City Ballet: Polaris; The Blue of Distance; Common Ground; New Blood; and Jeux
It was a night of new and fashionable works at New York City Ballet. Four of the five works on the program were part of the Fall Gala, which, once again, saw choreographers collaborate with fashion designers, bringing couture to the ballet.
First up was Polaris, the Myles Thatcher ballet set to a William Walton score, and featuring costumes by Zuhair Murad. This is a beautiful, romantic piece. Tiler Pick shines like the star she is, at times looking for her way, with an assist from the always terrific Craig Hall, and sometimes leading the small ensemble, like the North Star. Murad's costumes are gorgeous, a fabulous translation of Murad's runway and red carpet gowns to ballet.
Next came The Blue of Distance, Robert Binet's ballet that uses Maurice Ravel music and new costumes designed by Hanako Maeda of ADEAM. This almost feels like a variation on Polaris, except set underwater. The women's costumes look like they have fish scales. Throughout it looks like they are moving in the vast expanse of the ocean, but at times that grace and smoothness is juxtaposed with sharp, angular movements. Mark Stanley's excellent lighting design complements the colors and helps set the tone. Bravo to the prima ballerinas, Sterling Hyltin, Rebecca Krohn and Sara Mearns, and their men, Tyler Angle, Harrison Ball, Antonio Carmena and Preston Chamblee.
Common Ground came next, bringing us another Troy Schumacher ballet. You might recall that I found his previous NYCB effort, Clearing Dawn, to be fine but not spectacular, and I had a similar reaction to Common Ground. In fact, the first third of the ballet feels disappointingly similar to Clearing Dawn. (A distinguishing component: This features a newly commissioned score by Ellis Ludwig-Leone.) The costumes, by Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida of Marques Almeida, have a bohemian look, and the women's hair is purposely disheveled. Nothing about Common Ground stands out, though I always like watching Teresa Reichlen and Amar Ramasar dance.
The fourth ballet (and the final ballet–high fashion collaboration) was Justin Peck's New Blood. This guy's so good. Set to Steven Reich's "Variations for Vibes, Piano and Strings," and featuring unique costumes by Humberto Leon of Opening Ceremony and Kenzo, New Blood feels like the lovechild of Jerome Robbins's Glass Pieces and current Broadway sensation Hamilton. Peck (Everywhere We Go, Paz de La Jolla) has his ensemble dancing non-stop, like they're running out of time except, of course, they're not because there's always new blood. Reminiscent of Peck's In Creases in its technical intricacy, New Blood's ferocious style of dance is a striking contrast to Rodeo, Peck's athletic but soft and romantic ballet.
It's worth mentioning that the costumes feature cutouts and attention-grabbing outlines at unexpected places—underneath a dancer's arm, at the hip joint, a sliver on the forearm. In a video about the ballet–fashion collaboration, the designer said he wanted to highlight moments of touch and points of connection. The newly-created costumes and the ballet look fantastic as brought to life by Peter Walker, Brittany Pollack, Taylor Stanley, David Prottas, Kristen Segin, Claire Kretzschmar, Lauren King, Daniel Applebaum, the terrific Andrew Veyette, Meagan Mann, the captivating Georgina Pazcoguin, Ashley Bouder and Adrian Danchig-Waring.
After intermission, we were treated to the second-ever performance of Kim Brandstrup's Jeux, which marks his first ballet for the Company. (The music, of course, is the Claude Debussy "Jeux," which has a storied past but has always been interpreted with and appropriated for a sense of playfulness, gaming and, sometimes, gambles.) Indeed, Jeux presents the bets we place on our hearts, and what a gamble it is, since love is blind.
The ballet begins with Amar Ramasar blindfolding Sara Mearns. Ramasar guides Mearns for a moment, and then he leaves her—blindfolded—to find her own way while he's off with another (Sterling Hyltin). The ensemble dances around Mearns, who must rely on her instincts and sporadic redirection by the other people around her. She has a moment alone, and then realizes Adrian Danchig-Waring is there; she knows because she can hear the basketball he's bouncing. Mearns and Danchig-Waring continue to play hide and seek, essentially, while the ensemble and Ramasar + Hyltin weave in and out. Finally, Mearns removes the blindfold to see Ramasar with another. She is heartbroken until she sees Danchig-Waring, upon whom she places the blindfold. And another bet has been placed.