Lincoln Center Festival put together a big show this week: a multinational staging of George Balanchine’s 1967 ballet Jewels, with performances by the Paris Opera Ballet, New York City Ballet, and the Bolshoi. The contrasts were fascinating, and paradoxically, had the effect of focusing attention on the ballet itself, revealing more clearly than ever why Arlene Croce described it as an “unsurpassedbBalanchine primer, incorporating in a single evening every important article of faith to which the choreographer subscribed”. My review is at DanceTabs.
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.”
Alexei Ratmansky’s Namouna, a Grand Divertissement, is back at New York City Ballet. And what a ballet it is: witty, intelligent, sophisticated, joyous, bubbling over with steps. If you haven’t seen it, you should. (It will be performed again on the evening of Oct. 10, and Oct. 12 at 2.)
I review it here, for DanceTabs. And here is a short excerpt from that review: “Some ballets improve with age, or, to be more accurate, our eye evolves and we learn to see them better. I remember being befudled at the New York City Ballet première of Alexei Ratmansky’s Namouna, A Grand Divertissement in 2010. By the second viewing, I had started to warm to its oddball charm. And by the end of that season, I was smitten. Tonight, revisting this ballet for the first time in three years, it was clear that it is the best new work the company has commissioned since, well, Ratmansky’s Concerto DSCH (2008).”
For DanceTabs, I reviewed two programs at NYCB, “Just for Fun” (Carnival of the Animals, Jeu de Cartes, and The Four Seasons), and “Tradition and Innovation” (Vespro, Duo Concertant, and Dances at a Gathering). Yes, the company has taken to “naming” its programs, and also to grouping them by theme, which I often find to be problematic–too much of a good thing, not enough contrast. But still, serendipity happens. The seasons’ single performance of Jerome Robbins’ “Dances at a Gathering” turned out to be one of the freshest renditions I’ve seen in a long time. Tiler Peck, in particular, was ravishing as the “girl in pink” (see photo above).
Christopher Wheeldon’s “Carnival of the Animals,” which the company hasn’t done for a while, turned out to be a be a bit of a disappointment. It’s flat, and tries too hard to be funny (without succeeding). But there are some lovely images, like this one, of a mermaid, danced here by the beautiful Lauren Lovette.
New York City Ballet held its fall gala on Thursday (Sept. 19), at which it introduced three collaborations between choreographers (Justin Peck, Benjamin Millepied, and Angelin Preljocaj) and designers (Prabal Gurung, Iris Van Herpen, Olivier Theyskens). The focus of the past few galas has fallen—thanks to Sarah Jessica Parker, who’s on the board—mainly on the fashion side, and less on the side of intriguing choreography. The three works had their merits, but all the fuss seemed to be about the costumes. It’s clear that the tactic is meant to attract and entice the gala patrons, who get two thrills for the price of one: new choreography, big-name designers. But one wonders if they really feel they are getting a good deal? The applause at galas is always on the polite side, so it’s hard to tell. The evening looked sold out. So much the better. But will these ballets merit viewing and re-viewing?
The company kicked off its spring season — a.k.a. the American Music Festival — on April 30, with an all-Balanchine program. (The date also marked the thirtieth anniversary of Balanchine’s death.) On the program: Who Cares?, Tarantella, Stars and Stripes, and the revival of that most mysterious ballet, Ivesiana (not performed since 2004). The cast of Ivesiana was mostly new, and included Ashley Laracey in her first big role since being promoted to soloist int the spring. And what a striking, chilling ballet it is. You can read my review (for DanceTabs) here.
And here’s a short excerpt:
“Made in 1954 (the same year as Western Symphony, of all things) for a cast of dancers that included Janet Reed, Allegra Kent, Tanaquil LeClercq, Francisco Moncion, and Todd Bolender, Ivesiana is one of Balnachine’s simplest, and most unnerving, compositions. Four ideas, four sections, not many steps, and no pointe-work – except in the crazed third chapter, “In the Inn,” which is crammed to the gills with steps and performed on pointe…. The entire thing is steeped in an atsmophere of suffocating irresolution, of irratonal occurrences and otherworldliness.”
Here’s my review of Tuesday’s program at New York City Ballet, which featured the return of Jerome Robbins’ N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz and Peter Martins’ rarely performed Waltz Project.
And a short excerpt:
“I’m always surprised at how sexual Opus Jazz really is – remember, it was made in the fifties – especially the two middle sections, Statics and Passage for Two. In Statics, three guys hang out on a rooftop – denoted by a few chimneys outlined against a dark sky, by Ben Shahn – lunging and sliding, kicking and making fists. They’re gaming for a fight. The accompaniment is all percussion (by Robert Prince), drums and cowbells, thumping syncopations. Into this hotbed of male adolescent aimlessness saunters Georgina Pazcoguin, super-sexualized and over-confident, taunting them with her curves.”