Last night's performance of Midsummer's Night Dream at the NYCB was so enchanting I decided to go again this afternoon. I decided to see an entirely different cast, to see what individual dancers could bring to each role in this very busy ballet. And while the performance didn't have the magic of last night's performance, there were still many things to treasure in Balanchine's evergreen ballet. In particular, the set of Athenian lovers this afternoon were a much stronger quartet than last night's lovers.
The NYCB's spring season is ending on a magical note with its revival of Balanchine's Midsummer's Night Dream. Tonight's performance was one that was really practically perfect in every way. I don't mean that all the dancers were perfect, or the steps were executed perfectly, but the overall performance had such energy and charm that at the end of the evening the usually reserved NYCB audience clamored for multiple curtain calls for the cast. Congratulations to the entire NYCB, from the SAB students who played the butterflies and fairies to the principals, for putting on such a great performance.
In the 1960's, there was a new wave of choreographers who consciously rebelled against the Balanchine ideals of abstract ballet. These choreographers made lavish 3-act story ballets with highly melodramatic plots. John Cranko and Kenneth MacMillan were maybe the most well-known of these choreographers, and their ballets became a sensation.
Today, the ballets haven't aged very well. The repetitiveness of the choreography (swoony lift after swoony lift after swoony lift), the derivative nature of the stories (Cranko's Onegin is predictably, not as deep and rich of a work as Tchaikovsky's opera on which the ballet is based), and the piecemeal scores (Onegin's score is taken from various Tchaikovsky music pieces) make the ballets heavily reliant on the charisma of the performers. Great dancers with strong personalities can make a ballet like Onegin work, but I can also see how with lesser dancers it can be one very boring evening.