NYCB: 21st Century Choreographers

Notes on the 21st Century Choreographers program:

(This program was supposed to include the new ballet by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Unframed, which debuted at the NYCB fall gala. As occasionally happens, the program was changed, and instead of Unframed, we saw the After the Rain pas de deux.)

For Clara: This marks principal dancer Lauren Lovette's choreographic debut with the Company, making her one of the few women to have choreographed for the New York City Ballet. (Lovette choreographed when she was a student, but not since joining the Company.) Lovette uses "Introduction and Concert-Allegro, Op. 134" by Robert Schumann, and has said that the title of her ballet is an homage to Schumann's wife, Clara. As this was created for the fall gala, which, for several years, has seen the fusion of fashion and ballet, fashion designer Narciso Rodriguez designed the costumes (so you can thank him for dressing Zachary Catazaro in nothing by tight dance pants).

Lovette's work is good. There are three featured women (Emilie Gerrity, Unity Phelan, and Indiana Woodward), and two featured men (Catazaro and Chase Finlay), as well as a 12-person ensemble. That ensemble needs focusing, but other than that, Lovette shows great promise with For Clara. In particular, I found the contentious pas de deux (between Phelan and Catazaro) to show Lovette's confidence both as a choreographer and in her dancers, most of whom she's grown up with. She is taking risks with the choreography, and it pays off. I also appreciate the beautiful musicality in her choreography; she helps us "see the music," as Balanchine would say.

The Dreamers: Peck premiere one of four! (Justin Peck is debuting four ballets with NYCB this season.) Though typically known for his great use of ensembles, Peck pared down and choreographed a beautiful, romantic pas de deux for Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar, who danced wonderfully. What is, perhaps, most notable about The Dreamers is that you can see the history the dancers and choreographer have. Mearns and Ramasar know each other so well, and Peck knows them and their abilities so well—it is a perfect pairing. (You might recall that Mearns and Ramasar danced the gorgeous pas de deux in Peck's Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes.) The Dreamers is not overwhelming in any capacity, but it's good, and shows Peck getting even better with his pas de deux work. (The Dreamers is set to the Bohuslav Martinu composition, "Piano Quintet No. 2, II. Adagio"; costumes are by fashion designer Dries Van Noten.)

After the Rain (pas de deux): I still believe that the pas de deux, the "after the rain" section, is more powerful in context, i.e., when you see the first movement—the rain—of the Christopher Wheeldon ballet, but damn it if I wasn't crying the whole time. To be honest, I wasn't emotionally prepared to see this (as I thought I'd be seeing the new Lopez Ochoa ballet), especially because it would my first time seeing it—in part or whole—without Wendy Whelan, upon whom the ballet was choreographed. (In fact, the last time I saw this was during Whelan's farewell performance. Moreover, I believe it was the first time I saw it without Craig Hall, who had been dancing the role with Whelan for several years.) The incredible Tiler Peck and Jared Angle did not disappoint. They are making the roles their own, finding their own nuance and meaning in this always–moving ballet. 11 years after it debuted, After the Rain is still in another league. Just exquisite.

ten in seven: Company corps de ballet member Peter Walker made his choreographic debut with this soft rock ballet. Featuring a commissioned composition by Thomas Kikta and costumes by fashion designer Jason Wu, I found ten in seven to be Walker's homage to NY Export: Opus Jazz; whether or not he meant it to be an homage is another story. Some of the movements and elements are directly reminiscent of Jerome Robbins's youthful sneaker ballet (for example: the women are all in ballet slippers; it's during only one movement that only one woman on pointe), but it's mostly in the overall feel of the ballet, its modernity, accessibility, and young vibrancy that recall my favorite. There are ten dancers in seven movements (hey, there's the title!):
  1. "Bullage Aleatoire"—Like group dance/entrances; all ten dancers are on hand for this movement that is bookended with solo moments by the great, exuberant Ashly Isaacs.
  2. "Jusqu'au Matin"—Akin to "Passage for Two," or the "Byplay" section of Interplay, Gretchen Smith and Daniel Applebaum dance while the other women "play back up."
  3. "Divertissement du Blues"—The "statics"-like movement, with a main couple (Indiana Woodward and Sean Suozzi) dancing through and around the other men. 
  4. "Divertissement Harmonique"—Isaacs, Walker, and Rachel Hutsell dance a spirited pas de trois. I find Isaacs to be such an engaging dancer, and it's exciting seeing her in something out of the ordinary. 
  5. "Le son de deux"—A good pas de deux between Emily Kikta and Russell Janzen, and this is the only time a women is in pointe shoes, making this the most classical-ballet section. 
  6. "Rapide Furieux"—There's isn't a direct correlation between this solo, danced by Spartak Hoxha, and any part of Opus Jazz, but it did remind me entirely of "The Music and the Mirror," Cassie's big number in A Chorus Line.
  7. "Melodie Majestueuse"—The ballet concludes with this simple button, reuniting the entire cast.

Everywhere We Go: I. Love. This. Ballet. I can't see it enough. Every time I see it I get chills. Justin Peck (and composer Sufjan Stevens) created a masterpiece. (When are we going to get a recording of Stevens's music?!?) The first time I saw this was the night it premiered, and I was literally on the edge of my seat the whole time. It's only gotten better, deeper, and more affecting.

When I first looked at the casting for this performance (a few weeks before the performance date), I noticed that many of those dancing the featured roles would be doing so for the first time. I was delighted by what I saw.

Returning to the role he created was Amar Ramasar, who's always a welcome presence on stage. In his track, he begins the ballet by shadowing another male dancer, usually Robert Fairchild. For this performance, he was paired with Russell Janzen. Janzen is a great dancer, but he's notably taller than Ramasar, which made the shadowing seem not quite perfect. Janzen still did well, and he excelled in his pas de deux with Rebecca Krohn.

Emily Kikta, also a tall dancer, did nice work in the Teresa Reichlen track, and Gonzalo Garcia makes for a fine alternate to Andrew Veyette. I was particularly pleased to see Lauren King (dancing Sterling Hyltin's track) and Ashly Isaacs (dancing Tiler Peck's track) bring their own flair, grace, and skills to this, appearing unflappable when faced with filling their colleagues' pointe shoes. King and Isaacs are beautiful dancers, and we'll, no doubt, be seeing more from them in the years to come. Truly, everywhere we go there is something special.