New York City Ballet
David H. Koch Theater
New York, N.Y.
October 5, 2012
by Mary Cargill
copyright © 2012 by Mary Cargill
The title of the evening's performance was "21st Century", with the implied "deal with it", and featured recent ballets by Benjamin Millepied and Christopher Wheeldon, as well as a world premiere by Justin Peck. These all shared a certain arid feel, as if the dancers were sub-Agonic particles and the music incidental. Millepied's "Two Hearts", with Glass-like music of Nico Muhly, featured very flattering costumes (by Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte), and the Ti[y]lers Peck and Angle, two of the most interesting dancers at City Ballet. Millepied moved the twelve-member ensemble on and off stage smoothly, but the activity didn't really add up to much--it was about as exciting as watching a ball of string unwind.
The final section featured a change of clothing, as Peck appeared without her skirt, and was a pas de deux to a souped up version of the grim English ballad "Lord Thomas and Fair Eleanor". The dispassionate, narrative folk style about the effects of murderous jealousy seemed to have been marinated in molassas and the overwrought orchestral accompaniment diluted the stark beauty of the song. The langorous, "I'm too sad even to look at my partner" choreography had almost no connection with the lyrics, and though the two dancers did their best, this was generic and forgettable.
Justin Peck's "Year of the Rabbit" would probably look better on a different program, one with more contrast. Following the Millepied work, it emphasized the similarities, especially the slightly jokey, ice-skating motifs, where the females slide on their point shoes. The music, by Sufjan Stevens, was more varied and interesting than the Muhly score, and the eight sections (named after the various years in the Chinese zodiac, with the inclusion of the "Year of our Lord"), were varied and danceable. The women's costumes (by Justin Peck) were a jaunty blue with white stripes, flattering and danceable, but the men were limited to dull grey leotards, with white belts for the men, which cut their line. The ballet, featuring some of the most talented and interesting of NYCB's younger dancers, was episodic, but the movements merged together confidently and the twelve-member corps were arranged in constantly changing groups of structured informality.
The ballet owes much to Jerome Robbins', though there is an odd homage to Nijinska's "Les Noces", as the corps bounds through Nijinska's final pose. It seems as if Peck had been struck by a picture of that iconic work, as there was only a glimpse, without the communal solemnity of the original ballet. The dancers looked fresh and vigorous, though there were no secrets revealed. Ashley Bouder flew through her various movements as if she were dancing Choloric, Joaquin de Luz showed a wary strength, and Robert Fairchild proved yet again that he is a dignified and gracious partner. The most interesting section was the slow, underwatery pas de deux for Janie Taylor and Craig Hall, though they spent most of it with their backs to each other; it was striking but emotionally rather hollow.
Christopher Wheeldon's "Les Carillons", to the gloriously danceable L'Arlésienne Suites of Bizet, with their folk melodies and sunny feel, is another exercise featuring extraordinary dancers in ordinary circumstances. The music says "colorful village square", but the backdrop says grey splotchy concrete, while the costumes are fussy and distracting; the poor men have to prance around with one arm covered and one arm bare. The infectious music seems built for folk dancing, but Wheeldon's choreography is of the "twitch, twitch, arabesque" school, and the staccato movements felt unconnected to the score. The dancers all have lovely arabesques, and did their best, especially the always incisive Tiler Peck, to differentiate their movements, but only Sterling Hyltin made something interesting of her mysterious solo. It was a night for very good dancing, but not a night for great choreography.
Photos by Paul Kolnik:
Top: "Two Hearts"
Middle: Robert Fairchild in "Year of the Rabbit"
Bottom: Tiler Peck and Gonzalo Garcia in "Les Carillons"
Copyright 2012 by Mary Cargill