The Lady with the Little Dog, NYCB

Written by:
Lewis Whittington
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New York City Ballet

Russian Program
Feb 9, 2010
Lincoln Center

Agon, NYCB

Post Balanchine Russian

Bookended by two Balanchine classics, Choreographer Alexey Miroshnichenko premiered The Lady with the Little Dog for the New York City Ballet’s Russian program this month. Based on a short story by Chekov, the whimsical opening picture of Lady is ballerina Sterling Hyltin strolling in a coal grey tutu behind a Cairn terrier. 

Hyltin soon switches her attention Andrew Veyette who is the man in a white suit with glasses and bare feet. After a few circling passes and some interference from eight males in gray singlets playing the angels. These mischievous sprites moving the molecules around for this duet. They frieze with their arms pulled in as if they have clipped wings.

Miroshenchenko has the couple in standard lifting patterns and wraparounds that seem heavy, even awkward. Just when things get tedious, the gray angels, strip off the couples’ clothing and an alternate dance begins. Set to dense, dissonant music by Rodion Shchedrin, this turns into unexpected dance drama.

 In fact, this is a bit of a throwdown but with voluptuous bodyscaping and sexual language. Sterling’s gorgeous deportment in the part builts to pathos, and Veyette, even in bare feet, not hesitating in the tight turn and jump danseur sequences. 

Miroshnchenko can cut the heavy handed symbolism, but the way this piece shifts and takes us with us on its own narrative is inventive. Veyette and Hyltin manipulate the drama and their mystery masterfully.

What more can be said about this company’s preservation of Agon except that, it is more supple than ever. In many ways Agon is a distillation of Balanchine signatures. The dancers attack and commitment show their deep understanding of this work. Stravinsky’s score is spiked with fanfares and string counterpoints all lumiously detailed by conductor Faycal Karoui. 

Sean Souzzi handles the solo with steely flair and in the trio with Amanda Hankes and Ashley Laracey, he italicizing that angular Balanchine sarcasm. The mens’ quartet segments have quiet beauty and the corps women streamline all of the limb matrixes with sharp unison work. 

The opening tableau of Cortege Hongrois, scored to Glazounov’s Raymonda and conducted by Maurice Kaplow is a pristine processional, in contrast to Agon, looked mummified despite the colorful costumes and mass of dancers. 

The piece comes alive during the Czardas festiva with principal Savannah Lowery and Craig Hall out front of the men hurling Cossack drops and the women whirling dervishishes. 

The rousing pageantry is just a framework as Balanchine examines the rich line between cultural dance of Ukrainian-Prussian folk styles as it came to decorate the Imperial ballet. 

The central pas de deux by Sara Mearns and Stephen Hanna eventually have pedigree in an number of divertissements of story ballet. Mearns takes your breath away in her solo, with brilliant accompaniment on the piano by Cameron Grant, showing diamond clarity in her pointe work and her gorgeous carriage.

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