New York — Peter Martins's last performance in ''Apollo'' some weeks ago at the opening of the New York City Ballet's three month season was a special occasion. It was the ballet that first brought him to the City Ballet and has since been a superb vehicle for his statuesque build and quiet nobility. (Martins retired from the stage at the end of last year to devote full time to choreography and day-to-day administration of the NYCB.)
The appreciative ovation he received was addressed not only to the intensely-felt performances of Martins and Suzanne Farrell as his Terpsichore, goddess of the dance, but to a company that finds itself on the cusp of transition now that Balanchine is gone.
The ovation was also a demonstration of faith in the company's future, and as much a farewell to Martins. What it all boils down to is that the public wants to share in the history of the New York City Ballet and that, as big an institution as the company has become, it still has a one-to-one relationship with the public.
One notable aspect of the company's history is the evolution of its repertory staples over the years. For all the beauty of Martins and Farrell in ''Apollo,'' the ballet as currently performed misses the humor and playfulness Balanchine intended for it.
''Duo Concertant,'' on the other hand, has a new playfulness that makes this Balanchine masterpiece to Stravinsky all the more rich and tender. ''Duo Concertant'' is now what ''Apollo'' ought to be like: about young gods and goddesses making sport of their prowess, testing their capacities for love, and, finally, assuming adulthood by bowing before the powers of music and each other. Although ''Duo Concertant'' is not new to the repertory, it seems to be news.
Another current City Opera production, Jerome Robbins's ''I'm Old Fashioned, '' premiered only last June. But it already looks faded. This is all the more strange, since it's a big and unusual production number. Inspired by one of the dances Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth do in the film ''You Were Never Lovelier, '' the ballet begins with that sequence projected on a screen, and in the finale , this movie clip is seen again, joined by the cast of live dancers.
In the finale the movie clip is seen again, only this time Astaire and Hayworth are joined by a huge cast of live dancers.
This double exposure of synchronous movement is the most exciting part of ''I'm Old Fashioned.'' Its basic premise, though, doesn't work. It's built on the notion that the dance from the movie can fructify in many choreographic variations (designed by Robbins) and that the Jerome Kern song ''I'm Old Fashioned'' can bear similar symphonic treatment in a score created by Morton Gould. Gould's music is downright feeble, and Robbins's dances sit on it in the only way possible: gingerly.