At New York City Ballet George Balanchine’s “Apollo” (1928) is a touchstone, the fountainhead of neoclassical values and a proving ground for generations of storied dancers. These facts exert pressure on a performer making his first appearance in the title role. Yet the role itself offers solace. Balanchine’s Apollo is a god also making a debut, just beginning to figure out what he can do.At the “Balanchine Black & White” program on Friday night Robert Fairchild was not making his first appearance as Apollo. The situation was worse than that. His debut came in April, in Washington, and he was scheduled to introduce his interpretation to New York — the introduction that counts — soon after. Injury intervened, however, and as he was healing, Chase Finlay, a regal, then 20-year-old dancer in the corps de ballet, made his debut in the role. Mr. Finlay’s performance was greeted as an epiphany. Gia Kourlas, in The New York Times, called him “a new Apollo for our times.”Mr. Fairchild reminds me of Montgomery Clift. He’s dark-haired and handsome like the movie star, broodingly clean-cut, and his Apollo contained suggestions of Method acting. Mr. Fairchild is also young; at 24 he’s the age of the dance’s creator at the time of its creation. Yet there’s something 1950s about his masculine sensitivity. He might have had a pack of cigarettes rolled up in a sleeve, if his shirt hadn’t been sleeveless.His dancing was particularly admirable in its kinetic sense of discovery, the torque and range of motion as he tested his body. His attitude toward the three muses was an apt mix of authority and curiosity, and there was a tenderness — too human perhaps but lovely and fresh — in the way he arranged them and touched their faces. Near the end, when the music called him to his destiny, he still looked overawed, but by the final chords he seemed to have relaxed into godhood. A fine start.The muses were a little more experienced. Ana Sophia Scheller’s Calliope was effective; Tiler Peck’s Polyhymnia, exuberant. But as Terpsichore, Sterling Hyltin was too much of a debutante, prissily playing hard to get. In her pas de deux with Mr. Fairchild she grew more generous, and all four dancers, joining together in the coda, responded to the rhythmic incisiveness that Fayçal Karoui brought out of the orchestra.Debuts on Friday abounded. In the final section of “Episodes” (1959) Rebecca Krohn, filling in for an injured Sara Mearns, looked tentative. Where the role calls for expansion, a Bach ricercata after Webern sparseness, she was small scaled, lost against a forest of dancers. Her better-prepared colleagues presented the work’s compelling strangeness with lucid objectivity, particularly Teresa Reichlen in the second section (Five Pieces, Opus 10).In “The Four Temperaments” (1946), the company put across the work’s cumulative power, and only Savannah Lowery fell short. Her Sanguinic was almost anemic, so that the circuit of low-altitude lifts that her partner carries her through, a sequence that should be thrillingly serene, looked more like she lacked the energy to get higher. Ashley Bouder certainly has the right attack for Choleric (another New York debut). With her legs slicing around, you can see why the four men approach her warily. Though she could not resist some habitual posturing, a spunky uptilt of her chin, Ms. Bouder supplied enough verve to send the whole dance into its overwhelming conclusion, all cleared for liftoff. The company’s season is just beginning.