The David H. Koch building/ 22 short “Episodes”/ Friday February 3rd and Tuesday February 7th, 2023.
Welcome back friends!
Welcome this week once again, to the dazzling world of ballet, as we are in February, a month rich in wonderful ballet performances in NYC, and welcome this week, to a truly original, exciting, joyful, delightful, and new, contemporary NYCB ballet, filled with “Americana/western” elements (opening and closing sets and music especially), from Resident Choreographer and Artistic Advisor of the NYCB, Justin Peck (b. 1987), which I have actually seen twice in 5 days (as I have also been able to watch it for the first time last Friday), and which took, each time, the audience’s breath away.
A modern, vibrant, athletic, even at times euphoric, Peck choreography could be instantly recognized for this “Copland Episodes” ballet, paying homage at times, to Robbins’ “West side story” storytelling style, and at others, to Balanchine’s streamlined and sleek, abstract, yet imperial in its scale choreographies, evoking as well at times, the idea of (sports) partners/ teams, yet always also, quintessentially Peck’s, in style and atmosphere.
A truly exhilarating ballet this “Copland Episodes”, danced beautifully and with great energy and joy by the NYCB company, set to wonderfully poetic, stunning, and instantly recognizable “cowboy” music by one of the most illustrious 20th century American classical composer, notable for incorporating jazz, folk, and other popular forms of “Americana” music to his classical pieces, the highly acclaimed Aaron Copland (1900-1990).
Lively, fun and original, this “Copland Episodes” ballet, musically, unusually, is comprised of 22 short “western” /”cowboy”- like “Episodes”, set to four gorgeous Copland scores: (1938)”Billy The Kid”, Four Dance Episodes from 1942 “Rodeo”, 1942 “Fanfare for the common man”, and finally “Appalachian Spring” (my very favorite, and a Pulitzer Prize winning score in 1944).
And interestingly, (opening and closing) set designer Jeffrey Gibson, fused his Choctaw-Cherokee heritage and international experience living across all continents, to create the indigenous looking American artifacts with a disco /psychedelic choice of color palette.
So incredibly relevant, and also so modern in its brightness of colors, and allowing the joyful and colorful costumes worn by the beguiling and dazzling performers to “star”, during the show.
And how terrific were these (costumes), designed by Ellen Warren, and what unusual hues were to be found in the leotard/swimwear choices for the NYCB dancers, often joyfully performing on stage in large groups, or in a few “pas de deux”, in bright, giddy, and optimistic candy like (think Lifesavers) colors, allowing the audience to admire easily, the dancers long and graceful limbs and body lines.
And a few “Episodes” stood out for me:
Loved the raw athletic energy of Episode 2 “Start your engines”, during which the powerful and feline Roman Mejia, took flight like a cat, hair flying away, to the audience’s joy.
So lively and entertaining.
Loved also the poetry of the Episode 3 “Tumbleweed”, set to one of my favorite part of the score for its beautiful, meditative, awe-inspiring atmosphere, wonderfully performed by particularly agile and expressive Principal dancer Chun Wai Chan (light blue top and darker blue pants in the middle of the above picture), in partnership with Daniel Applebaum, Gilbert Bolden III, Lars Nelson and Aaron Sanz.
So tranquil and serene.
Let’s listen now, to a short excerpt of the incredibly beautiful “Corral Nocturne” from “Rodeo”, so you can get a sense of the majestic, heart opening, and jaw dropping music by Copland, as grand and poetic as western American skies are (and even to Copland, even though he wrote all his music in Brooklyn, NY).
Loved also the beautiful “Pas de deux” of the Episode 4 “Two birds”, danced with verve and lightness by the beautiful, young, hyper talented (and surely soon to become a principal dancer), long legged and truly wonderful Mira Nadon (in bright fuchsia pink or Schiaparelli “shocking” pink top and dark forest green “bottom” in above and below picture), partnered with the vibrant Taylor Stanley (chamomile yellow top and khaki green pants, in picture above), whose skills as a street dance artist, in addition to his impeccable ballet technique, come across often as well, bringing modernity to some of the steps.
So unique and mesmerizing.
Loved also the stunning Episode 8 “Alone together – Part 1”-“Pas de deux” performed by the dazzling, spirited and joyful Principal dancer, Tiler Peck (bright crimson red top and grey “bottom” along side, principal dancer, Chun Wai Chan, standing next to her in the above picture).
I was also mesmerized by Episode 18 “The Amazing Race” featuring a few other “couples”, and as always, I was blown away by the technique and charm of Principal dancer Megan Fairchild (orangey yellow top, light blue “bottom” in picture above and below) dancing with great vibrancy next to the energetic and charismatic Roman Mejia (lemon top and light blue pants in picture below).
I actually thought the ballet was going to stop there, as without intermission, after this piece, the audience, though loving it, started growing a little restless, even if the 4 final episodes were equally beautiful.
Finally, 3 particular choreographic devices which were beautifully repeated, also stood out to me: the taut line of dancers helping each other to not fall, the tsunami like wave including a joyful “jumping” dancer in the back of the wave, representing (to me) the lightness of foam, and the circle around an imaginary fire with dancers “storytelling” their characters’ personality traits, in often joyful, simple, repetitive and powerful gestures and dance moves.
So, to sum up my feelings, about the latest NYCB “Copland Dance Episodes” program, admired last Friday and Tuesday, in great company: what beautiful, original, fun, personalized, and entertaining 21st century choreography by Peck, set to gorgeous Copland “Americana” style of mid 20th century classical music, to celebrate life’s vibrancy, possibilities and beauty, and how majestic is this “Western” musical expression, whose timeless allure and depth, is still incredibly relevant and meaningful to many around the world, and allows for a timeless, rich in symbolism and abstraction, stunning, uplifting, contemporary, dazzling ballet.
Not to be missed!
Until next time friends, in March, as holidays await me soon!
Eternal butterflies 😊