Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Wednesday night's New York City Ballet program centered around a very uncharacteristic theme for this company, namely, eroticism. Not that there's any lack of "love interst" in the company reperoire; in may senses it is the expressive core of classical ballet, as it is for other arts. But sexuality per se, especially in any explicit manisfestation, is rare. Or rather, it is decorously concealed beneath layers of stylistic or historical convention that one is only aware of it at subliminal levels. Wednesday night it was right up front. At the same time, it would he hard to imagine two more starkly contrasted views of erotic experience than those exhibited in Balanchine's "Bugaku" and Jerome Robins' "The Cage."
George Balanchine may be the only choreographer who could make a ballet about sex and have you come away with a trenchant impression ofd purity. Ad the title suggest, the piece was influenced by Japanese imagery, and it absorbs that peculiarly Japanese fussion of austerity and sexual passion.
The atmosphere is cool. Toshiro Mayazumi's commissioned score (1963( uses Western instruments but the sound is distinctly Eastern. The curtain opens on David Hays' bare abstraction of a Japanese formal courtyard, and into a stillness made the more edgy in the thin kneeing of the strings, the dancers, robed in white, enter with sedate ceremony.
Balanchine uses classical steps and positions, but he has appliqued, so to speak, a visual semblance of the Orient in the firled wrists, titling heads and canted torsos. After the exist of the four attendant couples comes the central suet, a stylization of the conjugal act that is a singular cherographis achivement in itself.
The duet begins with the couple standing side way side and their opposing legs seeping out toward each other like magnetized tendrils. The whole dance mysteriously combines sanctity and ecstasy, and it is followed by joyous solos for the lovers, before a final, formal retreat. Allegra Kent, for whom the role was created, was extraordinary as the woman - delicate, distanced, yet incisive. peter Schaufuss was equally fine as the man, stolid and intense all at once.
Patricia McBride also gave a remarkable performance as the feline Novice in "The Cage," but the ballet is another kettle of fish, Set ti a Stravinsky String Concerto, it is the archetype of all those ballets about predatory females that nowadays look so ridiculous. Its tribe of castrating, cannibalistic insect-women was considered "shocking" in 1951. Today it's hard to keepfrom giggling. Robbins instinctive taste prevented him form yielding too far to the twdriness of the concept, but it's difficult to see why the work was thought to merit revival.
Robbins' recent pas de deux, "Other Dances," created last year for Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov and seen in Washington for the first time Wednesday night, hasn't transposed well to the New York City Ballet's Peter Martins and Suzanne Farrell. More about this on another occasion.