© The Financial Times Ltd 2013 FT and 'Financial Times' are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.
October 7, 2013 5:13 pm
“Put a man and a girl on stage,” Balanchine observed, “and there is already a story.” As far as he was concerned, the story would be strange, often tragic, because the man and girl would be hopelessly mismatched yet somehow magical together – as New York City Ballet’s stupendous Short Stories programme amply demonstrates.
The ballerina in the gothic 1946 La Sonnambula , which never fails to move whomever I bring, plays the girl of the man’s dreams – or her own dreams anyway, given that she bourrées into his life asleep. As often happens with the real-world background noise of dreams, though, he gets sucked in. At first the Poet treats the Sleepwalker as a curiosity – one of the night’s many entertainments – but when he lays himself in her path only to have her step over him, he decides to bend over backwards for her.
Many Sleepwalkers dance with an ethereality that suggests it is her otherworldliness that lures the Poet, as in La Sylphide. But Janie Taylor moved like a mechanical doll. The Poet could not enter her shuttered inner world, he could only bring her out. When Sébastien Marcovici gave a firm push to Taylor’s chest, he was sending her away to be free.
The Prodigal Son’s descent into debauchery strips him not only of dignity and property but also, in Balanchine’s rendering, of classical steps. In fact, the prodigious wit of this 1929 Ballets Russes original lies in the travesty it makes of ballet. The romance of Son and Siren – she customarily cast tall and he small enough to gaze up at her as if at the Empire State Building – amounts to ghoulish acrobatics. Teresa Reichlen did not ooze much sex in the seduction; perhaps this Siren already had her mind on the loot. Joaquin De Luz achieved the near impossible, conveying genuine feeling with the heavily stylised steps.
Slaughter on Tenth Avenue’s Hoofer has to pay like any customer to grab a dance with the Striptease Girl. But with charmers Tyler Angle and Maria Kowroski, it was Romeo and Juliet all over again. Actually, it always is for Balanchine. Every story is a love story, and every love exacts a price.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.