New York City Ballet

Oh, those poor wretches who labor day and night perfecting their leaps and lifts; polishing their pirouettes and pliés. Indeed the entire company of dancers, composers, choreographers, et al., are dedicated to the opening night performance…only to be savaged by…he whose name must not be spoken.

But the audience in general found the offerings, of which there were three “world premieres,” fresh and new, with costumes by designers such as Carolina Herrera and Thom Browne that underscored the romantic and/or athletic movements of the dancers.

What I’d be happy to see again: “Morgen,” performed to Richard Strauss and sung by Jennifer Zetlan, brought romantic lifts and embraces to new heights of exaltation. Choreographed by Peter Martins, and given depth and height by five columns, it afforded plenty of room for emotion and breathless movement.

“Clearing Dawn” (world premiere) brought the dancers to new heights with leaps (one of which was photographed for the NYTimes), and those now famous Thom Browne pleated skirts and white-piped blazers that brought a “cheerleader” quality to the overall effort.

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“Funerailles” (world premiere) was gorgeous –- at least in my mind -– with Franz Liszt piano music on stage and magical costumes by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen. The opening film on how intricately “Dance Costumes” have to be made showed a “practice skirt” for this ballet. No wonder, because Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild had to maneuver their embraces and rhapsodic lifts with deft precision in order not to tangle. They managed, and the audience applauded wildly at the end.

Finally,”Belles-Lettres” was performed with a single male “spirit” dancing among four couples. The costumes had been explained in the film: unitards covered with letters of the alphabet while the women wore romantic long skirts and hair à la George Balanchine in the ’60s. It was an odd partnering, but beautifully done nonetheless.

“This Bitter Earth,” sung by Dinah Washington with costumes by Valentino, was an abbreviated version of the original “Five Movements,” but was powerful enough to stand on its own. It was my least favorite, but balletomanes agreed this was one of the best opening nights in a number of years.

Barbara Tober

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