City Ballet: Dances and Opus Jazz


The winter season of City Ballet has begun! And it’s off to a great start. On Wednesday night, I headed over to the State Theatre to see two wonderful Jerome Robbins ballets: Dances at a Gathering and, one of my two favorites, NY Export: Opus Jazz. What a fantastic night of ballet!

I’ve written at length about both pieces already (Dances; Opus Jazz) so here I’ll try to be brief and share some of the new thoughts that popped into my head while watching last night’s performance.

Once again, Dances at a Gathering struck me as people dancing a memory. There’s a lovely wistfulness to the movements, a palpable longing in the steps. The highlight at this particular performance was definitely watching two virtuosic dancers, Jared Angle and Benjamin Millepied, go toe to toe in the “anything you can do, I can do better” movement. (That’s what I’ve named it, anyway!) The air, the buoyancy – it’s just terrific fun. Maria Kowroski was also fun and full of whimsy during a piece in which she tries to find a dance partner.

Watching this piece again, the soft, pastel color each dancer is wearing (in total, we have apricot, green (x2), mauve, pink, blue (x2), purple, brick and brown) looked like we were watching watercolors dancing. Almost as if one of Monet’s water lilies paintings had come to life.

And if Dances is a Monet, then NY Export: Opus Jazz is a Pollock abstract expressionist creation. After the piece finished, I wrote in my program, “Love! Love! Love!” And I do! We being with the dancers entering the stage, literally hitting the pavement as if they’re testing their limits. Then, we move on to “Statics” in which a tempting muse (Georgina Pazcoguin), or possibly a Siren or a Succubus, entreats and enchants a group of men, led here by Justin Peck. It’s hot, sticky and sweaty, like a teenager’s good, exuberant, playful summer night. The whole ballet, “Entrance,” “Statics,” “Improvisations,” “Passage for Two” and “Theme, Variations and Fugue,” is full of delicious slinky, slow, sultry sensuality.

There are several moments during this ballet that I’m reminded of what Anita says in West Side Story (which, you know, was choreographed by Robbins). When talking to Maria about the conflict between the Jets and the Sharks, she says, “You saw the way they were dancing…like they gotta get rid of something.” And that’s just how these young people pop across the stage. Seriously, when I see this, I have a smile plastered on my face for the near 40-minute duration of the ballet. (To enjoy this masterpiece at home, make sure you pick up a copy of the NY Export: Opus Jazz film City Ballet dancers created last year.)

Visit nycballet.com to order your tickets and learn more about the season.

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