New York City Ballet Winter Gala, State Theater, New York

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Before sledding into an interminable number of Nutcrackers the company traditionally gives a foretaste of its winter repertoire in a winter opening benefit. This year the programme deviated from the usual three or so ballets with a selection of excerpts: something old, something new, something horrid and something true from new and well-established works, plus a US premiere, Middle Duet, choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky, artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet, whose Russian Seasons was so well received last June.

An extended pas de deux featuring Maria Kowroski and Albert Evans, set to music from Yuri Khanon’s Middle Symphony, it is an intriguing piece – if only in showing how well Ratmansky has developed since choreographing it for the Kirov in l998. Danced within a floor pattern of lighting (by Mark Stanley) resembling six windowpanes, with dancers rarely venturing out into murkiness, it showed Kowroski’s and Evans’s particular synergy.

Something old included snippets from Balanchine’s florid Walpurgisnacht Ballet and Peter Martins’ Ecstatic Orange. The former brought back Kyra Nichols, a veteran ballerina, in a work far from Mr B’s best. Purple looked dated and seemed an odd reintroduction for the talented Janie Taylor, who was dancing well after a serious injury.

Martins’ Friandises displayed the company’s increasingly virtuoso men, with the dashing Daniel Ulbright leading in a sequence danced, seemingly, mostly in the air. Tiller Peck was Ulbright’s compatible partner. Slice to Sharp, in which the dancers substitute windmilling arms for conventional port de bras, recalled Jorma Elo’s idiosyncratic if stimulating style. The bluesy N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz (early Jerome Robbins) with junior members of the company has lost its surprise over the years, but they danced it well.

Although a spirited Stars and Stripes with Damien Woetzel and Ashley Bouder concluded the evening, the best came first. Christopher Wheeldon’s Carousel (a Dance), given in its entirety, not only reaffirmed the atmosphere of developing love Wheeldon conjures so well, to Richard Rodgers’ waltzes from Carousel, but also introduced an extraordinary young dancer, Kathryn Morgan. She, with her passionate partner, Seth Orza, provided that rare magic: you hold your breath as a star is born.

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