NYCB: New Combinations

Notes on the New Combinations evening, including the world premiere of two ballets:

Fearful Symmetries: This Peter Martins ballet is reminiscent of Robbins's Glass Pieces, though it's just one movement (with a coda). Using the John Adams composition of the same name, Fearful Symmetries, which I first saw in 2011, is athletic and buoyant. Taking its cue from the music, there is repetition—symmetry—to the steps. The ending coda is like a cool down, something suggesting that everything leading up to it was a fever dream. There are no principals, giving more corps de ballet members and soloists an opportunity to be showcased, and not just the two main couples (Claire Kretzchmar + Russell Janzen and Ashly Isaacs + Zachary Catazaro). In particular, I noticed featured soloist Harrison Ball, who made great leaps in some impressive sections. While Isaacs comes on like a seductress, Kretzchmar looks too green to make me believe she feels anything the ballet might be trying to express. As usual, I liked Catazaro and Janzen, and it was fun watching tall dancers, like Janzen and Peter Walker, show off their extension.

The Shimmering Asphalt: There's a grounded, earthen quality (the asphalt) but beauty, too (the shimmer), in Swedish choreographer Pontus Lidberg's first ballet for NYCB. He brings a new and welcome voice to NYCB, with some less conventional movements and great attention to detail in tow. Not just attention, but highlighting some details, like how the hand is expressed in partnering, or pointing the foot in a specific way. Sara Mearns is the most emotional dancer I've ever seen, making her a captivating protagonist. There's a moment when she's just standing alone, and it's interesting. Moments later, Chase Finlay comes out and dances while Mearns stands, and she's almost defiantly more interesting than Finlay. The opening and closing moments of the ballet suggest this might be some beautiful fantasy, some glimmer of grace and beauty in the middle of this sometimes gray, harsh world. (Sterling Hyltin, Rebecca Krohn, Lauren Lovette, Tiler Peck, Gonzalo Garcia, Russell Janzen, and Taylor Stanley also originated roles in this ballet.)

The Times Are Racing: Wow. Justin Peck's latest is vital. It is the resistance. In trying times, artists create and express. This is exactly the kind of art we need right now. (The piece largely came together post-election, and as Peck, the dancers, and the costumes (emblazoned with "Resist" and "Defy," etc.) can attest, its spirit is a reaction to the stunning election results and the era it ushered in.) The electronic score, "USA I-IV" from Dan Deacon's America, pulses and the dancers move along with it. This is the youth of America, and they are warriors. (This spirit, along with the sneakers the dancers wear—no pointe shoes—makes this instant classic our era's NY Export: Opus Jazz.)

Spanning genres, and infusing hip hop/street dancing with ballet with tap elements, Peck (Everywhere We Go) argues we can't be confined to just one thing; life is fuller and more interesting than that. There's not much regard for traditional gender roles (in fact, the protagonist, originated by Robert Fairchild, will be played by Ashly Isaacs in the spring); instead, it's just people holding one another up, supporting one another. Peck appears in the ballet (uncommon but not unprecedented), creating a thrilling pas de deux with Fairchild, his SAB roommate. The two are in perfectly syncopated sync, tapping out their feelings. Fairchild repeats a solo section a few times throughout the ballet. His movements look a like he's channeling an energy that's coursing through his entire body; there is tension in his movements, nothing graceful, as he figures out what to do with this "thing." Tiler Peck and Amar Ramasar have a soulful, funky pas de deux, with moves you half expect to see when it's "showtime" on the train. Peck pushes his dancer to places not typically ventured in ballet, yet they dance with abandon. It's subversive and necessary. This is how ballet stays relevant, and this is what art should do. Rise up!