NYCB is continuing to expand its repertoire from NeoClassical works into Classical favorites. This time they have mounted a production of La Slyphide. At first I was leery about buying tickets for this production. NYCB has a certain upper body style that isn't Classical. There were questions regarding the company's ability to dance in the style of Bournonville's soft romanticism. Reports around the web said they could and they did, their new production established that NYCB is breaking ground and becoming a full, all around company that can perform Balanchine and Classical works. So all the good reviews inspired me to buy a last minute ticket to yesterday's matinee performance.
Bournonville Divertissements opened the program with its dancers in bravura style. This production was mounted by SAB teacher Stanley Williams at the behest of Balanchine. Balanchine was an admirer of Bournonville's quick footwork choreography and he wanted his company to take advantage of it.
The true standout dancer of the Ballabile segment was Taylor Stanley. He performed the quick footwork easily. The audience truly appreciated his fantastic petit allegro paired with elegant upper body form. He rather outshone the rest of the dancers but I wasn't going to complain about that fact. I would complain about the strange costume that he was required to wear. It was a one piece, sailor suit shorts set that would look more presentable on a toddler. Another area that made Stanley noticeable were that the other men in the ballet were all the same type. They were very tall, a little lanky, with impressive extensions. While it looked good, there were some problems which were evident in the Pas De Six segment.
The Pas De Deux was danced by Ashley Isaacs and Antonio Carmena (subbing for Zachary Catanzaro). While they were good, I can't say either impressed me. I found myself longing to watch Stanley in this part of the ballet.
The Pas De Six standout was Indiana Woodward. She performed the footwork with ease along with exquisite upper body form and bright musicality. The other female dancers seemed to struggle with the musicality, the phrasing of the steps didn't seem to match the music. The male dancers looked great but their lanky limbs couldn't fit the power of the steps. They seemed too relaxed, too interested in extending limbs to a beautiful picture. Then rushing to catch up after the slight pauses.
The corps was in good form and backed up the leads very nicely.
After the intermission, La Slyphide began.
Ashley Bouder was an elegant Slyph. She didn't exactly have the sprightliness that Sterling Hyltin has in the role. But she danced in a very sweet natured style that was lovely to watch. The star of the two leads was Andrew Vedette. He acted the mime sections very well. In fact the whole company did well in this aspect. I was able to read the mime easily and the intentions of the characters.
The best surprise of the opening act was Megan LeCrone as Effie. The last time I saw her dance, she was one of the Valkyrie-like leads of Agon. But in this play she was very soft and girly. A totally different dancer than the one I expected. She also handled the mime acting wonderfully and portrayed an excited young bride.
The Corps and Students from SAB performed the folk dances of the opening scene with a lot of verve. I had no complaints, all of them were very individual with good characterization.
Madge was played by Marika Anderson. I found myself liking and disliking the take on this character. Basically Madge was played as a funny, old lady who seemed harmless. James over reaction to her was a little confusing. Why would he object to an old women warming her bones by a fire? This leads to the ultimate intention of the ballet. If Madge is just a silly little hearth witch than James deserves his fate. But if she is truly an evil presence than James is a very tragic, Romantic hero caught in circumstances beyond his powers. Since this is a Romantic ballet, I lean toward the latter interpretation and this is where the NYCB version had a bit of failure. The end of their production makes it seem as though James is at fault for being an idiot chasing his dreams not a man caught between the perfection of a Slyph and the evil plots of a malevolent witch.
The second act in the Sylph world carries on with the interpretation that James is being delusional. The play departs from the realism of the 1st act and portrays the woods of the slyph in a very surrealist style. The backdrop is filled with purples, blues and greens in a neon, day glo effect.
The corps was truly beautiful. They danced with a softness I have never seen in NYCB dancers. Their arms were fully classical with a roundness that I didn't think they were capable of being ingrained as they are with Balanchine style. Clearly they were all coached and drilled very well in the Bournonville style. The two standouts were Olivia Boisson and Ashley Hod.
This was ultimately a great production despite a few quirks of interpretation. I would heartily recommend it to all ballet fans. And I'm excited to see if NYCB takes on any other classical works. Giselle, perhaps? This production proves they can do it. They can do it all.