NYCB: Spectral Evidence; Soiree Musicale; and Namouna


For my final ballet of New York City Ballet’s fall season, I attended a mixed repertory program that included three ballets I had seen already, but from a different perspective.

First up was the new Angelin Preljocaj, Spectral Evidence. This premiered just last month at the fall gala, and features costumes by designer Olivier Theyskens. As previously noted, Preljocaj was inspired by the Salem witch trials, but this isn’t nearly a linear story ballet. I did not fully appreciate it at the gala, mostly because I was seated in the “arm” of the fourth ring, giving me only a partial view of the stage. On Saturday afternoon I was in the orchestra. 

I get it this time. It’s a hunt. There are pursuers and the pursued, and the roles keep changing. The music and choreography have a tribal feel, which is appropriate for the hunt theme. The “breathing passage” is the seduction, and it’s all quite powerful. (The music, including some with vocals, is all from John Cage’s catalog.) 

Though the men may, at times, seem to have some sort of parochial or patriarchal control, the women are in charge and own their power. At its core, Preljocaj’s ballet is a display of stunning modern dance, mixing a majority of modern dance moves (along with tai chi) and sprinklings of classical ballet language. 

The cast here was the same as on the premiere night: Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild backed by Megan Fairchild, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Georgina Pazcoguin, Amar Ramasar, Gretchen Smith and Taylor Stanley. (Ramasar and Danchig-Waring have particularly tribal sections and they rise to the challenge.) Robert Fairchild and Tiler Peck are incredible. Their pas de deux is intense and precise, and they both are entirely in the moment throughout. What a difference a different view makes.


Next was Soiree Musicale, a Christopher Wheeldon ballet that I saw when it had its NYCB premiere at thespring gala. As with my first viewing of Spectral Evidence, at the spring gala I had partial view seats. Not so this time. 

Soiree Musicale is like looking in on scenes from a prom (or the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance, if you prefer). The “Waltz” and “Two Step” movements (that would be the first and fourth movements) are group dances. For the “Scottische,” there are, of course, two women (Kristen Segin and Indiana Woodward) fighting over the same man. Well, the same men, as it happens. It’s lighthearted and rather humorous.

In the “Tango,” all the men vie for the prom queen’s attention, the prom queen being danced with zeal by a captivating Brittany Pollack. She entreats them to follow her around the stage, bringing them under her spell along the way. The penultimate movement is the lovely “Pas de Deux” in which the high school sweethearts (Lauren Lovette and Zachary Catazaro, both impressive) fall in love. The prom ends with the “Finale” recapping all the fun from the rite of passage. 

Yes, it’s safe, especially for Wheeldon (After the Rain, Polyphonia), and no, it doesn’t break any new ground. But it’s light and whimsical and it concludes with an gleeful flourish.

Bringing the season to a close (for me) was the Alexei Ratmansky ballet Namouna, A Grand Divertissement. Now, the first time I saw this I had a perfectly good view (I was sitting in one of my favorite spots in the fourth ring, center section), but I just didn’t like it. Seeing it for the second time was different. I had a better experience being prepared for something a little odd.  

The basic story is timeless: boy sees girl and spends the rest of his time trying to find and be with her. There are obstacles along the way, like a smoking—not because she’s on fire but because she’s smoking a cigarette—Ashley Bouder, and a trio of misfits (it would seem) in Abi Stafford, Daniel Ulbricht and Megan Fairchild. Sara Mearns also gets in on the action and is at her fiercest in some sort of divertissement/distraction. When he finally gets the girl, Robert Fairchild dances a glorious pas de deux with Rebecca Krohn. 

The costumes (by Marc Happel and Rustam Khamdamov) are still jarringly weird and not everything is cohesive and makes sense. But if you’re prepared for an oddball presentation of a story, the actual dancing will satisfy. (And it the score, Edouard Lalo’s “Namouna,” is pretty great.)

So that’s it for the fall season at New York City Ballet. The Company will be back with The Nutcracker this November and December, and then, soon enough, the winter season, spanning January-March 2014, will be upon us. Visit nycballet.com for more information and to purchase tickets. (Spectral Evidence will reappear in February.)

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