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Blog // Creativity
March 8, 2011

New York City Ballet

This year the New York City Ballet brought two programmes to the Hong Kong Arts Festival and I was privileged to get a chance to see them both in what turned out to be another excellent week of events. Thursday night’s programme included three pieces, Symphony in Three Movements, Dances at a Gathering and West […]

New York City Ballet At Hong Kong Arts Festival
This year the New York City Ballet brought two programmes to the Hong Kong Arts Festival and I was privileged to get a chance to see them both in what turned out to be another excellent week of events.

Thursday night’s programme included three pieces, Symphony in Three Movements, Dances at a Gathering and West Side Story. Taken as a whole it represented the talent and range that the New York City Ballet is known for. But, my one complaint about this programme and, in fact both programmes, was the length. Of course, it makes each ticket better value when there is so much talent on display.

Symphony in Three Movements is a wonderful piece, choreographed to the music of Igor Stravinsky, it was a perfect introduction to the New York City Ballet’s athleticism and strength. It was staged, as were most of the dances, against a basic blue backdrop and in costumes that subtly evoked colour palette and sensibility of the period in which the piece was originally choreographed.

Dances at a Gathering was everything I had hoped to see from the New York City Ballet. This is quite a substantial piece, weighing in at around an hour and on this night, captivating in every way. Pianist Susan Walters did a great job with Chopin’s music (18 pieces in all). In particular Sara Mearns and Joaquin De Luz caught the eye. Dances at the Gathering is an extraordinary work that feels both modern and classic at the same time and it was splendid to see it performed so well.

Who doesn’t love West Side story? Well, it seems quite a few didn’t love it enough to come back after the second interval, to see the West Side Story suite (maybe all those guests of a certain investment bank had enough by then?). It was a shame to see empty seats for this dynamic and lively interpretation of the main dance numbers from West Side Story. I adored Andrew Veyette at Riff and Jenifer Ringer as Anita (with a great Elizabeth Taylor look). This was a fast paced and fun ending to the first programme.

The second programme, which I caught at the Saturday Matinee involved four pieces beginning with Serenade, set to Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings. Things started a little loose and frantic but then settled in time for some really sublime and beautiful moments. Teresa Reichlen shone and there was a dance involving Sara Mearns and Jenifer Ringer that, for me, was the highlight of both programmes.

Maybe it was the “hard act to follow” syndrome, but I was much less impressed by Divertimento no. 15. The dancing was fine and the music was performed well (this is one of Mozart’s most highly regarded works). But, I wasn’t captivated and met the second interval a little fatigued. Perhaps it was because this was the most conventional piece in the programme and at times the dance felt constrained by the music, rather than rising from it.

Duo Concertant is the kind of work I’m always drawn two. A piece for two dancers with pianist and violinist onstage performing Stravinsky’s music. The dancers start at the piano listening to the music, then with each movement they begin to sketch out dance ideas, before finally becoming and embodying the music fully as they move, isolated by spotlights. It’s a simple but powerful idea that was fully brought to life by the dancers, Sterling Hyltin and Robert Fairchild and wonderfully played by Cameron Grant on piano and Kurt Nikkanen on violin.

The final piece was Concerto DSCH, a triumph for both the New York City Ballet and also the Hong Kong Sinfonetta under Faycal Karoul’s direction. The Sinfonetta played both programmes and overall did an excellent job (barring a few shaky moments during West Side Story). But, they really hit their stride with Concerto DSCH and they were matched by the style, vivacity and authority of the New York City Ballet.

So, two programmes, and seven excellent performances from one of the world’s most renowned and hardest working ballet companies. Simply wonderful.

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