By Diana Dunbar
New York City Ballet (NYCB) opened its fall season the way it opened the previous five seasons – with a red carpet gala spearheaded by Sarah Jessica Parker.
Ballet and fashion sparkled as celebrities, balletomanes, and ballerinas turned out to celebrate NYCB in the house that George Balanchine built at Lincoln Center. As in the past, well-known designers were invited to costume the pieces being performed. Narciso Rodriguez, Dries Van Noten and Jason Wu collaborated with choreographers Lauren Lovette, Justin Peck, Christopher Wheeldon and Peter Walker. The results were stunning. This event ushers in the company’s fall season.
The program for the following Saturday matinee opened with Lauren Lovette’s For Clara with music by Robert Schumann. Composed by Schumann for his wife Clara, it’s a moving piece for 17 dancers. Wearing softly coloured dresses, designed by Narciso Rodriguez, the dance is a lovely lyrical ballet. Couples interact in different formations, with arms sometimes slicing the air like windmills. Lovette makes good use of diagonal lines and mid leap catches. For Clara, though plotless, seems to examine changes in relationships at different stages and intensity. It’s Ms Lovette’s first piece for a ballet company and is well worth a second viewing.
Christopher Wheeldon’s pas de deux from After the Rain, has a meditative quality which is captivating. It begins with a couple standing apart; they begin a hypnotic rocking movement which is repeated throughout the piece. After the Rain is an abstract ballet which evokes the feeling of a turning point in a relationship – perhaps even a farewell. There is deep intensity, from the first lift to the elongated arabesques – every movement reaches its pinnacle. With a beautiful score by Arvo Pärt, its a pas de deux which transcends with its stark simplicity and deep movements.
ten in seven is a fun, jazzy, blues piece by Peter Walters, a first time NYCB choreographer. Set to music by Thomas Kikta and costumes by Jason Wu, it has a Spanish flair that intrigues. This strong guitar infused piece, with lots of playful movement takes us on a fast-paced spirited journey.
Also on the program are two pieces by Justin Peck, the resident choreographer at NYCB. For an artist who usually works with groups, The Dreamer is a change of pace for him. This lyrical pas de deux is a vehicle for Peck’s study of a male-female relationship. The couple dance in partnership at times; and at other times are separated, dancing with their own individual strength and independence. Costumed in Dries Van Norton colourful sophisticated designs, the piece has a wonderful modern feel to it.
On the program for Saturday night’s performance was Dances at a Gathering, choreographed by Jerome Robbins, and Firebird with choreography by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. Dances at a Gathering, set to music by Frederic Chopin, is a plotless ballet for ten dancers – five men and five women. Though it’s an abstract ballet it creates its own particular mood and atmosphere. It begins with a solo male dancer walking onto the empty stage looking up at the open sky. This sets the scene for a piece that has been called one of Jerome Robbins’ best ballets. Since it’s creation in 1969 it has been performed by numerous companies. Many ideas are suggested in the ballet but are not explained. What comes across is the humanity of the piece with one of the most moving parts occurring at the end, when the same dancer from the beginning, reaches down and touches the floor – a sacred place in a field of hope.
Firebird, with music by Igor Stravinsky, is splendid. Marc Chagall scenery and costumes are magical. It’s a fairy tale, and like most fairy tales, it suspends reality. It transports the audience from a theatre in Lincoln Center to a Russian forest. The dancers are flawless and the story enchanting. New York City Ballet continues to demonstrate why it’s considered by many to be one of the finest companies in the United States.
Photo credit: Paul Kolnik, firstname.lastname@example.org