Dance evolves with the times as do all things, artistic or run-of-the-mill. It is what we need to keep in perspective as we watch young choreographers take on the creation of the next new ballet. They will be influenced by what has been termed modern dance, a genre dating back to Isadora Duncan’s day and represented prominently today by, among others, Paul Taylor (and his) American Modern Dance.
Modern dance is meant to be less formal, to eschew the stodgy. Not that Jerome Robbins, or George Balanchine, for that matter, can be thought of as stodgy. The ballets that are stepping, best foot forward, these days, tend to –not exactly relax, since many are as frenetic as they are innovative– be freer in mixing the metaphors of dance forms.
Lauren Lovett and Peter Walker, two of the more recently minted NYCB dance-makers, have emerged as rising stars of ballet. Lovett tends towards a romantic view of the classical. Walker is a bit of a renegade, although his second work, the 2018 dance odyssey, moves to a more traditional line.
The older guard is equally willng to mix things up. At 40, and after many years dancing as a principal with New York City Ballet, and working with his own troupe and as head of the Paris Opera Ballet, Benjamin Millepied is an elder statesman in the world of choreography. Millepied, whose Neverwhere was a lovely revelation at a recent NYCB performance, is a case in point. His work uses classical style married to contemporary scores–Neverwhere is set to music by Nico Muhly– and refreshing ideas about movement. Alexei Ratmansky, Artist in Residence at the American Ballet Theatre since 2008, has given NYCB some delightful novelties, as well. His Odessa and Songs of Bukovina are works that join diverse styles of folk and ballet in beautiful complexity.
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.
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.
Ballet, and I guess, all forms of dance, has always had the effect of transporting me.
In one piece on the program the other day at the New York City Ballet, Peter Martins’ choreography to Stravinsky’s propellant Jeu De Cartes took me away in a most pleasing riot of jumps and jetés. Diamonds, spades, hearts and clubs were displayed in spirited combinations; there were knaves and face-cards acting in harmony. The Queen and her cavalier dresses in kitschy abandon by costume designer Ian Falconer pranced happily to the stirring melody.
This was just the first of five transportive moments that afternoon. And one of the most original and electrifying was Peter Walker’s ten in seven. This is a dancework we had seen before, and were looking forward to with delight. It was even more splendid on a second watching. ten in seven, with a guitar-led band on an on-stage bandstand, and 5 coupled dancers is electrifying. That guitarist leading the band is Thomas Kitka, who also wrote the commissioned score.
Equally intoxicating is Alexei Ratmansky’s new Odessa. Ratmansky reponds to the eclectic styles in the score with fire. The costumes by Keso Dekker are splendid. In the dance, when passion meets brutality, I wanted to be the one to alert the police. In fact every aspect of Odessa, which premiered on May 4th, feels as if it is energized by Leonid Desyatnikov’s music, Sketches to Sunset from 2006.
Lauren Lovette’s For Claraleft us with wanting more when last we saw it. This viewing was no different except that the lovely piece, set to music by Robert Schumann, was even more admirable. Ms. Lovette has succumbed to romantic impulses with great subtlety, and in the most charming of ways.
New York City Ballet’s resident choreographers are always a talented and innovative bunch. When Christopher Wheeldon filled that role, he quickly became our favorite. Fashions come and go, but we still thrill to his works, like Carousel: A Dance, which we never see often enough. After the Rainis another such, and it gets better with repeated exposure. On this occassion, it was danced by Maria Kowroski and Ask la Cour both of whom execute the piece with elegance and style.
Justin Peck, currently the Choreographer in Residence, got his first-ever all-Peck program recently. Two of the pieces, The Dreamers (a duet, danced by Sarah Mearns and Amar Ramasar on this occasion) and Everywhere You Go(for what looks like an entire company), both familiar, are welcome additions to the permanent repertoire. Peck has an interesting way of partnering male dancers, and lots of energy even in his sometimes dystopic moods. New Blood is an interesting new work, that will take a few viewings to absorb and analyze.
The dancers– from corps to principal–earn my unbridled admiration with ever step they take.
Ofttimes, once the curtain rises, it’s the costumes I remember. They are the shorthand trigger of what the dance I am about to see will be.
This is not an infallible guide, as it was not with Christopher Wheeldon’s Estancia at New York City Ballet the other day. (The gaucho-rich costumes by the designer Carlos Campos, have a touch of J. Crew; the horses are sleekly outfitted for–under the circumstances– maximum stagey realism.)
A WILD RIDE
We last saw Estancia when it premiered in 2010, so the memory lapse can be forgiven. Or perhaps it should not. Estancia is brilliant, lively, original and a wild love story. A huge brava to Ana Sophia Sheller for her portrayal of the wild Country Girl who tames Adrian Danchig-Waring’s wonderfully danced City Boy. Wheeldon has set the piece to the Alberto Ginastera composition commissioned in 1941 by Lincoln Kirstein. Since his American Ballet Caravan disbanded in the next year, Kirstein never got the chance to have Balanchine choreograph. There is plenty of exotica on the pampas on which Estancia is danced; there are cowboys, and city slickers, peasant girls and wild horses (one of whom is danced by Amar Ramasar) and a singer (Stephen LaBrie) in the style of flamenco.
A GALLERY TOUR
Pictures at an Exhibition, set for New York City Ballet in 2014 by Alexei Ratmansky to Modest Mussorgsky’s piano concerto, is artsy, but a touch overly long. Not on a list of personal favorites, but it executes a clever concept, and is well danced by the company.
The cast are costumed, by Adeline Andre, in painterly outfits. Wassily Kandinsky’s “Color Studies…” are the background, in projections created by Wendell K. Harrington and lit by lighting designer Mark Stanley.
Everywhere We Go, Justin Peck’s second dance created for NYCB (in the spring of 2014)set to music by Sufijan Stevens, suffers from mood swings. These, however, cannot detract from the buoyant mood in which the piece has already put you from the moment it opens. Everywhere We Go is exuberant as it opens, and its excitement and energy is infectious, even heart-stopping. In the seventh or eighth movement, the nine-part dancework lurches into a depression. Everywhere We Go is still exhilarating, just seems to be a little less upbeat.
Among the many thrills offered up by Everywhere We Go is the pleasure of seeing Robert Fairchild and Amar Ramasar partnering. Peck is a master at this kind of male-bonding, but, with 25 dancers on stage, he gives us much much more to enjoy.
In ballet-making, as in all things in life, younger hands must eventually prevail and take over. It is progressive, and these new sensibilities need to be heard. Justin Peck can be counted upon as one of this new band of dancemakers, as can the new-to-me Nicolas Blanc, whose Mothership takes off with a distinctly electro tempo, provided by the music of Mason Bates.
In Belles-Lettres, Justin Peck uses costumes to paint a picture in which the drama of the music is reconstructed in the drama of the steps. The piece is set to Cesar Franck’s Solo de piano avec accompagnement de quintette à cordes.
The Most Incredible Thing is another Peck costume drama. Set to commissioned music by Bryce Dressner, this piece was preceded by enough hype to lift an air balloon aloft. All the hype is true and well-deserved. It is not just the 50 dancers on the stage that make this a BIG ballet. The Hans Christian Anderson fairy-tale is clothed by Marcel Dzama, supervised by Marc Happel, for maximum odd effects.
Classic meets modern
Peter Martins, @NYCBallet’s Ballet Master in Chief, has choreographed a great number of works for the company, including the overwhelming lovely Barber Violin Concerto .
She steps into his embrace, and this being ballet, the embrace is more intimate than you would normally expect. When they switch partners, one couple is wild and tender, while the second take great effort in their relationship.The conceit in this energetic and stirring piece is ballet’s flirtation with modern dance.
For many of the new wave of choreographers, the flirtation has become a collaboration, with modern steps and moves heavily incorporated into their ballet creations.
Meanwhile, over at the New York City Center, NYCB alum, Peter Boal brings his Pacific Northwest Ballet on February 24th for a short stay through the 27th. Represented in the two repertories are George Balanchine dances from across his long career, and works by
David Dawson, William Forsythe, and Crystal Pite, all danced to live music by the PNB Orchestra.
Also running from February 24th to 27th, New York Theatre Ballet at New York Live Art as part of the seriesLegends & Visionaries 2015, which includes an untitled World Premiere set to Philip Glass’ Piano Etudes choreographed by Steven Melendez and Zhong-Jing Fang.
One night only, March 5th to be exact, Moscow Festival Ballet presents a double bill of one acts on romance, Romeo and Juliet and Carmen at Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts. The Shakespeare is restaged by legendary Bolshoi principle dancer Elena Radchenko and set to the music of Tchaikovsky. This is followed by Alberto Alonso’s tempestuousCarmen, inspired by Bizet’s spirited and sensuous opera.
The Miami City Ballet is at Lincoln Center from April 13th to 17th. There will be world premiere commissioned works on the large Koch stage. Justin Peck, Alexei Ratmansky, Liam Scarlett, Twyla Tharp and Balanchine are on the bill.
The headline is that the New School, which opened a performing arts space on West 13th Street, has formed a College of Performing Arts under Executive Dean Richard Kessler. The program includes the Mannes School of Music, The School of Jazz at The New School, and The School of Drama, and is partnering with the Martha Graham Dance Company.