New York City Ballet
Despite the hype with which it was heralded, and an undeniably interesting programme of delectable choreographic offerings, the New York City Ballet season at the London Coliseum has not lived up to expectations. Last week I expressed my reservations about the second programme on offer, the one celebrating the artistic genius of Jerome Robbins; I now find myself in the unenviable position of expressing similar and even more serious reservations about the other two programmes I saw, the Essential Balanchine, and Four Voices: Wheeldon, Martins, Bigonzetti and Ratmansky, which is dedicated to four new dance-makers.
Keeping up with tradition and with a historically well-established reputation is not an easy task for any dance company that has grown and thrived thanks to the enlightened vision of a great master. Once the artistic leadership ends, all sorts of problems arise in terms of preservation, repertoire, style, school and artistic approaches. Regardless of what is claimed by dance academics — who have little or no practical knowledge of the actual art form — ballet, like any theatre art, cannot easily be frozen in time; a well-established repertoire requires constant attentive and careful revision to remain theatrically viable and vibrantly immediate for subsequent generations of viewers. However, just as there is little point in trying to reproduce with fussy exactness what was successful and popular 20 years or more ago, specific artistic parameters must be carefully considered every time a work from the past is revived. Personally, I do not think that the Essential Balanchine programme took such parameters into account. Serenade, arguably one of Balanchine’s signature masterworks, looked fairly choppy and hurried, and seemed to be danced in a drearily mechanical way.