REVIEW: ‘Balanchine: The City Center Years’ performed by world’s best ballet companies

Balanchine: The City Center Years opened with a spectacular first night (read review of first night) and the second night continued the star-studded celebration showcasing three more ballets and a different version of Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux performed by the world’s best ballet companies, with the addition of San Francisco Ballet to the impressive cast of Mariinsky Ballet, The Royal Ballet and New York City Ballet.

Xander Parish, the British male principal dancer with the Mariinsky, showed his elegance posing just as the curtain raised as he portrayed Balanchine’s Apollo, with his movements long and endless. This ballet is expressive, showing both the emotions of Apollo and his muses. Portraying the muses were three young dancers, which is interesting to see the Mariinsky Theatre giving an opportunity to these young women to dance internationally with one of their principal dancers. What an experience!

Maria Khoreva (who has a famous Instagram account) was noticeable in between the three women and had beautiful connected moments as dance partners with Mr. Parish. This Apollo showed the exuberant Russian style: long lines, high extension of the legs, and natural turnout and flexible feet, while maintaining the elegance of the ballet. The three ladies, though young, demonstrated maturity toward the ballet while Mr. Parish showed everything he has learned in Russia to the American audience.

A 15-minute intermission transferred us to Bach’s music and showed a now elegant New York City Ballet performing Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco. The choreography is full of repetitive formations, showing beautiful patterns as the corps de ballet moves. The two lead dancers, Maria Kowroski and Abi Stafford had a good connection while being front and center. This ballet has Mr. B’s practical footwork and is simple in scenery and costumes: ladies wear white and the male dancer wears black tights, white top.

Ms. Korowski, long and elegant, demonstrates her training at the School of American Ballet and her experience in New York City Ballet on every move, which were all full of fluidity. The ballet concluded with the beautiful finale as the audience made their ovations.

The audience enjoyed a different Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux with Marcelino Sambé and Anna Rose O’Sullivan from The Royal Ballet. The couple, just as the night before, showed a great connection on stage. Ms. Sullivan footwork was also noticeably clean and she has a beautiful use of the upper body. Mr. Sambé showed strength, with incredibly executed jumps and tours, and high artistry. Both dancers executed precise solos, and they were highly applauded.

In the finale, Ms. Sullivan’s diving into Mr. Sambé’s arms made the audience gasp with both fright and enjoyment, since they seemed like extremely risky jumps, yet the dancers were naturally secure. This second round of “Tchai Pas” was highly different than the one of the night before, demonstrating how different the dancers are trained in London and St. Petersburg.



San Francisco Ballet: Divertimento no. 15. Photo by Paul Kolnik

San Francisco Ballet concluded the night with Mozart’s ‘Divertimento No. 15.’ This colorful Balanchine ballet has more dynamics between six lead female dancers in flowerful, yellow tutus and their partners, and a greatly coordinated corps de ballet in blue tutus.

The six lead dancers were detailed and correct, especially during their variations or solos. When the couples danced together they performed not as soloists but as one unified corps de ballet. The ballet has a joyful mood, full of stamina and technique, and San Francisco Ballet did an excellent job bringing well-executing dancers for the ballet.

As the full house made their way out of the theatre, whispers could be heard about the coming third, fourth, fifth and sixth performances and no doubt there won’t be an empty seat for this Balanchine legacy celebration.