Posted in #critique, athletic, ballet, balletic, classic, connectivity, dance, dance making, dancing, empowerment, high expectations, history, in repertory, joy, legacy

Howdy, Partner

Partnering has developed a new look as the 21st century progresses. Partly, this is a reflection of a more liberal social milieu. Gender fluidity is the term of art for this LGBTQ-era. Same sex marriage, mixed use bathrooms, dorms which house both boys and girls on the same floor are part of our new-age maturity.

Equality has certainly not come full-circle. The workplace and the quotidian are still often off-kilter and exhibit the same kinds of inequities that have been with us forever. We are working on it, much as the dance makers are working on many more diverse ways to partner.

Many choreographers– Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon Benjamin Millipied etc.– experiment with male on male lifts, and Jessica Lang has a woman catch and release her male partner at one point in Her Notes.

Roles can be reversed for Mr. Mom and his executive wife. We’ve come to accept that and to expect to see it in our arts and entertainments. The glass ceiling– and other prejudices and biases– will be broken and taken down in tiny steps rather than with crowbars.

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 ballet, New York City Ballet

The red and the black

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 Clara left 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 Rain is 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.

The spring season of NYC Ballet’s Here/Now Festival runs through May 21st and   finishing the season on May 28th with Ballanchine’s  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, at their Lincoln Center home. Visit the website for information and tickets.

Posted in ballet, New York City Ballet

Zen fancies: Stay in the present

It sounds like there is some sort of Zen maxim in the name of the
New York City Ballet’s spring season. It features a festival entitled
“Here/Now.” It promotes a whooping 43 works by its extensive roster
of post-Balanchine choreographers. These include Christopher
Wheeldon, Alexis Ratmansky and young Justin Peck. Members of
the troupe, like Justin Peck, Lauren Lovette and Peter Walker, also
contribute dancepieces to the season’s repertory. We’ve witnessed
these imaginativre works each has created before this at there September
20, 2016 premieres and were very impressed.

The Spring programming begins on April 18th with a dash of Balanchine
and Robbins. Then it moves on to the Here/Now festivities and ends with
a touch of the perennial favorite, Midsummer Night’s Dream.

For more information, and to get tickets, please visit www.nycballet.com/

Posted in ballet, dance, dance making, dancing

Uplifting

Tiler Peck and Amar Ramasar in Justin Peck's Everywhere We Go from http://www.nycballet.com/Ballets/E/Everywhere-We-Go-New-Stevens-Peck.aspx
Tiler Peck and Amar Ramasar in Justin Peck’s Everywhere We Go from http://www.nycballet.com/Ballets/E/Everywhere-We-Go-New-Stevens-Peck.aspx

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.

CAPRICIOUS

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.

Costumed

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.

For tickets for the New York City Ballet, whose new season begins September 20th, please visit http://www.nycballet.com/.

Posted in dance, musical theater

“An American in Paris” is a ballet lovers show

An American In Paris is definitely a ballet-lovers/ballet-goers musical. Don’t shortchange yourself, however. If you enjoy the musical theater, or are a fan of Gene Kelly (as …Paris star-dancer Robert Fairchild has said he is) or like the film, you will also like the musical.

As a bit of self-congratulations, and an aside, we’ve seen Fairchild this season in both Slaughter On Tenth Avenue and Who Cares? at the New York City Ballet, between his committments to the Broadway musical.

Breaker/breaker: Fairchild commented on Twitter today that he is leaving …Paris to return to @nycballet in 5 weeks. The show is scheduled to go on through July 3rd.

Our Theater Blog: TandBOnTheAisle

If it weren’t for Gene Kelly, Robert Fairchild told Dance Magazine, he would never have become a dancer. Thank you Gene Kelly! Your “American” surely inspired the one on the stage at the Palace in an open run.

3548That said, An American In Paris,A New Musical,  is an entertainment onto itself. Director-Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon has created dance numbers that shine. Craig Lucas has  devised a book based on the movie, but with its own point of view.

3546Jerry Mulligan, a Lieutenant in the US Army (Fairchild) misses his transport home from Paris. He wanders around, following a girl (Lise Dassin, played by the lovely Leanne Cope) he has spotted and lands in a bar where Adam Hochberg (Brandon Uranowitz,) a fellow American ex-pat welcomes him. Adam is helping his friend, Henri Baurel (Max von Essen) rehearse a nightclub act.

WartornParisThe setting is Paris just after the war, giving Bob Crowley…

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Posted in dance

The British were here, and have headed home

Expecting formality and tutus, the casual observer is presented instead with young men
in underwear, and gyrating young women meeting their every move.

Eric Underwood and Melissa Hamilton in Infra © ROH / Bill Cooper 2010 from www.roh.org.uk
Eric Underwood and Melissa Hamilton in Infra © ROH / Bill Cooper 2010 from http://www.roh.org.uk

The Royal Ballet Company paid a visit to New York City, under the auspices of
the Joyce Theater Foundation, after an absence of 11 years. In that time, many
of the troupe ‘s principals had rotated out and a new group of dancers arrived
with a programme of modern works (Program B) and some old favorites (A). The RBC is anything but stodgy. These dances for the most part brought a  welcome freshness to the David H.
Koch Theater stage.

Wayne McGregor’s “Infra,” set to a score by Max Richter, is a kind of deconstructionist version of ballet. There is lots of graceful and purposeful walking, including on the light screen (designed by Lucy Carter) where silhouetted figures appear over the heads of the dancers.

The program that follows briefly nodded at classicism. Calvin Richardson’s
Dying Swan is movingly danced by the choreographer and from the Frederick
Ashton repertory, Voices of Spring felt more like a send-up than a straight-up
classical interpretation. Christopher Wheeldon’s Aeternum Pas De Deux
exhibits classic and classy gravitas.

Each work is beautifully danced.

If “Infra” deconstructs, Alaistair Marriot’s solo “Borrowed Light,” set to an
equally modern piece by Philip Glass, re-constructs. The work is full of longing.
As performed by Marcellino Sambe, its grand pirouettes were superbly
executed.

The “If I loved you” pas de deux had the exuberance of young love; its leaps and
lifts were breathtaking, underscored by Richard Rogers’ music for Carousel.
Lauren Cuthbertson’s Julie Jordan and Matthew Golding’s Billy Bigelow gave
Kenneth McMillan’s choreography poignancy.

Last on the bill of the all new-to-this-reviewer pieces was Age of Anxiety; set to
music by Leonard Bernstein by Liam Scarlett, it is a short story ballet. Age of
Anxiety is an urban dance featuring tales from the barroom. Sarah Lamb and
Alexander lead the cast in this lovely and compelling dance drama.

New York was the Royal Ballet’s final stop on its US tour.