“Copland Dance Episodes”: Wild West charm inspires joyful and electrifying contemporary dancing…

Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch building/ 22 short “Copland Dance Episodes” Tuesday February 13th, 2024.

Welcome back friends!

Yay!

Welcome this week once again, to the expressive, dreamlike and beautiful 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, witty, and a year old, contemporary NYCB ballet, filled with “Americana/Western” elements (opening and closing sets and music especially), from highly acclaimed Resident Choreographer and Artistic Advisor of the NYCB, Justin Peck (b. 1987), which truly, dazzled the audience away.

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A modern, vibrant, athletic, even at times euphoric, J. Peck choreography, could be instantly recognized for this “Copland Dance 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.

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Set to wonderfully charming, poetic, gleeful, bucolic, drop dead gorgeous and instantly recognizable “Cowboy” music by one of the most illustrious, revered, 20th century American classical composer, notable for incorporating jazz, folk, and other popular forms of “Americana” music to his classical pieces, the highly acclaimed, and truly exceptional, the one and only, Aaron Copland (1900-1990).

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And how perfectly conducted, with great sensitivity and panache, under the baton of Conductor extraordinaire, Andrew Litton.

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A truly exhilarating and electrifying ballet, this J. Peck “Copland Dance Episodes”. And performed beautifully, and with great energy and joy, by the entire, or at least a great many dancers, from the NYCB company.

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Lively, energetic, and original, this J. Peck “Copland Dance Episodes” ballet, musically, and 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).

Wow and yay!

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.

Wow and yay!

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.

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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.

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And a few “Episodes” stood out for me:

Loved the raw athletic energy of Episode 2 “Start your engines”, during which the powerful and athletic, truly dazzling, KJ Takahahi (bright yellow top and light blue bottom leggings in above picture), took flight, with incredible ease and speed, 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 über talented, particularly majestic, agile and expressive, Principal dancer Chun Wai Chan (light blue top and darker blue leggings in the middle of the above picture), in partnership with Alec Knight, Lars Nelson, Davide Riccardo, and Andres Zuniga.

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).

Wow!

Enjoy!

Just gorgeous.

Loved also the beautiful “Pas de deux” from the Episode 4 entitled “Two birds”, danced with energy and lightness by the beautiful, young, hyper talented Principal dancer, long legged and more expressive than ever, and truly highly admired (dynamic and loud applause always followed any of her stage “entrances” by some of her biggest “fans”), Mira Nadon (in bright fuchsia pink or Schiaparelli “shocking” pink top and dark forest green “bottom” in below picture), partnered with the vibrant Peter Walker (chamomile yellow top and khaki green pants, in picture below), whose impeccable ballet technique as well, and boyish looks, always also, spark the audience’s attention.

So wonderful.

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Loved also the stunning “Pas de deux” from Episode 8 entitled “Alone together – Part 1”, performed by the dazzling, spirited, highly dynamic, and incredibly gifted, Alexa Maxwell (bright crimson red top and grey bottom), replacing highly cherished Principal dancer, Tiler Peck, who was probably attending to final details for her first NYCB choreography, performed the next day, which was truly awesome as well, (I was there too).

Yay! And yay!

And Alexa Maxwell danced with great verve and talent this “Pas de deux”, along side glorious and truly awesome, and always regal like, Principal dancer, Chun Wai Chan (standing next to her in the above picture).

Double yay!

I was also mesmerized by Episode 18 entitled “The Amazing Race”, featuring a few other “couples”, and again, I was blown away by the technique and highly athletic feats of KJ Takahashi (in bright yellow top and light blue leggings in the above picture).

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So, to sum up my feelings, about the latest NYCB “Copland Dance Episodes” program, admired last Tuesday, in great company: what beautiful, original, joyful, athletic, inspiring, and entertaining 21st century choreography by J. 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.

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Just awe-inspiring.

Not to be missed!

Until next time friends, in March, as holidays await me soon!

Soft…

Fluttering…

Sunny…

Joyful…

Happy…

Loving…

Eternal butterflies 😊