NYCB: Barber Violin Concerto; NY Export: Opus Jazz; The Most Incredible Thing
Spring ballet outing three of five was a success.
The afternoon began with Peter Martins's Barber Violin Concerto, a ballet I'd never seen before. Set to Samuel Barber's "Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Opus 14," this ballet dazzles not just because of the dancing but also because of the music.
The ballet begins with the curtain down while the solo violinist (Kurt Nikkanen on Saturday afternoon) playing a few beautiful bars, setting the stage for the aural experience ahead. His virtuosity becomes even more apparent as the piece continues, with fabulous aggressive sections matched by the choreography.
Martins created a ballet for four dancers, a classical couple and a modern couple. When I looked at the casting and saw Megan Fairchild and Jared Angle as one couple and Sara Mearns and Russell Janzen as the other, I thought I knew which would be which. I was pleasantly surprised to find out I was wrong.
Mearns and Janzen enter first, playing the classic couple. They perform a lovely classic pas de deux, with Mearns and Janzen showing off their long, lithe legs and creating beautiful lines. Then, Fairchild and Angle get their chance. Their bare feet are flexed when they jump; their legs are bent at the knees; their movements are staccato and angular. In showing each couple alone and then together, Martins compares and contrasts the two styles, leaving you with the realization that the two styles are much more alike than you might have thought.
Then we move to the second and third movements. The second features the classical woman, Mearns, with the modern man, Angle. Theirs is a tender pas de deux, with a sort of symbiotic learning quality to it. She takes a little from him, he takes a little from her, and by the end, they reach a happy medium.
The third movement is different. The modern woman, Fairchild, is paired with the classical man, Janzen, and it is intriguingly frenzied and contentious, almost like he is trying to tame a wild horse. It's fast, furious, and aggressive, just like the music. I was particularly impressed with Fairchild. This strikes me as the kind of role that is outside her wheelhouse, and I wonder if the confidence she gained while on Broadway for a year (in On the Town) made her more confident, more willing to raise her hand and ask to be considered for something like this.
The only disappointing part of Barber Violin Concerto is that it ends abruptly. The third movement ends, and the curtain comes down. I wanted a little more, some sort of coda; something to bring it all together.
Next on the bill was my favorite ballet, Jerome Robbins's NY Export: Opus Jazz. I see this every season it plays. (Unfortunately, it is not scheduled to be part of the 2016-2017 season.) I always love the energy, that youthful exuberance. Georgina Pazcoguin and Justin Peck danced the "Statics" movement, and they're my favorite pair to do so, and Ashly Isaacs and Lydia Wellington are always favorites in the ensemble.
Ashley Laracey and Chase Finlay danced "Passage for Two," and while I would have preferred the originally scheduled Craig Hall in Finlay's track, I discovered something about "Passage for Two" I had never noticed before. The backdrop for that movement is busy; words emblazoned on it include "hurry" and "now." How perfect, then, that the busyness of the scenic design is juxtaposed with this movement, in which everything slows down. Isn't that neat? And that's what I love about seeing my favorites again and again.
The third ballet was The Most Incredible Thing, the Justin Peck narrative ballet that underwhelmed me when I saw its debut performance. The distance from the premiere, though, made for a different experience at this repeat viewing. Yes, as a ballet, it's still underwhelming. But as a piece of art, created by someone who loves collaborating and is visionary enough to get multiple creatives to complement one another, it's pretty thrilling. It will never be an Opus Jazz for me (Peck's ballet that falls into that category is Everywhere We Go), but it is a solid work from a gifted, creative artist.
(The cast, led by Taylor Stanley, Sterling Hyltin, Tiler Peck, and Amar Ramasar, was the same as the premiere performance with these exceptions: Lara Tong danced in place of Sarah Villwock in the seven o'clock hour; Preston Chamblee danced in place of Justin Thew in the eight o'clock hour; Lydia Wellington danced in place of Likolani Brown in the nine o'clock hour; and little Lucy Everett danced in place of Natalie Glassie in the 11 o'clock hour, "The Children.")