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Something Old, Something New

Sterling Hyltin and Andrew Veyette with the company in Justin Peck's <I>Everywhere We Go</I>.<br />© Paul Kolnik. (Click image for larger version)

Here’s my review of the Saturday matinee at New York City Ballet, including débuts by Sara Mearns and Russell Janzen  in Balanchine’s Chaconne and my second look at Justin Peck’s Everywhere We Go, from last season.

And a short excerpt: “[Everywhere We Go] begins well, with a striking duet for two men, or rather for a man and his shadow. This shadowing theme suffuses the rest of the ballet, particularly the complicated relationship between principals and corps. Peck constantly subverts the hierarchies of lead dancers and ensemble. Dancers melt in and out of larger formations; at times the shadow figures become the main event. Peck’s configurations for the ensemble are often asymmetrical, non-frontal, kaleidoscopic, but never less than clear.”

Bringing Balanchine Back

Teresa Reichlen in Movements for Piano and Orchestra. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Teresa Reichlen in
Movements for Piano and Orchestra. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

New York City Ballet has been going from strength in a series of all-Balanchine programs. I review ballets with music by Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky here. A short excerpt:

“On the Stravinsky program (Sept. 25), Robert Fairchild returned to Apollo…He has relaxed into this challenging role and is now able to take risks, tilting dangerously (and excitingly) off-balance and pushing the tempo to create moments of surprise and wildness. Like the unruly young god he depicts, Fairchild tests his strengths and weaknesses before us on the stage.”

Swan Problems

Svetlana Zakharova and DAvid Hallberg in hte Bolshoi's "Swan Lake." Photo by Stephanie Berger.
Svetlana Zakharova and DAvid Hallberg in hte Bolshoi’s “Swan Lake.” Photo by Stephanie Berger.

What is it with Swan Lake? There don’t see to be any good ones around. The Bolshoi’s version, currently being performed as part of the Lincoln Center Festival, is no exception. Here’s my review, for DanceTabs. And a short excerpt:

“What the company hasn’t brought this time around is any new choreography. It’s rather a disappointment. Instead, we get three of its most well-worn ballets – Swan Lake, Don Quixote, and Spartacus. It is even more disappointing that the troupe should open its run with a Swan Lake so lackluster that it fails to improve upon the two sub-par Swan Lakes we see here regularly, at ABT and at New York City Ballet.”

 

Everywhere He Goes

On May 8, New York City Ballet  held its spring gala, marking fifty years since the opening of the State Theatre. Along with a toast, a short film, and a song from “Carousel,” the evening included two ballets: Balanchine’s whirling “Allegro Brillante” and the première of Justin Peck’s new “Everywhere We Go.”

Here‘s my review, for DanceTabs:

And a short excerpt:

“Peck has the mind of a mathematician; he finds ways to subdivide the stage and keep the eye continually guessing. Shapes appear momentarily and dissolve, only to reappear again somewhere else. Soloists weave in and out of the ensemble. The body is also subdivided in surprising ways: sometimes only the arms move, in complex phrases combining staccato and stretched combinations; other times, just the torso, or just legs.”

 

Ashton in Sarasota

Sarasota Ballet in Frederick Ashton’s Illuminations. © Frank Atura.
Sarasota Ballet in Frederick Ashton’s Illuminations.
© Frank Atura.

I’m just back from the Ashton festival at Sarasota Ballet, a four-day tribute to the choreographer. Under the directorship of Iain Webb, the company has been undergoing a major expansion over the past few years. By any measure, the festival was a big success, with strong performances, expressive dancing, and a powerful sense of style and common purpose.

You can read my review for DanceTabs here.

And a short excerpt: “The advantage of putting all these ballets on the stage in quick succession is that the audience begins to see all sorts of interconnections and motifs running through the works. Thus, in Monotones II (1965), there is an echo of the slow trio near the beginning of Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, in which a woman is slowly revolved by two men and shown from all angles, the center of a slow-moving planetary system.”

Dance Theatre of Harlem, Year Two

Davon Doane and Ashley Murphy in Past-Carry-Forward. Photo by Rachel Neville.
Davon Doane and Ashley Murphy in Past-Carry-Forward. Photo by Rachel Neville.

Dance Theatre of Harlem is currently wrapping up its second season since its return under the steady leadership of Virginia Johnson. (You can read more about here here, in this long and wide-ranging interview from last year.)

Like last year, the dancers’ warmth and directness are a pleasure. Ashley Murphy is a knockout. Chrystyn Fentroy radiates joy. But the dancing is still uneven, and especially in the more classical works, it shows some strain, some sloppiness. Then there is the question of repertory, which Johnson is molding with an eye to the company’s history and identity. It’s a difficult job. You can read more about the season here, in my review for DanceTabs. Here’s a short excerpt:

“The opening and closing of Gloria are explosions of joy, in which toe-heel taps and shimmying shoulders feel organic, like part of a misa criolla. Several passages leave vivid after-images, as when Ashley Murphy hovers in profile, her strong feet shimmering like hummingbird wings. As she bends forward or arches toward the sky, she alternates between atonement and elation.”

Two Young Choreographers on the Move: Justin Peck and Troy Schumacher

Last week I attended lecture-dems showcasing the work of two young choreographers, both of whom are also members of New York City Ballet. I wonder what they’re putting in the rosin over there at the StateTheatre, because there really seems to be an upsurge in creativity in the ranks. (But why, still, no women choreographers?) The notion that ballet is a languishing form flies out of the window when one sees their work and hears them talk.

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Works & Process talk at the Guggenheim: Ellen Barr, Justin Peck, Michael P. Atkinson, Sufjan Stevens and Karl Jensen. Photo by Jacklyn Meduga for Works & Process at the Guggenheim.

You’ll find a discussion of the two events here, for DanceTabs. And a short excerpt:

“It has now become clear that ballet is undergoing an important evolution, and I’m not referring to the overwrought, effect-laden mannerisms of much of what is referred to as “contemporary ballet.” This is a change that is blossoming within ballet’s own idiom, using the specific skill-set of ballet dancers: jumping, turning, balancing, sliding, skittering on pointe, flickering the legs at warp speed, tipping and extending hyper-articulate bodies.”

In the French Manner

Janie Taylor and Sébastien Marcovici in "La Valse." Both will retire at the end of the season. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Janie Taylor and Sébastien Marcovici in “La Valse.” Both will retire at the end of the season. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

New York City Ballet is performing an all-French program this week, with ballets by Liam Scarlett (Acheron), Jerome Robbins (Aftenoon of a Faun), and Balanchine (Walpurgisnacht Ballet and La Valse). Here’s my review for DanceTabs.

And a short excerpt: “Two of the works on the program (Afternoon of a Faun and La Valse) were created for the ballerina Tanaquil LeClercq, Balanchine’s third wife, struck with Polio at the age of twenty-seven, and now the subject of a moving documentary, Afternoon of a Faun. LeClercq’s dramatic intelligence, sense of chic, and air of knowingness – she was half-French, born in Paris – hover over the evening.”

Go for Barocco

My first review of New York City Ballet’s winter season is out today on DanceTabs. It’s never a bad idea to start of a season with an all-Balanchine program, especially if it includes “Concerto Barocco,” a microcosm of musicality and modernity. The company seems to be in good form. Here’s a short excerpt from the review:

“We see and hear each of its moving parts, understand the transitions, and notice the way certain phrases, like a repeated hop on pointe followed by a small bow, or a courtly Baroque dance step, return from one movement to the next, leading to a logical, almost inevitable conclusion….And yet, for all its concern with structure, the ballet reads as pure, sublimated meaning and emotion.”