tarantella," "Tala Gaisma," "Musagete"
George Balanchine’s influence was ubiquitous at the New York State Theater Wednesday, in a program that began with two of his lighter works and ended with a heavy-handed tribute, Boris Eifman’s "Musagete." In between was Peter Martins’ new work Tala Gaisma, with its echoes of Balanchine's first signature piece, "Apollo."
The evening got off to a flying start with Jenifer Ringer leading a fast-paced performance of "Allegro Brillante." This was Balanchine style—the speedy footwork, the effortless high battements, but above all the lines of the upper body, arms darting out to their full length and projecting energy beyond. Ringer’s attack was mirrored in the dashing double quartet of a corps, especially Rachel Rutherford, who ripped through her steps, skimming the floor and splashing her skirt in the air for extra flair. Ringer’s partner Nilas Martins was calm and correct, seemingly unmoved by all the agitation.
This opening "Allegro" was followed, after a brief pause, by the even speedier "Tarantella." Joaquin de Luz and Megan Fairchild look set to put their signatures on this piece for a while. They are an adorable, lively team, whacking their tambourines with gusto and right on the beat. And de Luz has become a world-class leaper. Fairchild occasionally struggled to keep up with the pace set by conductor Richard Moredock, but de Luz seemed to relish the tempo, even as he toured the stage with his flying jetes.
After missing last week’s premiere because of injury, Jock Soto joined the cast of Martins’ "Tala Gaisma," and the piece was stronger for it. Still, it’s a gloomy business, with murky lighting effects (by the way, the title means “distant light” in Latvian) and long grey curtains that make the set look like a funeral parlor. Somebody called it the anti-"Apollo"—the tale of three Muses who, rather than teach their arts to a young God, tempt and tease a poor human who throws up his arms in despair at the end. You might also see it as "MacBeth." Sofiane Sylve, Darci Kistler and Miranda Weese could be the “weird sisters” whose prophecies lead the hero on, and who then fade away as his fate envelopes him. The dancers gave it their best, effectively delineating their styles to the interesting, varied themes of Peteris Vasks’ violin concerto. Sylve was stretched-out and sexy to a sliding, skittering opening theme; Kistler was gentle and lyrical to a melodic section; and Weese came on angular and thrusting to a scherzo pizzicato. Soto’s partnering was as dynamic as ever; one striking sequence had him whirling a seated woman around on the floor, as if he was stirring a cauldron. Jared Angle was clear and forceful in his gestures when he substituted last week, but no one matches Soto’s pure strength and intensity.
The evening ended with Boris Eifman’s "Musagete," coyly described by the choreographer as “not a biographical ballet,” yet filled with achingly literal references to Balanchine’s life and works. Robert Tewsley, in the lead part, looked more like Lincoln Kirstein than Balanchine, and acted like an anguished poet, burying his head in his hands and sliding around the stage in a black chair. Mercifully, the piece ends with a Balanchine-type neo-classical finale, bravely led by Maria Kowroski, Alexandra Ansanelli, and Wendy Whelan. Free at last from their roles in the soap-opera plot, they can dance as themselves, which is what Balanchine is really all about.