After seeing the show myself, I still suspect the old boy of pulling his review out of thin air, but I did find myself agreeing with him on a few points. Matthew Neenan's work did indeed have several moments that leave you wondering what he was thinking. As for the shift away from the Balanchine style, the first part of Neenan's work showcased why this shift is absolutely necessary for the company's survival, and why Mr. Corella was hired to make it happen.
Two couples, one a pair of principals, the other pulled out of the ranks, showed the marked contrast between those embracing change and those reluctant to do so. The difference in the level of energy between the two couples was astonishing. The principals were sleek and polished, always on their dignity, never putting a foot wrong, and in typical Balanchine style totally devoid of personality. Just going through the motions of the choreography, which was all that was ever required of a Balanchine dancer, lest the audience be distracted from the master's choreography by any spark of individual interpretation.
The second couple, however, tossed that old school unspoken rule out the window. Equally sleek and polished, equally spot on in technique, they were enjoying their work and letting the audience see their joy in the dance. They did what Angel Corella himself was always a master at doing, and has passed on to those dancers willing to accept the challenge. They broke that fourth wall, the dark gap separating the artist from the audience, and allowed us to share the joy of the dance with them.
Still, the chemistry of the first pairing galvanized the audience for the rest of the evening. Normally I'm not one to willingly listen to the work of Phillip Glass. I have never forgotten being taken to Austin Lyric Opera's production of Barbarians at the Gate, but perhaps after sitting through hours of the stuff, I am more easily able to manage mere minutes. I wasn't thrilled with the lighting design either, but it did work for the piece. The back lighting through fog seemed to break the fourth wall completely, and the dancers rode the wave of audience approval for the length of the piece.
The smiles which broke over their faces at the end no doubt would have had the gentleman from the Times clutching his pearls. Unlike those who prefer to live in the past, I look forward to a time when the last Balanchine Foundation repetiteur who actually danced for the man is gone, and the Foundation must resort to one of two things - producing definitive videos which must be slavishly copied in order to obtain their permission to perform the work, or at last giving companies a chance to freely interpret the works and give them a new lease on life.
The AGMA grace period is over, and the media are just now starting to see what the much hailed company turnaround is really going to mean. This morning's headline screamed about forty percent of the dancers not returning after this season. I agree with the departures. They are the ones who have either failed to accept and embrace the needed changes, or who are at or beyond the point of needing to retire from performing. There is one promotion I don't agree with, but perhaps this dancer, like the company itself, is a work in progress, and like the dance media watching the company, I've yet to catch a glimpse of the progress. Meanwhile: