The Kennedy Center Opera House was the scene last weekend of a continuing series of extraordinary performances by the New York City Ballet.
Saturday matinee's "Serenade" was a classic performance of a classic. Danced by one of the most exquisite casts possible, it emphasized the enigmatic air that has permeated the ballet in recent years. Suzanne Farrell's appearance in this ballet for the first time in 15 years seemed a completion of her homecoming to the Balanchine repertory following her Bejart stint. It was a performance of such lushly sensual magnitude that any lesser supporting cast would have been completely overwhelmed. Sean Lavery's hugely romantic presence made him the exquisitely sensitive partner who could match Farrell's poeticism, and her sensual drama was well-tuned to Kipling Houston's screen-lover abandon.
Saturday evening's "Divertimento No. 15" and Sunday matinee's "Andantino" were blessed with appearances by Darci Kistler, who continues to astonish with her seemingly limitless technique and growing expressive powers. Unlike most of Balanchine's "baby ballerinas" who exist in a vacuum of technique, Kistler turns youth to her advantage.
Sunday matinee's "Stars and Stripes" contained the drama of a company debut as well as an amazing comeback. David McNaughton, whose fiery presence and breathtaking technique vitalized this summer's San Francisco Ballet's Wolf Trap performances, made an auspicious NYCB debut in the pas de deux. His relish and exuberance made for a "look-at-me-Ma" interpretation of a role Peter Martins had handled with superhero irony at the Saturday matinee. McNaughton partnered Nichol Hlinka, who has returned to the company after a series of injuries that kept her sidelined for four years. Hlinka handled the fiendish role with aplomb and a rock-solid technique.
NYCB is at the Opera House through Sunday.