NYCB’s second program of the Winter Season was like comfort food for the audiences. Most of the leads of the three ballets (Mozartiana, Rubies, La Valse) have danced these roles for years. They’re great at what they do, and the audience lapped it up.

Anthony Huxley and Sterling Hyltin in George Balanchine’s Mozartiana
© Erin Baiano

Mozartiana was danced by Sterling Hyltin, Anthony Huxley and Daniel Ulbricht. This work seems to be about ballet hierarchy – the queen (usually given to a senior principal member of the company) is surrounded by a prince, jester, four ladies-in-waiting and four children. The four demi-soloists of the Menuet (Miriam Miller, Ashley Hod, Isabella La Freniere and Mira Nadon) were all promoted to soloist recently and they danced with a serene confidence befitting their new status. Ulbricht seemed strangely muted in the Gigue.

This is one of Hyltin’s best roles, showing off her playfulness, airy jumps and on-the-note musicality. Her bourrées were like spun silk. This is a very long role and I’ve seen ballerinas run out of steam many times. Hyltin never pushed or forced in any of the filigree footwork and made it look effortless. Huxley seemed to take each fiendishly difficult solo of the Theme and Variations section like a personal challenge. His entrechats, cabrioles and pirouettes (including the three that open up into arabesque) were buttery smooth. When Hyltin and Huxley finally danced together at the end of the Theme and Variations, their duet had a harmonic rightness.

Gonzalo Garcia and Megan Fairchild in George Balanchine’s Rubies
© Erin Baiano

Megan Fairchild and Gonzalo Garcia have been dancing the lead couple in Rubies for years. Their portrayal has always been too precious – lots of cutesy grins that seem to work against the sharp edges of Stravinsky’s score. But their technique is remarkable, almost as if it’s been preserved in amber. Garcia is retiring at the end of the season but his manége of corkscrew turns were that of a dancer 15 years younger. Fairchild could do that sequence of double pirouettes with the flexed arms and hands with so much security and precision. Emily Kikta, in the Tall Girl role, looked like a commanding Amazon. Her dancing was impressive, although she did not hold her unsupported penchées for very long in her famous solo exit.

New York City Ballet in George Balanchine’s La Valse
© Paul Kolnik

La Valse is a ballet that NYCB is overly fond of programming – the choreography is, truth be told, not that interesting. It has a big shock ending but that’s it. Sara Mearns played the socialite as moody from the start, instead of the more effective (in my opinion) slow descent into madness. The stronger performances came from Jovani Furlan as the young, callow man who accompanies the socialite, and Amar Ramasar as the Death figure. Ramasar was sinister and chilling, Furlan brooding and elegant. The pure ballroom first movement was actually more impressive. A standout was Kristen Segin and Devin Alberda in the first waltz, who were so light and effervescent.

All-Balanchine programs tend to be a hit with the audience and this was no exception. A blizzard was blowing through NYC but the auditorium was full and enthusiastic.