Posted in ballet, New York City Ballet

Improvise

A great performance has an air of inevitability as well as a feel of spontaneity.

It looks like an improvisation, as if invented on the spot.

NYCB carries off this impersonation of spontaniety so well that I often sit through a performance feeling as if it were created there and then just for me.

I am aware that this is a fond delusion on my part. Warren Carlyle plumbed the choreography of the Broadway work of Jerome Robbins to put together the spontaneous combustion that is Something to Dance About, for instance. The cast rehearsed this brilliant compilation, as it did Justin Peck’s tribute to Robbins, the deceptively-titled Easy.

Even pieces I have seen many times, like the great Four Seasons which Robbins set to Verdi grant me the perception of a sneak peak into a newly minted work. Roman Mejia, a young (and apparently much noticed) member of the corps, was a startling revelation to me as the Puckish faun in the fall section of this ballet.

The pas de deux often also looks like invented in the spur of the moment as the show-off pottion of the program. Each dancer jumps in –often literally– to the performance, and takes his or her turn impressing us.

Posted in dance, dance making, modern dance meets ballet, New York City Ballet

Jerome Robbins at 100

Jerome Robbins was a man who knew how to put on a show. His ballets has as much pomp and circumstance, flair and flavor as any of his Broadway show.

At 30-40 minutes, they constitute something like a one-act on every program on which they are featured. Like many another dance-maker, Robbins covered a range of styles and subjects. There’s NY Export: Opus Jazz, the West Side Story Suite, and I’m Old Fashioned with their modern and pop culture motifs.

The Four Seasons, set to ballet interludes by Verdi from a number of his operas, is an exhilirating and very classical entertainment. In it he creates not just a mise en scène that takes us from winter through spring to summer and fall but also hearkens to Shakespeare. A Puck-like figure (puckishly danced by Preston Chamblee at the performance we attended) gambols through the final chapter of the ballet.

The Four Seasons with its processions representing the times and temperatures that progress through the year is at once majestic and light-hearted. Robbins, a much lauded stage choreographer contributed greatly to the NYCB repertoire in his long association with the company. He joined George Balanchine as Associate Artistic Director of the New York City Ballet in 1949.

This spring, the NYCB will dance in tribute to Jerome Robbins on his centennial for three weeks beginning on May 3rd.

Posted in dance, modern American dance, modern dance, modern dance meets ballet, New York City Ballet, Paul Taylor American Modern Dance, Paul Taylor Dance Company

Put dance on your schedule

Going to theaters to see drama, comedy or dance is one of the ways in which New Yorkers get to spend their free time. New entertainments abound. Here is a short and very incomplete list of suggestions for you:

You’ve heard a good deal from us about the New York City Ballet, a company which enjoys many seasons at its New York Lincoln Center hq. It will continue its present winter presentations with classics and new works from the repertory and Peter Martins’ Romeo and Juliet starting the week of February 13th. Balanchine, Ratmansky, Peck, Peter Walker etal return from February 24th through March 4th, at which point the Paul Taylor troupe takes the David H. Koch stage.

A special performance on Tuesday, March 6 at 7pm – Dance for All generously underwritten by Taylor Foundation Trustee Elise Jaffe and Jeffrey Brown – has been added to the 2018 Season of Paul Taylor American Modern Dance (PTAMD) at the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. All seats to this performance by the Paul Taylor Dance Company, with music performed live by Orchestra of St. Luke’s, featuring Paul Taylor’s classics Arden Court, Banquet of Vultures and Promethean Fire, will cost just $5. Tickets to the performance,, will go on sale, Wednesday, February 7 at 10:00 a.m. at the Koch Box Office at 20 Lincoln Center Plaza or at www.boxoffice.dance. There are no facility fees or convenience charges for these tickets.

Posted in #Tschaikovsky, dance, dance making, dancing with the stars, George Balanchine, Glazounov, Mr. B, New York City Ballet

George’s house of dance

Apollo4-FinlayHyltinPeckSchellerSlideShowGallery
Chase Finlay in Apollo with Sterling Hyltin as Terpsichore, Tiler Peck as Polyhymnia, and Ana Sophia Scheller as Calliope. Photo © Paul Kolnik

It’s George Balanchine’s birthday and the NYCB is celebrating it. The season continues amidst a backdrop of allegations of physical and sexual misconduct against Peter Martins, who has stepped down as Ballet Master in Chief. The company is under the collective management of an interim artistic team and a group of Ballet Masters. The backdrop is one I would like to ignore, as it seems likely NYCB boards may have been these many years. The scandal persists, and an email in which NYCB’s board thanks Martins for his service and leadership, and says they are independently investigating seems more problem than solution.

At any rate, New York City Ballet was only under his stewardship; the NYCB always belonged to Mr. B.

Mozartiana_TAngle-Kowroski-Ulbricht_C35140-12
Tyler Angle, Maria Kowroski, and Daniel Ulbricht with students from The School of American Ballet in Mozartiana, Tschaikovsky’s tribute to Mozart interpreted by Balanchine for the NYCB in 1981. Photo © Paul Kolnik. At the Saturday matinée, Sara Mearns was in the lead.

Even the dancers who never had a chance to work with Balanchine honor him when they dance. This Saturday was all Balanchine, including Apollo (from 1928) and Cortège Hongrois (1973) as well as Mozartiana from 1981.

As Jared Angle and Megan Fairchild said in introducing the January 27th 2pm program, it covered over 50 years of Balanchine’s interpretations of  music. The choreography was brilliant, of course.

Apollo, Balanchine’s first internationally recognized triumph, created when he was just 24 years old, is a collaboration with his friend Igor Stravinsky. The latter provides the music for an idyllic god of prophecy and art  and his hand-maidens to captivate. On Saturday, Adrian Danching-Waring was the jazzed-up god as Tiler Peck took on the role as his dancing muse, Terpsichore. Indiana Woodward carried Calliope’s pad and pen, while Ashly Isaacs was Polyhymnia. This dance has never before been a favorite of ours; at Saturday’s performance we had a decided change of heart. Looking forward to a reprise this afternoon!

In Mozartiana, where Tschaikovsky pays homage to Mozart, we have the dual authorship of two outstanding composers, as it were. It is a soothing, elegant work, and the elegant Sara Mearns was joined by Chase Finlay as her leading man, and Troy Schumacher as well as an able corps, and students from the School of American Ballet.

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The ensemble in Cortège Hongrois. Photo © Paul Kolnik.

Cortège Hongrois, on the other hand, mesmerized us when last we saw it. Yesterday. it was an agreeable dance-piece. Balanchine set it to Alexander Glazounov’s Raymonda, music that is varied and stirring. Cortège Hongrois opens with a grand processional, and has a rousing Finale. The frantic and gorgeous activity of the Czardas and its Variations is followed by the relatively restorative Pas de Deux, performed by Ashley Bouder and Russell Janzen on Saturday afternoon. One the dance regains its composure we witness a full cast frolic that is typical Balanchine, and therefore a perfect end.

Winter 2018 season the New York City Ballet is on now through March 4th. Visit http://www.nycballet.com/ for schedules and ticket information.

Posted in ballet, dance, dance making, favorites, modern American dance, modern dance, modern dance meets ballet, New York City Ballet, Paul Taylor American Modern Dance, Paul Taylor Dance Company

Partiality

RedShoesPage_facing_218_of_Andersen's_fairy_tales_(Robinson)
By Robinson, W. Heath (William Heath), 1872-1944 (illustrator) – Copy at New York Public Library, scanned by nicole deyo, obtained from http://www.archive.org/details/hansandersensfai00andeCrop, little or no corrections, needs it., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16274672

Playing favorites gets a bad rep. In fact, it’s a parental rule that moms love all their children equally. Every mother knows that this is hooey; there is always one who stands a little closer to the heart.

My connection to New York City Ballet (@nycballet) goes back many years to the company’s residency at City Center. Over the half-century plus that I have been partial to NYCB, I have had many favorite dancers.

Among the current crop of primas, Sara Mearns is a stand-out favorite. This in no way diminishes the rest of the NYCB troupe who all delight and dazzle. I often find myself loving best the one who is near, as Ado Annie might; I like the NYCballet.

Nonetheless, on my Mearns watch, I find myself fortunate enough to have tickets for one of her performances of the new Bourne (music by Bernard Hermann) ballet, The Red Shoes at City Center starting October 26th. (This time, we will not be sitting in that very last row from which I saw so many of Balanchine’s dancers dance his dances long ago.)

Matthew Bourne has come out of his career catnap to produce his first dance in four years. The Red Shoes, based on the movie that is based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, is the ultimate dancers’ story. It is also a caveat against overreaching. I can’t wait to see La Mearns in the title role of Victoria Page.

In March, as has been mentioned in these pages, Sara Mearns channels Isadora Duncan for the Paul Taylor American Modern Dance company. There’s something else to look forward to seeing.


George Balanchine, like Paul Taylor, was a catholic balletmaker, finding the arcane in the ordinary. An “All Balanchine” program at NYCB can range over a wide field, landing here in an utterly classical mode, there in the folkloric.

The one we just witnessed included La Valse, in which Sara Mearns was seduced by death (Amar Ramasar, another beloved NYCB Principal) while her original partner, Tyler Angle, is dejected and dismayed.

Robert Fairchild, in his penultimate performance with NYCB, danced Duo Concertant with Sterling Hyltin. The dance is one of Balanchine’s so-called black and white ballets, set to music for piano and violin written by his friend Igor Stravinsky. It is a sad and luxurious work.

Two of the pieces on the program blended classical with the quotidienne. Square Dance is elegant, and forthright, a very striking and simple ballet, with a hint of the folk dance of its title. Cortege Hongrois, on the other hand, is elaborate. It uses a populist vernacular, blending the czardas with processionals.


La Valse and Duo Concertant are over for now, as is of course the opportunity to catch Robert Fairchild as a New York City Ballet Principal Dancer.

You will be able to catch Cortege Hongrois again on a program this winter. Square Dance will be on another one as well.


New and upcoming favorites in the NYCBallet Company appear with each new season. Peter Walker and Lauren Lovette are dancer-choreographers who are classically trained with next gen sensibilities. We are the witnesses to a company that is full of life, and movement, and is always moving forward. Lucky us.


Posted in dance, dance making, modern dance meets ballet, New York City Ballet

Fire and passion

The passion in the Tango exucdes a sexual energy fuelled by an undercurrent of violence. That is inherent to the dance, and as interpreted by Alexei Ratmasky in “Odessa” (part of the @nycballet repertory) the culturally condoned thuggishness has a distinct and distinguishing beauty.

The slaps exchanged, the hair dragged in Ratmansky’s ballet is par for the Tango’s course. The preening posture of the men in the dance and the domestic disturbances on stage in no way undermines the elegance of the piece.

Costumed by Keso Dekker, the male dancers exhibit a kind of gangster chic, while the women bear an haute peasant look.  Leonid Desyatnikov;s score evokes a Russian moment in which the underworld is exotic.

Justin Peck, NYCB principal and Choreographer in Residence, exhibits the youthful exuberance appropriate to his generation. This exuberance is brilliantly on display in “The Times Are Racing.”

Am I reading a political statement into the piece? Do the dancers wear T-shirts that say
DEFY, SHOUT, PROTEST, ACT? The music by Dan Deacon, not familiar to my years, is energizing. Standing out among the 20 brilliant dancers is Indiana Woodward, but the entire cast are wonderful.

 

Posted in modern dance meets ballet, New York City Ballet, Paul Taylor, Paul Taylor American Modern Dance, Paul Taylor Dance Company, Sara Mearns

Meant to be

308px-Isadora_Duncan_(grayscale)
By Arnold Genthe (1869–1942) – Library of Congresshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Isadora_duncan.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=443628

Any true fan can see the possibility, but it took Paul Taylor and Lori Bellilove to realize it.

Sara Mearns, the New York City Ballet prima, and a favorite dancer of mine, will embody Isadora Duncan in the PTAMD spring season this coming March at Lincoln Center.  Her performance as Isadora Duncan had a sold out run in June at the Joyce.

What Taylor has envisioned is a reconstruction of works that Isadora Duncan performed, with the choreography reimagined by  by The Isadora Duncan Dance Company Artistic Director, Lori Bellilove. The program will be performed  during the 2018 Season of Paul Taylor American Modern Dance.

Duncan is being celebrated for her role as a pioneer of modern dance, a mission Taylor has taken very much to heart. Her influence was vast, with ballet makers like Sergei Diaghilev saying she was a “kindred spirit,” and artists across various disciplines seeing her as a visionary. John Dos Passos wrote that “Art was whatever Isadora d

Ms. Mearns is tall, elegant, and as befits a ballerina, graceful. More than all of that she is a skilled actress.She has always taken on roles, acting out the impulses of her art. Her role in the Peter Martins ballet-meets-modern Barber Violin Concerto may have been preparation. Or perhaps she needed no prior reference– just her natural talents– to become Isadora.

For more information on PTAMD, please visit their site. Tickets for the 2018 season are not yet available.