Daniel Ulbricht, Joseph Gordon and Jovani Furlan in Jerome Robbins’Fancy Free.Photo credit: Erin Baiano

The NYCB Saturday matinee program of Balanchine/Robbins classics was sheer delight.

Focusing on the dancers, the Act II of Balanchine’s Swan Lake demands and embodies exquisite dancing—and the dancers deliver. Standouts were the agile Megan LeCrone, a quick-spotting and precise turner, dancing in a pas de neuf, as well as Emma Von Enck’s unhurried and charming moves in the “Valse Bluette” section. Elsewhere, the corps is a flurry of activity, both fierce and vulnerable—fluttering arms and feet, arabesques with deep back arch, glides and pirouettes—much woven into patterns reminiscent of flight. This is true particularly at the end, as the swans scatter at Von Rotbart (Preston Chamblee)’s command.

Sara Mearns and Tyler Angle in George Balanchine’s Swan Lake.Photo credit: Erin Baiano

Of special note is Sara Mearns as Odette and Tyler Angle as Prince Siegfried. Mearns, in her balances with strongly-arched feet and facile attitudes, offers just the right amount of somber and sweet. You can read it in her face, in her winglike arms, but also in her entire body. Angle is a tender and convincing partner and the two dance with impressive connection. After a final penché, Mearns positions herself into Angle’s arms—an emotional goodbye in a brilliant adagio.

Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free is exuberant. The story is simple: Three sailors on shore leave, Daniel Ulbricht, Joseph Gordon, and Jovani Furlan, meet up with bassers-by Mary Thomas MacKinnon, Indiana Woodward, and Marjorie Lundgren. Maxwell Reed rounds out the cast as the bartender.

The women, the center of the sailors’ attention, deliver deliciously-high kicks, breezy turns, and cool swag, even as they’re being tossed and nudged (as with Woodward and Gordon). Furlani’s smooth, rhythmic turns showcase his masterful timing. Both Ulbricht and Gordon are spitballs of energy punctuated with polish and elegance. In Gordon’s airy and expansive dancing, he stretches into every pose. Ulbricht’s variations, multiple turns with flat feet into splits on the floor, and more, are breathtaking.

Joseph Gordon and Indiana Woodward in Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free. Photo credit: Erin Baiano

Firebird, choreographed by Balanchine and Robbins to Stravinsky, is a triumph of stylized and technical dance. The music is challenging with its counterpoint and more, and demands virtuosity from each orchestra member. Andrew Litton conducted the superb playing in all three pieces on the Saturday matinee program. Isabella LaFreniere’s “Firebird” was playful and mysterious, her bourrée almost illusive, her deeply underlating arms, hypnotic. Memorable, too, were the light, springy movements of Miriam Miller as the prince’s bride and Peter Walker as the regal Prince Ivan.

Isabella LaFreniere and Company in George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins’ Firebird. Photo credit: Erin Baiano

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