Friday, March 4, 2016

Ballet Review: New York City Ballet at the Kennedy Center

I always try to take whatever chance I get to see a ballet at the Kennedy Center. It's a beautiful venue, and they have the best companies perform there. A friend and I went to see the New York City Ballet perform there earlier this week. They performed not just one piece, but bits of larger pieces (similar to what they did last April), which is quite interesting. I really enjoyed this particular performance!

1. Ash

Image found here.
I want to describe this piece as modern dance, but it really wasn't. Most of the moves were very much from classical ballet. Maybe it was just the music that was modern? This piece premiered in 1991, so it is new-ish. There was no scenery (other than the blue screen behind the dancers), and their Star Trek-inspired costumes (which were a bit androgynous) were modest. These simplicities allowed me to focus more on the music, which I will admit is usually just in the background for me when I watch ballet.
Image found here.
Ashley Laracey and Taylor Stanley danced the main roles, and I thought they were phenomenal. Stanley is a very strong dancer, and Laracey was absolutely beautiful. We had such close seats that we could see the sweat coming off the dancers as they moved around the stage, but they seemed to keep their cool!

2. After the Rain (excerpt)

Image found here.
This pas de deux was amazing. It was very intimate and sexy, which I loved. I pictured this dance as a couple in their bedroom before going to bed (maybe because Jared Angle looked like he was wearing PJ pants?). The connection between Angle and Tiler Peck was very clear, and they truly looked like a real couple. They were almost always touching during the entire dance, and for the many times Angle was lifting/carrying Peck, he never looked like he was straining to do so. The movements were so interesting and so well done that I was captivated by these dancers! At the curtain call, Peck was given a dozen roses, and she immediately gave one to Angle, which I thought was a really sweet, genuine gesture. Bravo for these two!

Here's a video of the same piece from the Joffrey Ballet:

3. The Infernal Machine

Image found here.
This piece was aptly named! The stage was dark, the music was was all very intense with a martial feel about it. The dancing was very acrobatic, which was very cool to watch. I was impressed that Laracey, who had just danced in Ash, was the main dancer for this piece was well. Her partner, Amar Ramasar, was really great, and the two complimented each other well for this dance. She gave him a rose after the performance, but it didn't feel genuine; I think she just did it because the dancer before her did it. Just do your own thing!

Click here for a video clip of this piece.
4. Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2

Image found here.
This was definitely the most classic piece of the evening. I mean, the music was Tchaikovsky and the choreography was George Balanchine! What is more "classical ballet" than that?! The music and dancing were beautiful, and the piano (played by Susan Walters) was incredible. She received a long round of applause afterward!

Photo by Paul Kolnik. Image found here.
Teresa Reichlen and Tyler Angle danced well together and were the epitome of a classic ballet duo!

Photo by Paul Kolnik. Image found here.
Ana Sophia Scheller was also fabulous and gorgeous in this costume! She definitely stood out!

Click here for a video of this piece.

5. The Most Incredible Thing

The King (weird!), the Princess, and the Creator. See image notes at the bottom of this post.
This was the longest piece of the evening. The program book explained the story very well, which was helpful, since I'm not sure I would have known what was going on! Here's a summary: A king wants to find a husband for his princess daughter (Sterling Hyltin), but he will only give her hand in marriage to someone who can create "the most incredible thing." A young man (Taylor Stanley) creates an amazing clock that is brought to life (which is the main part of the dance). Another man then comes in and destroys everything, but the clock comes back to life, so the Creator gets the girl and they live happily ever after (I assume). I really enjoyed how well Hyltin and Stanley danced together; there was a good connection, and you really thought they were in love!

Each small piece of the dance represents a part of the clock, as follows:

One O'Clock (& Ten O'Clock): The Cuckoo Bird. Image found here.

Tiler Peck performed as the Cuckoo Bird from the top of the clock, and she did a beautiful job! Her dances were short but memorable, and that costume was amazing!

Two O'Clock: Adam and Eve. Image found here.
Adrian Danchig-Waring and Rebecca Krohn played this part, and they were fantastic! The costumes were obvious yet subtle, and it was so funny when "Eve" actually bit into an apple on stage and then both dancers ran off, ashamed of their "nakedness."

Three O'Clock: The Three Kings. Image found here.
I was expecting something a little more Biblical, but Jared Angle, Daniel Applebaum, and Gonzalo Garcia were fun to watch (not sure if they are actually the men featured in this picture).

Four O'Clock: The Four Seasons. See image notes at the bottom of this post.
I did not read the program notes before this part, so it took me a little while to figure out how these four dancers were representing the four seasons. But once I figured out that Brittany Pollack was a nest, then the birds (Marika Anderson as the "Winter Crow" and Gwyneth Muller as the "Spring Bird") made sense (though I was still confused about Andrew Scordato as a grasshopper). I thought this was an interesting way to portray the four seasons, but due to the confusion, maybe being more obvious wouldn't have hurt. Dancers representing leaves, snowflakes, flowers, and sunshine would have been just as beautiful to represent the four seasons!

Five O'Clock: The Five Senses. Image found here.
These costumes really missed the mark for me. They look like the Coneheads! The only way they even represented one of the senses was when they pulled their dresses over their heads (sight). It would have been much more interesting to have a different costume for each sense, just like with the seasons. I'm not exactly sure how you might portray taste and sound, but there are some very creative people out there: someone could have figured it out!

Six O'Clock: The Gambler. Image found here.
Daniel Ulbricht was "The Gambler," and I thought he was quite funny, pretending to roll dice and jumping about the stage. The xylophone played during this piece, and sounded a bit like a Roulette wheel, which was only appropriate for this piece.

Seven O'Clock: Seven Deadly Sins/Seven Days of the Week (though only six are shown here). Image found here.
Again, the costumes to represent the "Seven Deadly Sins" could have been extraordinarily creative! Envy could be green, Wrath could be red, etc. But the only way these costumes looked "sinful" was with the little devilish horns that each dancer was wearing. As for the "Seven Days of the Week," I suppose the costumes worked on that angle: all of them are very similar, but still look different, since each day is not completely identical to the one before it. The dancing was good, but I will admit that I was too busy thinking over the costumes to pay too much attention to the actual dance.

Eight O'Clock: The Eight Monks. Image found here.
I thought these guys looked more like wizards than monks (but then I figured that if they dressed like traditional monks people may have been religiously offended). I thought this piece was Harry Potter all the way. And I'm not sure what the number eight has to do with monks. Why not dress up a dancer like a spider? Or FOUR dancers like spiders, each one representing a pair of legs on the arachnid? Now that would have been cool!

Nine O'Clock: The Nine Muses. Image found here.
These dancers look like the muses of Tim Burton:

See the resemblance? Image found here.
Again, the Nine Muses could have been portrayed in so many ways! Having each dancer represent one of the original Greek Muses would have been very interesting! Even just having them all wear toga-like costumes would have gotten the point across, and quite frankly would have been more beautiful (rather than slightly creepy). As usual, the dancing was good, but I thought the costumes were too distracting.

Image found here.
Eleven O'Clock was "The Children" (seated in the picture above). They were so cute and looked like little silver mushrooms! They threw sparkles around the stage playing a magical version of "Duck, Duck, Goose."And Twelve O'Clock was the full cast back on stage.

Not the same dancer I saw, but you get the idea. Image found here.
It is then that the Destroyer (Andrew Veyette) comes in and starts ruining everything! The club hand was a little weird (a sword would have been just fine), but I thought Veyette was good at playing the bad guy! But he is defeated by all of the members of the clock, and all ends well.

These were all quite creative pieces, and I really enjoyed the performance as a whole. The New York City Ballet does not disappoint!

*Image notes for both montage pictures (click to see image location):
Fall Nest
Winter Crow
Spring Bird
Summer Grasshopper


  1. Looks like a really interesting performance, and the type of ballet I like! I wish it had been another week when I was less busy. I'll have to catch them next time they're in town!

  2. one of the ideal moves were very much from classical ballet. Maybe it was just the music that was modern? This piece premiered, so much entertaining.

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    1. Thank you for your comment! Stay tuned for a new blog post on the New York City Ballet (seeing them soon!).