Both John Lam and Jeffrey Cirio were good as Melancholic. In the technical fireworks of Sanguinic, Erica Cornejo looked her usual precise self, partnered by Nelson Madrigal; Rie Ichikawa wasn’t quite up to Sanguinic’s technical demands, but James Whiteside looked elegant. Jaime Diaz was excellent in the wavery bewilderments of Phlegmatic; Carlos Molina looked merely out of control. Choleric gets a very short solo before the group begins to assemble, but both Kathleen Breen Combes and Tiffany Hedman brought off its fast and eccentric steps.
Throughout this ballet, the corps has fascinating counterpoint rhythms to do, and strange floor patterns, like diagonal marches and circular pathways coming on and off pointe. One of Balanchine’s most important innovations was the way he brought the traditional corps de ballet out of the background by giving them hard steps and patterns to carry out — often in units so small that each person carries weight, gets noticed. In Four T’s, they acquire the added glamour of showgirls, with high kicks and tilted pelvises, hip-sidling walks, and fetching leg gestures.
The Saturday matinee brought a very fine cast to Apollo: Yury Yanowsky with Melissa Hough as Terpsichore, Cornejo as Calliope, and Misa Kuranaga as Polyhymnia. Pavel Gurevich, Lia Cirio, Rie Ichikawa, and Whitney Jensen opening night were less well-matched. Jensen is very young and rising. She dances with her eyes and doesn’t try to win us with a stuck-on smile.
In Four Temperaments, it was refreshing to see the whole company resist its unfortunate tendency to grin all the time. But in Theme and Variations, the corps reverted to this practice, which Balanchine made obsolete. Other than that, Theme was a great pleasure, especially on opening night, when it was led by Kuranaga and Whiteside. Saturday afternoon, Lia Cirio looked strong but stuck in a smile, whereas Molina just couldn’t meet the technical demands.
Theme and Variations was a neat complement to Four Temperaments, its near-contemporary in Balanchine’s canon. It, too, opens with basics, a demonstration of thematic steps by the principal couple, and proceeds to expand on them in miraculously varied ways. It, too, ends with a cumulative celebration — in this case, the 12 corps women are joined by male partners for the first time as Tchaikovsky’s music (the last movement from his Third Suite) ramps up into a final polonaise.
APOLLO: Dancers on holiday making up games on the beach.
Theme is High Imperial classicism with all stops out. When the curtain goes up, we see the women posing in an expectant fourth position with the leading couple down front. The women wear Jens-Jacob Worsaae’s elegant tutus, white skirts with pale grey-blue bodices. The background is a blue cyclorama with white gauze drapes and a crystal chandelier. The audience goes “Ooooohhh!” and applauds.
After the ABCs — tendu, port de bras, révérence — the music leads into a string of numbers in different textures, and Balanchine obliges with his own inventions. My pulse rate spikes at the first notes of both allegro variations, anticipating the cascade of steps to come — academic figures and little jumps put together without stops in surprising order. Kuranaga is so in charge of the choreography, she can take her own playful delays and speed-ups against the musical baseline. In contrast, Whiteside’s expansive leaps, up and out and to the side, have a majestic effect. And the corps makes counterpoint filigree work in trios, and later the women form a chain that supports Kuranaga, who’s changing from one formal position to another while the chain simultaneously curls around and through itself.