NYC Ballet: Waltz Project; NY Export: Opus Jazz; and Symphony in Three Movements

I knew I’d have a good time at New York City Ballet on Saturday night because one of the three pieces on the program was NY Export: Opus Jazz, my favorite. What I didn’t know is how much I would like the first piece, Peter Martins’s The Waltz Project.

Choosing pieces from composer Robert Moran’s 1976 collection of American composers’ waltzes, Martins’s ballet is couples night, divided into nine vignettes. The first (to Joan Tower’s “Red Garnet Waltz”) and fifth (to Milton Babbitt’s “Minute Waltz (or ¾ + 1/8)”) feature soloists Savannah Lowery and Adrian Danchig-Waring. They dance short and clipped movements – almost like NYC Ballet’s version of “the robot” – as they contort into all sorts of cool poses.

The second (to Philip Glass’s “Modern Love Waltz”) and sixth (to Robert Moran’s “Waltz—‘In Memoriam-Maurice Ravel’”) feature principals Teresa Reichlen and Amar Ramasar. Their dance in the Glass piece is one of the most athletic ballet sequences I’ve ever seen, with Ramasar making unbelievable holds, all while showing off the tall and graceful Reichlen. The Moran piece is much different and actually a rather traditional pas de deux.

The third (to Ivan Tcherepnin’s “Valse Perpetuelle”) and seventh (to Tom Constanten’s “Dejavalse”) movements are where it gets really fun because real-life couple Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild come out and do what they do so well – dance with expert technique and tons of flair. It’s as if it’s two lovers out on the town, trying to impress each other by one-upping each other. The Tcherepnin piece is whimsical and delightful, while they vamp it in the Constanten piece, dancing to flirty and feisty perfection. (For the Constanten piece, Peck appears in sneakers and her hair is let down from a bun and flows in a sassy pony tail.)

For the fourth (to Joseph Fennimore’s “Titles Waltz: After Max Steiner”) and eighth (to Roger Sessions’s “Waltz”) vignettes, married principal dancers Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette come out for a fiery pas de deux, with Fairchild entrancing her beau.

The final movement features the entire cast and is set to Morton Gould’s “Rag Waltz.” Here the ladies are showing off for the men, tempting them and challenging them to keep up. It’s a wonderfully fun ballet, and is definitely going on my “favorites” list.

Next in the program was Opus Jazz. There’s a reason this Jerome Robbins ballet, set to Robert Prince’s music, is my favorite. (Read my previous reviews here and here.) It’s youthful and exuberant. I can’t imagine someone not liking this, not connecting to it.

I love that this sneaker ballet is an ensemble piece and that it rarely features principal dancers. It’s a fantastic opportunity for soloists and corps de ballet dancers to shine.

Saturday night’s cast featured: Zachary Catazaro, Cameron Dieck, Chase Finlay, Emilie Gerrity, Laruen King, Ashley Laracey, Meagan Mann, Georgina Pazcoguin, Justin Peck, Allen Peiffer, Kristen Segin, Gretchen Smith, Taylor Stanley, Christian Tworzyanski, Giovanni Villalobos and Lydia Wellington. (Pazcoguin and Peck were great in “Statics,” and Laracey and Finlay did nicely in “Passage for Two.”)

Another element I love about Opus Jazz is that there’s a looseness to the dancers – a carefree abandon, though I’m sure they’re focusing hard because there’s no way you can dance as well as they do and not focus.

You really must see this ballet. (And if you can’t get to NYCB, or you can and just want more, check out the film of NY Export: Opus Jazz, created by and featuring City Ballet dancers.) This is what dance is all about – expressing exactly who you are!

The final ballet on the bill was George Balanchine’s Symphony in Three Movements, representing yet another Balanchine-Igor Stravinsky collaboration. While the ballet was nice, the highlight was that it was a “See the Music” piece.

From time to time, City Ballet presents See the Music pieces, wherein before the ballet, the orchestra is raised from the pit and the conductor (in this case it was Interim Music Director Andrews Sill) tells you about the music you’re about to hear. He describes the nuances within the piece, where the composer was (psychologically speaking) when the music was written and the motifs you should listen for. I don’t know much about classical music so I like that these programs allow me to listen to the music with different ears.

As was Stravinsky’s intention, the score has a definite cinematic quality to it, and Balanchine’s dance matches that grand scope. The first movement, featuring Sterling Hyltin, Savannah Lowery, Tiler Peck, Amar Ramasar and Daniel Ulbricht (and another dancer, whose name I can’t remember, appearing in place of Adrian Danchig-Waring; the change was announced at the beginning of the evening), along with a 26-dancer ensemble, sets the scene for whatever conflict is about to come, with many forces at play.

The second movement is a lovely pas de deux between Hyltin and Ramasar. Their dance shows love, shows what we’re fighting for. (As Sill explained during the See the Music portion, Stravinsky wrote this and Balanchine got the idea for the ballet during World War II. There’s even a section in the third movement that’s meant to evoke the goosestep.)

Finally in the third movement everything – including the various instruments – comes together. (Sill mentioned that in the first movement there is a piano but no harp; in the second there’s a harp but no piano (or maybe it’s the reverse); it’s only in the final movement that we hear both instruments at the same time.)

It’s an interesting ballet, with the final iconic tableau (pictured at right) being a striking one. Though I didn’t find it to be terrifically engaging or transfixing, it’s a big and bold ballet that shows off the unparalleled technique of the Company.

The New York City Ballet winter season continues through February. Visit for performance information and to purchase tickets.