Another great ballet-packed day on Saturday, this time with our fix of New York City Ballet. The afternoon performance started off with Allegro Brillante.
Next came Peter Martins' Zakouski, a pas de deux set to four violin and piano pieces by four different composers. The title means “hors d'oeuvres” in Russian, and indeed it is a lively appetizer kind of ballet. Although with Martins ballets I often find that they would be improved by some judicious editing, with this one I was surprised to find myself enjoying it so much that I wished it were longer. Joaquin de Luz was typically a showstopper with his expertly timed turns and beaming personality, matched by Megan Fairchild's flirtatious virtuosity, including three amazing jumps with flexed feet landing on second relevé on pointe. This was a very fun ballet and if you have a chance to see it, you should definitely go.
Next came Fancy Free, a ballet which is enjoyable no matter how many times one sees it. A standout in the cast was Robert Fairchild as the somewhat goofy, dreamy sailor whom the other two take advantage of. Finally, Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3, the “extended” version of Theme and Variations. In the last movement Ashley Bouder was brilliant. Andrew Veyette was a little shakier, especially in the fiendish principal solo, and I find that he lacks polish and could pay more attention to his hands and pointed feet and the steps in between the big moves.
Before the evening performance started, we were treated to a tour of the David H. Koch theatre by NYCB corps dancer Troy Schumacher, whom the entire group found very charming. In passing we also got to say hello to Principal Jared Angle who was escorting another group, and who had been our tour guide on our last trip to see NYCB, in 2010.
Troy arrived already madeup, explaining that as luck would have it for him, he had learned shortly before that he was being “thrown on” in the first ballet of the night, Donizetti Variations, with only a half-hour emergency rehearsal (though he had performed it a few weeks back, though in a different position in the cast). This was also lucky for us, since it's always great to see someone dancing after you've just made their acquaintance.
He told us how he was from Atlanta, with a jazz musician-turned-chiropractor father and a Broadway singer mother. His love for dance, he told us, started out with an obsession for tap, fired by obsessively (his own word) watching Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire movies. Slowly it began to dawn on him that noone was making big Hollywood movies around tap dancers anymore and that the job opportunities in tap were somewhat limited. He wangled his way into an Atlanta Ballet Nutcracker run and thus was exposed to ballet, becoming as obsessive about it as he had been about tap. Interestingly, he said that his original aim was to dance in a company featuring the big story ballets that he watched his idol Mikhail Baryshnikov dancing on his collection of ballet videos, but after joining the School of American Ballet and attending NYCB performances every night he fell in love with the more abstract repertoire, and was thrilled when Peter Martins offered him a job when he graduated (seven years ago now). He explained that NYCB dancers are employed for 38 weeks a year, with 14 weeks of unemployment. As a corps member, he said he gets to dance more often (about 4 times a week) than a soloist or principal, as in addition to dancing corps roles, NYCB corps dancers can often be given a principal role to dance, unlike in some companies where the more rigid hierarchy sees only dancers with the rank of principal dancing the principal roles in a ballet. His favourite role is Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream as it allows him some liberty to invest the role with personality.
As we stood on the stage of the David H. Koch theatre (so now we can all say we have appeared live on stage at Lincoln Center!), he pointed out that the theatre's architect had thought of the theatre as a “jewel box”. We left Troy half an hour before curtain-up, and were very appreciative that he could spare us his time so soon before he had to be on stage.
For an in-depth interview with Troy, click here.
For an in-depth interview with Troy, click here.
We learned another story about being thrown on in Donizetti Variations from the interesting “Fourth Position” pre-performance talk given by two enthusiastic docents. Peter Martins was called on to replace the injured leading man in one performance, with a grand total of 15 minutes to learn the role. Having seen how fiendishly virtuosic it is, performed impressively by Ashley Bouder and Andrew Veyette, one is astounded that this was even possible. Kudos to Veyette for managing to perform Theme, Donizetti, and Fancy Free all in one day!
If you love ballet, please check out my season of outstanding ballet trips by clicking here.
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