REVIEW: George Balanchine's Works Beautifully Brought to Life by City Ballet

Be Sorry You Missed It - City Ballet Brought Down the House

Concerto Barocco – Ariana Gonzalez and Adam Bloodgood

Photo by Anna Scipione

One of the most influential dancers and choreographers in the world, George Balanchine, created some complicated and difficult pieces in his lifetime, but City Ballet makes Balanchine’s work look like a cakewalk: they are just that good. City Ballet’s recently closed production of Balanchine Masterworks 2016 was an elegant, lively, and almost unbelievable show that would make ballet companies all over the country jealous.

City Ballet has become well-known throughout San Diego as the only local company who consistently performs ballets choreographed by the late George Balanchine, which is no easy feat. In order to perform Balanchine’s works, companies have to apply for permission from The George Balanchine Trust and meet rigorous standards—essentially, the ballets have to look exactly as Balanchine had originally intended, down to the last ruffle of tulle on a tutu. Performed at Spreckels Theatre downtown with the accompaniment of the City Ballet Orchestra, Balanchine Masterworks 2016 featured three of George Balanchine’s classic shows that all inevitably wowed the crowd.

The show opened with “Concerto Barocco,” a piece staged by Nilas Martins, which featured two prominent soloists and a corps of dancers dressed in simple white leotards. The piece lacked lavish sets or extravagant costumes, but “Concerto Barocco” didn’t need any of it; the dancing and performance quality of the corps was more than enough to entrance the audience and make them hunger for more. The corps dancers were perfectly uniform in their movements and danced with impeccable timing, which is ultimately what made “Concerto Barocco” such a fascinating piece to watch. The choreography was beautifully syncopated to the music, which was composed by Johann Sebastian Bach. 

The two soloists in “Concerto Barocco,” Ariana Gonzalez and Erica Alvarado, danced in tandem to two dueling violin solos. Gonzalez and Alvarado moved so fast that if you blinked, you’d miss something. The pair worked together well, crafting onstage a fierce competition of mesmerizing grace and skill.

City Ballet Emerals
Photos by Mario Scipione; 
Megan Jacobs featured in Emeralds 

Perhaps the best piece of the night, “Emeralds,” was danced to music composed by Gabriel Faure. “Emeralds” is the opening act of Balanchine’s famous full-length ballet Jewels. Staged by former Balanchine dancer Elyse Borne, the first few moments of “Emeralds” illicited an audible gasp from the audience when the curtain rose and the dancers’ bejeweled green and flowy skirts were revealed. City Ballet’s “Emeralds” was a walk through a medieval romance, a glimpse into the young love of various couples—and in one case, a trio. And that trio, in all honesty, was flawless. Dancers Karissa Myers, Derek Lauer, and Kyla Myers had such strong chemistry and beautiful technique that it was impossible to look away. But as a whole, “Emeralds” was an unforgettable favorite of the night due to its prevailing theme: love. There was a timeless, romantic love, a naive, hopeful love, and—most importantly—a love and passion for dance.

Closing out Balanchine Masterworks 2016 was “Square Dance,” a ballet set to music by Antonio Vivaldi and Arcangelo Corelli. Also staged by Elyse Borne, “Square Dance” was a high-energy and rowdy affair that was the perfect cap to such a diverse show. Lead couple Erica Alvarado and Stepano Candreva brought the house down with their quick footwork and intense performances. As “Square Dance” came to an end and the entire corps began to jump and twirl faster and faster in time to the building music, the excitement in the audience grew palpable, until the entire audience couldn’t help but applaud. “Square Dance” was fast, fun, and a fantastic closing piece.

Square Dance City Ballet
Photos by Mario Scipione
Erica Alvarado featured in Square Dance

In truth, Balanchine Masterworks 2016 was a lively affair. City Ballet has again proven that their dancers are some of the best in San Diego, and that City Ballet itself has both the technical skill and the passionate people needed to become a world-class company. Definitely keep your eye on San Diego's own City Ballet for great things to come.

City Ballet is scheduled to close out their 2015-2016 season in early May with Romeo and Juliet. The last time City Ballet performed Romeo and Juliet was in 2012, every show was met with a standing ovation. There’s no doubt this year’s production will be just as strong (if not stronger), so be sure to get your tickets now via City Ballet’s website!