I had a recurring thought during New York City Ballet’s winter season: Thank goodness for Jovani Furlan. He lifts the mood when he dances. He’s sexy without being cheesy, a considerate partner and cheerfully in tune with the moment. George Balanchine used to ask his dancers, “What are you waiting for? What are you saving it for?” I don’t know if Furlan keeps anything.
On Saturday, Furlan was named principal dancer – along with Harrison Ball and Peter Walker – which was gratifying, but not a complete surprise. Main dancers fall like flies. In the fall, when City Ballet resumed performances after its closure, Maria Kowroski, Lauren Lovette, Ask la Cour and Abi Stafford left the company. This season, Teresa Reichlen and Gonzalo Garcia joined them. Amar Ramasar will step down in the spring.
But Garcia, whose last performance was Sunday, isn’t going far. This month he joins the artistic staff as a repertory director, where, judging by his jovial and generous spirit, he will be in demand. On Sunday, after an excerpt from “Rotunda,” Justin Peck, the ballet’s choreographer, carried Garcia himself off the stage, sideways, like a rolled up carpet. Garcia, cradled in his arms and waving his wrist, wept with laughter. Farewell performances can be sad, and although it was a few sobbing dancers during the final bows, Garcia’s event mostly felt happy — like a thank you from both sides of the stage.
In his final performance, which also included “Opus 19/The Dreamer” – Sterling Hyltin and Tiler Peck shared the female lead so Garcia could dance with them both – and “Prodigal Son” (with a dazzling Sara Mearns as the siren), he was serious: elegant and bare, dancing with a noble simplicity.
In a short (and punchy) film about his career by his husband, Ezra Hurwitz, Garcia, 42, said: “There is a time for everything. Now is the time for a new generation to grow and enjoy, and I want to share part of that growth.”
He is right about one thing: this season, more than ever in recent memory, it became clear that a new generation is taking over City Ballet. Just before the start of the winter engagement, seven dancers were promoted to soloist; now they are joined by the three new chieftains. And you can see the preparation for the next round of promotions before your eyes: Chun Wai Chan, a former Houston Ballet director who joined City Ballet in August, should be at the top of the list, along with Roman Mejia, whose “Rubies’ debut was athletic, robust, tight – a sign of dynamic things to come.
But there was so much good dancing this season, and it started at the top, with a pair of veteran principals, Mearns and Megan Fairchild, who shine every season for being themselves on stage. Experience and maturity are gifts for dancing. I don’t want them to feel old; they don’t dance like that. From Fairchild, whose photo can be seen on posters outside Lincoln Center and on the cover of the Playbill, there is impeccable verve and apparent delight. She’s a treasure.
And Mearns operates on a completely different plane, from everyone. This season she’s dropped another layer – not artificial, she never had that – but the kind of performative veneer that every dance artist has. In one piece after another – “Walpurgisnacht Ballet”, “La Valse”, “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” and a particularly ravishing “Mozartiana” – she was effortless, even somehow casual within the drama of dancing ballet. .
Two younger dancers, recently promoted to soloist, pointed to the future: Emily Kikta and Mira Nadon. Their Choleric debut in “The Four Temperaments” and their return to the tall girl in “Rubies” showed them different ways to hold the stage, to etch themselves into the music. Kikta’s enthusiasm and reach is always absolute – and a little shocking, even if you have an idea of what to expect.
And the grandeur of Nadon offers a rare appearance. With a secret smile, as if keeping something to herself, she is in a perpetual state of glowing elongation – stretching bigger, leaning boldly and always seeming to reach for more space. The way she intertwines step and dramatic power has haste and buoyancy. Would she dance like that if no one was watching? Probably.
What you understand at City Ballet, an amazing company of individuals, is the sense of origin. Within the shift of generations is the unchanging transition of roles from one dancer to another, and what is vividly evident is that these ballets were made on specific people. When new dancers take them over, they bring themselves to the role; that’s the point. Who wouldn’t want Indiana Woodward to get herself somewhere? Her clear, open mind is exposed every time she takes the stage.
In Balanchine’s “Sonatina,” Woodward, a recently named director, and Antony Huxley were delicate and lyrical; their bodies sang together. As a dancer, Woodward is as sunny as Furlan, but her debut in Balanchine’s ‘La Valse’, also for Ravel, showed a different side: the way her innocence melted away when she was seduced by the death figure was eerily gradual, and all the more so. all the more surprising because of that.
Unity Phelan and Furlan in Balanchine’s “Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux” showed an exciting, glowing bravado, while in “The Four Temperaments” Gilbert Bolden III, sparkling in Sanguinic opposite the striking Isabella LaFreniere, was impressively bold. Emilie Gerrity brought her undisturbed elegance to pieces in some dazzling dances: Jerome Robbins’ “Moves,” a ballet performed in silence; and ‘Summerspace’ by Merce Cunningham, which also featured the enchanting Ashley Laracey, who seems to have discovered a new dimension in her dance.
Here and in ‘The Unanswered Question’, Laracey, as the unattainable woman, was mesmerizing – just as mysterious and haunting as another dancer, Miriam Miller, was glamorous and intoxicating in real life. In Miller’s reprisal of the Siren in ‘Prodigal Son’ and in a new role, the Stripper in ‘Slaughter on Tenth Avenue’, she was safer than usual, which gave her aura.
Dancing with Walker—a playful, feisty farrier—dipped Miller back in his arms and kicked her legs with gusto. What a flirt! It was a tour de force, fun and beautiful every step of the way.
As a whole, the season, which started late due to outages caused by the Omicron variant, was uneven in programming. Some shows seemed perfect on paper – what could be wrong with the mix of “Mozartiana”, “Rubies” and “La Valse”? – but eventually felt tired. One good thing about the fall pandemic programming was that there were no breaks and less chance of shows dragging on. This season, the intermissions were back, along with something even more unwelcome: Peter Martins’ clumsy, out-of-context “Black Swan Pas de Deux” from “Swan Lake.” Combining it with Balanchine’s one-act play “Swan Lake” was a mystery.
The season’s best program was so varied that it had what the others lacked: the balance of disparate worlds. From the wildness of ‘Walpurgisnacht Ballet’ to the creepiness of ‘The Unanswered Question’, the quiet power of ‘Moves’ and finally the gritty comedy of ‘Slaughter on Tenth Avenue’, it raged on. Programming is as much an art as dancing.