A belated few thoughts on seeing Balanchine's Midsummer Night's Dream in New York at the end of last month.
The choice was that or Alessandra Ferri, my favourite dancer in the mid-80s, as Giselle with ABT at the Met. Not having seen the Balanchine before I opted for something new to me, at the State Theatre, Lincoln Centre. I must say I am no fan of the play so that no doubt colours my thoughts below. I also had a seat at the end of row C in the stalls so got a very oblique view. Balanchine's leggy ladies looked all the more leggy for being seen at an angle.
Kyra Nichols was Titania - very regal, full of hauteur and grand. She looked in discomfort in some of the lifts and partnering: flashy smiles when she was facing front. Damian Woetzel was Oberon: somewhat prissy choreography and costuming made the character look wet. His disdain for the mortals or displeasure at Titania was expressed as a permanent sneer - it looked as though he could smell the drains or cooked cabage water.
As others have said in the past the story telling is not a patch on Ashton's distillation. Act 1 tells the story of the play: act 2 is a wedding divertisseement. In fact several of t he audince left at the interval - thinking it finished. Although Balanchine keeps more of the plot than Ashton the story is not always clear; the friend I was with certainly did not get it all, particularly what Hippolyta and Theseus were doing there. Hippolyta appaears as type of huntress Diana in act one (I think) and as herself in act 2: it's confusing.
The four lovers very similar to what we know with Ashton - Helena has the most and the best choreography. The lovers' hindered by Camelot style costumes mens' wigs rather BRB Romeo & Juliet - very unflattering. Lots of kitcsh butterflies doing classical variations.
A delight were the children's corps of insects and animals - in no way just cute, very committed, clever costumes by Karinska. Sets were twee - Disneyesque foliage and flowers. The flower that hides Titania is a type of revolving chair, upholstered in pink, shiny, synthetic velour. That really was the tone of much of act 1. Not terribly engaging or funny - but Bottom was good. Kyra Nichols did those scenes very well with him.
The strongest dancing was Pascale van Kipnis as Hippolyta - somebody to watch - darting through her classical variations and she was equally strong in the wedding celebration in act 2.
Also excellent in the diverts were Jenifer Ringer and Charles Askegard. The finale the usual full corps full stage tidal wave after a succession of classical bravura.