Why program George Balanchine’s 1968 ballet “La Source” with Alexei Ratmansky’s 2010 “Namouna, A Grand Divertissement,” as New York City Ballet has done this season? The thing that binds the two ballets together is a similar spirit, born of their common origin: the Paris Opéra. Both are set to lustrous music composed by 19th century French composers (Léo Delibes and Édouard Lalo) for grandiose ballets filled with adventure and set in magical locales. Both Balanchine and Ratmansky have dispensed with their original plots, to differing degrees—Ratmansky keeps the whiff of a story and the notion of characters with specific traits, while Balanchine uses the music as the setting for a series of pure dances, like a delicious meal. In both, wit, lightness, and stylishness predominate.
Unity Phelan in “Namouna” by Alexei Ratmansky. Photograph by Erin Baiano