Marked as George Balanchine’s first international success, Apollo is an iconic ballet proven over and over to stand the test of time. Choreographed in 1928, when Balanchine was just twenty-four, Apollo depicts the story of the Greek God of Music when he is visited by three muses, Calliope, muse of poetry; Polyhymnia, muse of mime; and Terpsichore, muse of dance and song.
Paulo Arrais, Lia Cirio, Viktorina Kapitonova, and Chyrstyn Fentroy give a luxurious interpretation of the neo-classical piece.
Opening on Arrais in an epochal pose as the title character: one foot pointed front, a hand stretched outward on the head of a long-necked lute (a Greek baglamas?), the base of the instrument resting against his hip so that it extends parallel to the floor. His right arm is high above his head; it is not until he swings this arm in a circle that we realize the musician is mid strum.
Arrais dances with strength but he is most effective in how he absorbs the role of Apollo. He looks as if he sees something beyond the curtain, beyond the walls of the theater, perhaps Mount Olympus in the distance.
Apollo gives each muse a symbol to match their art: a tablet for Calliope, a mask for Polyhymnia, and a lyre for Terpsichore.
Kapitonova, as Calliope, has an impressive wingspan appropriately utilized in expansive reaches in her solo.
Giving us beautiful lines and a sequence of solid double turns all without the help of one arm (her hand is at her mouth in a “hush” sign) is Fentroy as Polyhymnia.
And Cirio, as Terpsichore, delivers an enchanting stage presence and advanced physical awareness to the role.
Balanchine’s balance of simplicity and intricacy brings dimension to the work. At one moment, the four dancers stand in a line, one directly in front of the other, and simply lay their left cheek on the dancer behind them. Like a Greek statue, the pose is both brilliant and uncomplicated.
At other times, he amps up the complexity but knows how to drive the imagery home. He creates a pleasing sequence and just repeats it – almost like he knew we would need to see it more than once.
In another step for all four dancers, they link hands in a labyrinthine knot while one dancer twists and maneuvers in a circle around the group. It looks as if they would need to disconnect to be able to do what they are doing. Balanchine repeats the mobius knot four times. And you will watch it, amazed, every time.
The piece ends in another iconic pose: Apollo in a lunge and the muses extending their legs in arabesques of varying degrees, fanning out like sun rays as Apollo ascends to Mount Olympus.