In another display of breathtaking dancing, the New York City Ballet opened the second week of its Kennedy Center Opera House run with a program of works predating "Agon," the Balanchine masterpiece seen here last week. It is reassuring that despite its founder George Balanchine's death, the company continues to revive its best work. Last night, it presented "The Four Temperaments" and "La Sonnambula" from 1946, along with this run's first performance of Jerome Robbins' "The Concert," which had its premiere a decade later.
Beginning with "Dances at a Gathering" in 1969, Robbins became indelibly associated with the music of Chopin for the series of abstract ballets he choreographed to that composer's piano compositions. However, this performance of "The Concert" reminds us that Robbins first used Chopin to spoof balletic convention before he so wholeheartedly embraced it. With Bart Cook, Carole Divet and Melinda Roy, making her debut in the role, a work that could easily become shtick remained pointedly hilarious because the dancers resisted hamming it up. Subtitled "The Perils of Everyone," "The Concert" goes back and forth to both sides of the footlights to examine the fantasies of concert-goers as well as to fracture the work of our most cherished of choreographers, including Fokine, Balanchine and Robbins himself.
One of the boldest of the newer generation of NYCB dancers, Diana White, last night made her debut in the "Choleric" variation in "The Four Temperaments." One of Balanchine's most extraordinary creations, this ballet continues to challenge as well as to illuminate the best dancers in the world. In a company noted for the quickness and bigness with which its members dance, White's sweeping extensions and ports de bras proclaimed her a marvel.
Last night also saw a new cast for the long-awaited revival of "La Sonnambula." Both Carlo Merlo and Heather Watts appeared in roles that seemed to cast them against type. Indeed, Merlo seemed a decidedly pedestrian Poet, though Watts transcended her modernist image to put her stamp on this Romantic role. Lourdes Lopez was terrific -- both flirtatious and venomous -- as the Coquette.