I went to see NYCB again on Saturday, and was treated to another performance of Balanchine's Le Tombeau de Couperin, which is a vehicle for the company's very young, very hungry corps de ballet. I saw this piece for the first time a couple of weeks ago (on the same program as Episodes), and I enjoyed it just as much. It's Balanchine's architectural sensibility at its finest--marvelously kaleidoscopic patterns emerge and dissolve constantly, as the eight men and eight women constantly rearrange themselves and bow to each other, echoing court dances of the past. The ballet also incorporates Balanchine's trademark fearless use of pedestrian gestures, like simple walks and skips, to get his dancers from one place to another. I say fearless, because I think few choreographers would be confident enough to just have their dancers walk around the stage.
But Le Tombeau de Couperin is also singular in that there are no solos, and it is not in any way a vehicle for a single ballerina. It is a present for City Ballet's corps, who always make up the cast, and a way for them to really show off their Balanchine training in the precision and quickness of their movements. Their unbridled joy in being onstage is also apparent--I almost never see such happy smiles when I watch the soloists and principals perform. These dancers are just so happy to be onstage, and are clearly hungry for more opportunities like this. It's also nice to see the corps being appreciated, as they do so much work in other Balanchine ballets, and usually only get one or two quick bows before the principals come out for their bows and curtain calls. At the first performance I saw, the dancers got two curtain calls, and it was wonderful to see them soaking up the applause they well deserved.
I'd like to see these talented young dancers get more opportunities to shine as a group.