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Stars of Amer­i­can Bal­let

Stars of Amer­i­can Bal­let is a show­case that Daniel Ul­bricht, a prin­ci­pal dancer with New York City Bal­let, has been bring­ing to Santa Fe for the last five years. It fea­tures a chang­ing cast of ac­tual stars from NYCB, as well as dancers from other com­pa­nies and of­ten a few corps de bal­let mem­bers to fill out the ranks. The for­mula is a bit of a smor­gas­bord, a pro­gram of mostly so­los and duets fea­tur­ing chore­og­ra­phy by Ge­orge Balan­chine (co-founder of the com­pany) as well as work by some of the other dance­mak­ers as­so­ci­ated with the NYCB, in­clud­ing Jerome Rob­bins, Christo­pher Wheel­don, Peter Martins (the com­pany’s cur­rent bal­let mas­ter in chief), and Ulysses Dove.

This year’s Balan­chine slots were filled by the sem­i­nal works Apollo (1928) and Agon (1957) as well as the peppy pas de deux Taran­tella (1964). Apollo marked Balan­chine’s first ma­jor col­lab­o­ra­tion with com­poser Igor Stravin­sky, and he con­sid­ered the work a turn­ing point in his life. The bal­let fea­tures the Greek god Apollo as he is vis­ited by three Muses — Terp­si­chore, Muse of dance and song, Poly­hym­nia, Muse of mime, and Cal­liope, Muse of po­etry. The score was based, in part, on 17th- cen­tury French po­etic me­ters and the nar­ra­tive on clas­si­cal an­tiq­uity, but the ideas be­hind the chore­og­ra­phy are strictly 20th cen­tury. Cre­ated when Balan­chine was twen­ty­four, this neo­clas­sic work pre­saged the leggy, an­gu­lar style of danc­ing he is known for.

Adrian Danchig-War­ing danced Apollo, and he looked ev­ery bit a bal­let god as he led his team of Muses through sec­tions that didn’t par­tic­u­larly ex­plore mime, po­etry, or song, and which looked more like ex­per­i­ments with clas­si­cal form. Corps mem­ber Sara Adams and soloist Ash­ley Isaacs, both from City Bal­let, ably han­dled two of the Muse parts, but it was Ster­ling Hyltin, a prin­ci­pal with the com­pany, who gave the bal­let lus­ter.

Hyltin had a lovely light­ness to her danc­ing, and the way she claimed au­thor­ity over the tricky Balan­chine tech­nique was stun­ning. Ev­ery mo­ment was per­formed with clar­ity, in­ten­tion, and ease. This is the prom­ise that Ul­bricht de­liv­ers to Santa Fe, the op­por­tu­nity to see great dancers.

Agon, a plot­less bal­let with sec­tions based on French court dances, was another col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Balan­chine and Stravin­sky. The com­poser’s mu­sic was by then head­ing into twelve-tone vo­cab­u­lary. The bal­let of­fers a look at the com­pany’s stylis­tic neo­clas­si­cism af­ter decades of de­vel­op­ment. The pas de deux, an ex­cerpt from the work for twelve dancers, fea­tured NYCB prin­ci­pals Teresa Re­ichlen and Amar Ra­masar. The word “agon” is Greek for con­test, and the duet has a qual­ity of com­bat to it, of part­ner­ing that is rough rather than ro­man­tic, hard rather than sweet. Other pieces on the pro­gram in­cluded the quar­tet

Red An­gels, chore­ographed in 1994 for City Bal­let by Dove, who had long been as­so­ci­ated with Alvin Ai­ley’s com­pany. The score, by Richard Ein­horn, fea­tures an elec­tric vi­o­lin, played at the Len­sic by Cen­ovia Cum­mins, who was just as likely to be pound­ing against the strings in a per­cus­sive man­ner as she was to be play­ing notes. With its stark light­ing and ath­letic so­los, the piece was rem­i­nis­cent of the dances Aspen Santa Fe Bal­let of­ten com­mis­sions. Pow­er­ful, dark, vir­tu­osic, and plot­less, Red An­gels was danced by Hyltin, Re­ichlen, Tyler An­gle (another prin­ci­pal dancer at NYCB), and Ra­masar.

Ul­bricht, who danced in a num­ber of crowd pleasers dur­ing the two-night en­gage­ment, pre­sented by Per­for­mance Santa Fe, has the abil­ity to pull off thrilling leaps and turns. But the best thing about his danc­ing is the “aw shucks” qual­ity he brings to it. A sur­prise ad­di­tion to the Thurs­day night per­for­mance in­cluded young lo­cal dancers from NDI; Ul­bricht looked not only jaw-drop­pingly ef­fi­cient in a se­ries of high-speed bal­let tricks, but happy to be shar­ing the stage with a bunch of young dancers hav­ing the time of their lives. — Michael Wade Simp­son

Clock­wise from top; Adrian Danchig-War­ing, Ashly Isaacs, and Daniel Ul­bricht in re­hearsal;

cour­tesy Per­for­mance Santa Fe

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