The Nutcracker‘s mice and dancing candies have been packed away; City Ballet is again offering its angels in plain leotards and tights. The winter season proper opened with two Balanchine masterworks of the 1940s, Concerto Barocco and Symphony in C, and Peter Martins’s 1990 Fearful Symmetries. The whole evening was a lesson in symmetry—grand-mannered in Symphony, delicately tweaked into asymmetry in Barocco, and varied insistently and frequently in the Martins ballet, in keeping with John Adams’s fine score.

Promising debuts cropped up amid a slew of substitutions, plus performers new to me in key roles. In the glorious second movement of Barocco, Albert Evans was a model of power and elegance as he guided not just Yvonne Borree but the eight nymphs who create the ballet’s Bachian mazes. In Symmetries, the newcomers were Abi Stafford, Amar Ramasar, and Stephen Hanna. Although Stafford is clear and poised, she seemed not fully there yet in either this ballet or the Bizet Symphony. Ramasar is extremely promising, both forceful and softly muscular (he’ll be better when he views “modern” moves in the context of classicism and stops lifting his shoulders and dropping his head). Hanna, paired with the creamy Jennie Somogyi, made a fine debut. Megan Fairchild bounded brightly with Benjamin Millepied in Symphony‘s third movement. I liked her boldness, her expansiveness.

Two of the evening’s standouts: Ashley Bouder and Joaquin De Luz in Symmetries. De Luz knows just how much playful respect and delight to bestow on this brilliant young woman. Wendy Whelan (sensitively partnered by Philip Neal) has fine-tuned her performance in the ravishing second movement of Symphony. She seemed to grow—to sigh—into a simple passé. Her falls backward into her cavalier’s arms could stop your breath.

Rachel Rutherford’s gracious, large-scale dancing, with its slight sense of risk, animated Barocco, and some bright demi-soloists were on view in Symphony: Teresa Reichlen, Savannah Lowery, Amanda Edge, and Pauline Golbin.