Double bill: experimental “Ballet, Bach and Bold Women’s History” and iconic “Balanchine and Wheeldon” dancing, make for a wonderfully uplifting evening…

Hudson River Museum/ “Free First Fridays: Ballet, Bach and Bold Women’s History” by the MorDance company, and Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch building/ “Balanchine and Wheeldon” by the NYCB/ Friday March 1st, 2024.

Welcome back friends!

Yay!

Welcome this week, once again, to the expressive, dreamlike, joyful, often visionary, and beautiful world of ballet, with a special “double bill” this week, to celebrate gloriously, the start of the month of March.

Yay!

First, early on in the evening, the Hudson River Museum, a preeminent cultural institution in Yonkers, NY, (whose permanent collection and dynamic exhibitions of American art, range from 19th century Hudson River School paintings, to contemporary art installations), and whose mission is to engage, inspire, and connect diverse communities through the power of the arts, sciences, and history, was hosting last Friday, two experimental and dazzling special ballet performances for its “Free First Fridays: Ballet, Bach and Bold Women’s History” on a wonderful and timeless Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) score, mixed to spoken words, from Civil rights activists, such as Mother Teresa (1910-1975), and Josephine Baker (1906-1975).

Wow and yay!

Because the Hudson River Museum, believe it or not, not only allows one, to experience the galleries with a curator or an artist, or make your own art, in an artist-led workshop, it also, hosts dance or music performances, lectures and discussions, or allows one to learn, thanks to its planetarium, about what is happening in the night sky, on the very day, one visits the museum.

Wow and yay!

And the dance performances held at the Hudson River Museum last Friday, featured 9 talented dancers from the 10 year old contemporary and innovative MorDance company, renowned for pushing artistic boundaries, and fostering impactful social change, under the direction of Founder and Artistic Director, Morgan McEwen, who was first, warmly greeted, as the performance was about to start, by Director and CEO of the Hudson River Museum, Masha Turchinsky.

Wow and Yay!

And the idea last Friday, was to kick off Women’s History Month (March), boldly.

Yay!

Interestingly, from the very beginning of the performance, experimental innovation and joy were on display: all the terrific dancers, clad in “earth” toned, simple, at times monochrome, yet elegant, contemporary dance costumes (shorts, pants and dresses) were performing, as if it were the most ordinary occurence, right in the museum’s public space, in various galleries/corridors/general space.

Wow!

They (the dancers), made their way first, through the audience (a mix of families, and art aficionados), walking elegantly to the beautiful music by Bach, and Civil rights words.

Yay!

And suddenly, without skipping a beat, they (the performers), started dancing, as if we (performers and audience), were all part of the same “musical”.

Yay!

And as if it were the most natural thing to do, the audience “magically”, made room for the dancers to start performing with more space, which made the audience almost a participant to the work, creating even more interaction, intimacy, and fun, between the performers and the audience.

Yay!

So impressed am I, that the Hudson River Museum hosts regularly, such great and experimental performances!

Wow and yay!

Then, later that same evening, back in NYC, at the Lincoln Center, it was the turn of the NYCB ballet, to captivate the audience, with iconic works from choreographers “extraordinaires” George Balanchine (1904-1983) and Christopher Wheeldon (b. 1973).

Yay!

First, an athletic, colorful, patriotic, and euphoric, “Stars and Stripes” Balanchine 1958 choreography, on a few John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) instantly recognizable, joyful “marches” were displayed, which have been performed for many memorable occasions, including tributes to Presidents John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) and Lyndon B. Johnson (1908-1973), and dedicated to the memory of Fiorello H. LaGuardia (1882-1947), Mayor of NYC from 1934 to 1945, and Founder of the City Center of Music and Drama.

Yay!

And this celebratory work always get joyful, uplifted, and happy responses from the audience.

Yay!

And Principal dancers, Joseph Gordon, as El Capitan, and Megan Fairchild, as Liberty Bell, were as always, in top form and highly entertaining.

So solemn and yet happy.

Second, “Tarantella”, another gleeful Balanchine 1964 choreography set to the music of New Orleans composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869), featuring two other terrific dancers, the ultra athletic Principal dancer Daniel Ulbricht, who seems to have springs attached to his heels, and the charming and light footed, Emma Von Enck, were a delight to watch perform this joyful Italian air.

Yay!

So energetic and light hearted.

Thirdly, “Tchaikovsky’s Pas de deux”, a “Pas de deux” composed by Tchaikovsky (1840-1893) for Act 3 of 1877 “Swan Lake”, which was not included in the published score, and which Balanchine got permission to use for his own 1960 choreography, is sheer classical dance beauty.

Yay!

And Principal dancers, Roman Mejia and Unity Phelan, were just “dreamy” to watch, as both performed with great sensitivity, technique and grace, this glorious 8 minutes piece.

Yay!

Just beautiful.

Finally, Wheeldon’s 2003 “Carnaval des Animaux” on a 1886 score by Saint Saëns (1835-1921), was simply awesome.

Yay!

It is a musical suite of 14 movements, that the composer originally created for, believe it or not, a private performance.

How about that?

Wow.

And Wheeldon’s 2003 “Carnaval des Animaux” ballet, features a cast of 50 dancers, and tells the story of a young boy, Oliver who falls asleep at the Museum of Natural History, and dreams that the people in his life, have all been transformed into animals.

Wow! and fun!

The production features a text written by award winning, John Lithgow (b. 1945), who also performed it, in the original production.

Wow.

Last Friday, it was stage and screen actor Terence Mann (b. 1951), who performed with great fun, the text.

Yay.

And the most amusing animals on stage to me, were the slow “turtles”, danced by Jenelle Manzi and Marie Elizabeth Sell, followed by the acrobatic “Baboon”, danced by Harrison Coll, and loved the shimmering, stylish and fun “fish” from the aquarium, danced by Dominika Afasenkov, Christina Clark, Lauren Collett, Naomi Corti, Savannah Durham, Sarah Harmon, Malorie Lundgren, Ava Sautter, Anna Snellgrove, and Kennedy Targosz.

Yay!

Just delightful and so charming, and great fun dancing too!

Yay!

So, to sum up my feelings, about the dance double bill, admired Friday March 1st, in great company, first at the Hudson River Museum, and performed by the MorDance company, and later at the David H. Koch theater, and performed by the NYCB: what stunning, original, joyful, athletic, inspiring, thought provoking and entertaining classic and contemporary choreography by 3 different wonderful choreographers, set to gorgeous classical music, to celebrate with utmost joy and humor, not only life’s vibrancy, possibilities, social progress, and beauty, or the beginning of the busy month of March, but also, Spring’s arrival soon.

Yay!

Just awe-inspiring.

Not to be missed!

Until next time friends.

Soft…

Fluttering…

Sunny…

Joyful…

Happy…

Loving…

Eternal butterflies 😊