New York City Ballet at The Kennedy Center by Carolyn Kelemen

New York City Ballet Carries on the Message of the Master

Ballet troupes have their ups and downs and dancers come and go, but the New York City Ballet soars high and steady because of a dance style and repertory that remains unprecedented in its nearly seven decades of existence. And, of course, because founding director George Balanchine’s genius is constantly self-renewing.

'Who Cares.' Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Now under the direction of Peter Martins, NYCB performs two programs, the first with old-fashioned showy ballets, the second, a glimpse at the latest works from two of the hottest choreographers around. Both shows are currently being danced at the Kennedy Center’s Opera House now through tomorrow Sunday, April 8th

While the master may be dead, his masterpieces remain intact. Balanchine’s 1970 “Who Cares?” kicked off the too short engagement last Tuesday evening with sleek dancing and a salute to bygone days of dashing men partnering glamourous girls a la Fred Astaire and Ginger. Set against a backdrop of New York City, “Who Cares?” showcases Balanchine’s leggy ballerinas – he loved showgirls – and a new crop of male danseurs, a few shorter than the ballerinas but who still managed to lift the girls high above their heads. Principal dancer Tiler Peck gave us those flirty moments so popular with early Balanchine works while her dreamy partner, Robert Fairchild, dazzled with multiple pirouettes and gliding steps across the stage. Gershwin’s tunes kept the dancers moving at a brisk pace, especially the romantic pas de deux, set to “The Man I Love.”

'West Side Story Suite.' Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Program A (which repeats today) closes with Jerome Robbins salute to Broadway dancing in his “West Side Story Suite.” Martins’ unremarkable “Fearful Symmetries” is sandwiched in the middle. The second program (Saturday evening and closing Sunday afternoon) salutes two of the hottest choreographers around. Alexei Ratmansky offers a glimpse into his native folk traditions in “Russian Seasons,” and Christopher Wheeldon’s “Les Carillons” leaves us breathless with its fleeting steps and brilliant combinations that only the New York City Ballet does best.
Dana Jacobson> Photo by Paul Kolnik.

One to watch is Maryland’s own sweetheart ballerina, Dana Jacobson, the tallest corps dancer in “Who Cares?” She stands a stunning 5 feet 10 inches tall, with arms and legs that go on forever. When she dances, she stretchers her arabesques and lengthens her high-flying leaps to look even taller, at least 7 feet from the tips of her toes to the top of her long blond hair.

 “I was intrigued with Balanchine’s choreography and instantly wanted to be part of that world,” said Jacobson on opening night. “Being tall and long limbed is a challenge to move at the speed that is a trademark of NYCB. But I love that challenge and the fact that there never seems to be a destination, just a path that keeps moving forward.”

The New York City Ballet performs at The Kennedy Center’s Opera House through Sunday, April 8th. For tickets, call the box office (800) 444-1324, or purchase them online.

As part of the Kennedy Center’s ongoing education program, “Performance Plus,” there will be a free post-performance discussion with members of NYCB following the matinee performance today, Saturday, April 7th.


Watch video highlights of The New York Cuty Ballet’s 2012 Spring Season.


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Carolyn Kelemen
Carolyn Kelemen is an award-winning arts critic and feature writer for the Baltimore Sun, Howard County Times, and Columbia Flier - 45 years and counting. The Columbia resident earned her Masters Degree in Dance at Mills College in California and has taught college and graduate courses at Goucher College, Loyola, the College of Notre Dame and Howard Community College. A professional dancer throughout the East Coast in the late 50s and early 60s, she was trained in classical ballet, modern dance, jazz and tap. Her TV/film career includes MPT’s “ weeknight Alive” and years of local productions in the Maryland/DC area. Carolyn is a longtime member of the Dance Critics of America, the American Theatre Critics Association. She has proudly produced the “A Labor of Love” AIDS benefits since 1988.


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