REVIEW: The last night of ‘Balanchine: The City Center Years’ was full of elegance and beauty

The Joffrey Ballet in 'The Four Temperaments.' Photo by Cheryl Mann

The epic Balanchine celebration at the New York City Center concluded with a yet again full house, hosting the Joffrey Ballet, the Mariinsky Ballet, The Paris Opera Ballet, and finally, American Ballet Theatre.

The enthusiastic audience of New York gave standing ovations for some of the pieces, and both them and the performers closed this five-day event with warm arms.

The Joffrey Ballet opened the program with simple, black and white costumes that are the soul of Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments. The company’s four different couples made the ballet look precise and correct, yet simple and fluid.

The beautiful score by Paul Hindemith gives depth and character to a choreography that is set to the simplest of costumes, and the Joffrey Ballet made sure the movements were true to Mr. B. Mr. Yoshihisa Arai, performing the Melancholic Variation, kept the audience engaged with true movements, also getting deeply involved with the corps de ballet surrounding him.

Ms. Victoria Jaiani, bringing her long and strong extensions and lines, brought elegance and grace to the final variation; she was joined then by the full ensemble to finish the piece with honest Balanchine movements: lots of hips and excellent footwork.

The Joffrey Ballet’s corps de ballet did an incredible job staying together, with both precision and softness, specifically during the final ensemble, where you could see The Four Temperament’s beautiful, large cast of dancers.

After the first intermission, Etoile Hugo Marchand and Premier Danseur Sae-Eun Park from the Paris Opera Ballet brought to the stage an exquisite Midsummer Night’s Dream pas de deux.

With a broad difference to Sir Frederick Ashton’s version, this Tatiana and Oberon do not have the typical fairy-like costumes, however, they are unique and truly Balanchine’s style. The couple made no mistakes, making all the transitions as delicate as possible. Both dancers had a natural grace that made their performance delicate and fine.

Mr. Marchand made her partner fly, and mastered all the complicated one-hand promenades, while Ms. Park finished every movement with high quality. The audience applauded loudly as they made their bows.

Once again, the Mariinsky Theatre presented the iconic Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. This time, Ms. Victoria Tereshkina seemed more confident than the first night, and still kept the finest Russian style in her performance. Mr. Kimin Kim’s performance made the audience stay on top of their seats once again, jumping as high as taking flight, and landing as quiet as a feather. Their connection as dance partners was stronger than the first time they performed, and the audience applauded in standing ovation as they finished.

American Ballet Theatre culminated the afternoon and the festival with Symphonie Concertante. A ballet full of women in elegant tutus, six soloists, one man, and two lead women, the piece truly represents what Mr. Balanchine wanted in his classical pieces, “Ballet is women,” he used to say.

Indeed, ABT’s corps de ballet, whose women seemed quite young, executed excellent lines, formations, and carefully timed movements. The tutus seemed like they were multiplying beautifully. As for the two leading women, in this case, Ms. Christine Shevchenko and Devon Teuscher, had a challenging job. One represents the violin, and the other, the viola. Therefore, the choreography is based on this question-answer (or canon) style, and both of the dancers executed the steps right, in music, and with precision.

This ballet is full of stamina, and seeing the two leading women making it to the end with almost not leaving the stage was a joy. The accomplished American Ballet Theatre also received standing ovations; and even when I think the New York City Ballet should have closed the festival, ABT definitely performed the perfect piece to end this successful celebration.

Definitely, more festivals like this should be hosted in different parts of the world. This time, I am sure Mr. Balanchine would have been thrilled to watch such an event in his honour.