With Fashion Week 2014 under way in the tents at Lincoln Center from February 6th to 13th, New York City Ballet dusted off Peter Martins’ 2012 tribute to iconic designer Valentino for the evening performance at Koch Theater on Saturday, February 8th. A description of “Bal de Couture” on the company’s web site enthused that we would feel as though we were “on a runway at the ballet”. Not so much. The unwieldy black and white ball gowns with red petticoats, described in a handout available in the lobby as “dazzling”, managed to make the svelte ballerinas appear to be thick-waisted as they maneuvered through Peter Martins’ uninspired choreography along with male dancers in black suits. Three dancers in tutus darted in and out of the scenes set to the waltz and the polonaise from Tschaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, looking as though they had ended up at the wrong party.  The central section, a clichéd love triangle to Tschaikovsky’s Elegie in G for Strings, went on far too long – as often happens in ballets by Martins.


The evening took a dramatic turn for the better after the first intermission when we were treated to “DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse”, created in 2006 when choreographer Christopher Wheeldon was still at the peak of powers. Michael Nyman composed the urgently fast-paced minimalist score in 1993 to celebrate the inauguration of the French high-speed train á grande vitesse. The 26 dancers were fleet-footed and constantly in motion, which served as a perfect visualization of the music. 


The closer was “The Four Seasons”, created by Jerome Robbins in 1979 to the music of Verdi. The ballet till seems fresh and fun. I’ve never liked the silly opening of the Winter section when the ladies pretend to shiver and knock their knees together, but the rest of the action is a sheer delight. The scenery and costumes by Santo Loquasto are gorgeous and Jennifer Tipton’s lighting is superb. The dancers all did a fine job and seemed to be having a wonderful time but a special mention goes to Daniel Ulbricht as the high-flying faun in the Autumn segment. I spotted him years ago when he was a teenage student at the School of American Ballet and predicted in a column on The New York Dance Scene at DanceArt.com that he would become a principal dance in spite of his short, stocky build. He explodes onto the stage with almost superhuman energy and his mega personality always carries far beyond the footlights.


 Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy of New York City Ballet


This post originally appeared on BroadwayWorld.com.

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