David H Koch theater–Lincoln Center/Tuesday October 5th, 2021.
Welcome back friends!
This week, prepare to be overjoyed and dazzled, by beautiful dancing from the New York City Ballet (NYCB).
An evening I was particularly looking forward to, last Tuesday, as it combined a stunning and eclectic classical ballet program, embodying some of the best choreographies and composers from the past and the present.
A gem of classical dancing at its finest, showcasing works from the 1960’s all the way to 2020.
How about that!
First, let me explain in a nutshell, the importance and influence of these two choreographers:
George Balanchine, Russian, (1904-1983) is considered as the most influential choreographer of the XXth century. Leading an incredibly rich creative life, choreographing over 425 works over the course of 60 years. Balanchine studied ballet at the Imperial Ballet school in St Petersburg, Russia, and danced in his youth, with the Maryinsky Theater Ballet company, where he began choreographing short works; as he did later in Europe, in 1928 and 1929 for the Diaghilev Ballets Russes. Balanchine then moved on in 1934, to found in NYC, with American Arts Connoisseur Lincoln Kirstein, the School of American Ballet, and later founded in 1946, Ballet Society, which was renamed, New York City Ballet, in 1948. Balanchine then served as NYCB company’s Ballet Master, from 1948 to 1983.
Balanchine adored music, like all dancers, and was especially taken with Tchaikovsky (his favorite composer), Stravinsky (a compatriot and friend), and Gershwin (who loved America as much as he did).
Justin Peck, American, (b. 1987), is, at 34 years old, one of the most acclaimed contemporary choreographer: a Tony Award winning choreographer, director, filmmaker, and dancer based in NYC. Peck is currently the acting Resident Choreographer of the NYCB. After attending the School of American Ballet at Lincoln Center from 2003-2006, Peck was invited to join the NYCB as a dancer, in 2006. As a performer, Peck has danced a vast repertoire of works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Alexei Ratmansky, Lynn Taylor-Corbett, Benjamin Millepied, Christopher Wheeldon, and many others. In 2013, Peck was promoted to the rank of Soloist, performing full-time through 2019 with the company.
Peck has created over 40 ballets, 20 of those for the NYCB. His works have been performed by Paris Opera Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Dresden Semperoper Ballet, Hong Kong Ballet, Boston Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Miami City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, LA Dance Project, Dutch National Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Houston Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Ballet Austin, Ballet Bordeaux, Finnish National Ballet, Ballet MET, Cincinnati Ballet, and Ballet Arizona.
Composers Peck collaborates with often, include Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner (The National), Nico Muhly, Dan Deacon, Caroline Shaw, Chris Thile, Stephen Sondheim, M83, and yes, even Dolly Parton.
And the first thing that struck me on Tuesday, was the harmonious concordance, in terms of inspiration, we can feel from these two choreographers, who, each in their own way, both approach group choreography with strong geometric lines, unusual movements at times, speed, grace and an even stronger sense of fun, and atypical images in Peck’s works.
How about that?
The second thing I noted, was the incredible joy exuded by all of the dancers, so thrilled to be performing again on stage, to a live audience; and their performances all displayed a vibrancy, abandon, energetic drive, and expressivity, which were not lost on me.
And regarding Principal dancers, I was especially moved by Ask la Cour’s wonderful, strong and elegant dancing, in the first two pieces,”Monumentum pro Gesualdo” and “Movements for Piano and orchestra” and by Teresa Reichlen’s flawless, joyful and majestic dancing, in the last piece, “Chaconne”.
What else to say about these pieces?
The first two pieces “Monumentum pro Gesualdo” and “Movements for Piano and orchestra” are both set to ravishing scores from Stravinsky, and epitomize Balanchine’s style, characterized by intense speed, deep “pliés”, and a strong accent on lines. The method has many distinct arm positions and distinct and dramatic choreography.
These are also sleek and timeless classic ballets, in which the dancers are clad in black and white leotards reminiscent of neoclassical form, showing off the dancers long and athletic legs, and beautiful work in ballet studios.
Let’s first take a look at this wonderful “Monumentum Pro Gesualdo” excerpt which encapsulates some of my favorite moments from this beautiful choreography: long, slow, and graceful lines, deep “pliés” and stunning “grands écarts”.
Let’s now admire a picture from “Movements for Piano and orchestra” which is as equally beautiful and elegant, slightly more abstract and intricate, on an even more modern and dissonant score, still by Stravinsky.
The third piece “Rotunda” by Justin Peck, scored to a beautiful Nico Mulhy piece, felt also to me, like a studio ballet scene of young dancers, happily clad in colorful leotards, gathering together in joyful groups, as if about to go out later, on a friendly outdoors group outing.
And here again, the dancing was crisp, athletic, fresh and incredibly enjoyable.
Finally, the elegant and majestic “Chaconne”, is in itself a display of Balanchine’s virtuosity, and begins with a lyrical adagio “pas de deux”, before culminating in a spirited, sumptuous, and breathtaking finale, showcasing both principals and ensemble.
And not only is the “Chaconne” dancing, magical and dreamlike; its poetry and beauty, for me, also stem from its seamless unity and oneness, not surprisingly, to the gorgeous score by Gluck, who wrote dazzling ballet music, for his “Orphée and Eurydice” opera: let’s listen to a stunning passage:
Is it not, just sumptuous?
So, to sum up my feelings about last Tuesday’s ballet evening: what a pure delight to have enjoyed in great company, classical dancing from various decades: all stunning pieces, with incredible and yet simple lines, youthful, fresh, joyful, and importantly, each reflective of their own era.
Until next time friends!
Eternal butterflies 😊