BWW Reviews: An Afternoon with Robbins, Peck and Balanchine NYCB, 2/2
There is nothing like seeing a great ballet performed live. Unfortunately, it's a rarity. For one thing, there are just so many variables that determine the success of a ballet. Think of a dance like you would a human body. Its spine would be the score. Everything else is based off that. The choreography would be the muscles; what moves each part and gives it shape. Then you've got the costumes and mise en scene; this is what you notice right away, the skin. Looking at this bare bones image of a ballet highlights the importance of each part, but in a truly spectacular work you won't notice these disparate points because great ballet is not about the parts, but the way they come together. This delicate harmony is elusive at best. Considering the intrinsically intricate balance that is needed for a masterful work, I feel particularly lucky to have seen a show that contains not one but three pieces that remind the audience what ballet is all about.
Jerome Robbins' Glass Pieces premiered in the spring of 1983. The three movements of the ballet feature typically balletic pas de deux, variations and corps work with a definitively postmodern twist. The dancers appear in different colored practice clothes. The backdrop is stark and modern. Complex walking patterns and abrupt shifts of weight and direction are reminiscent of works created by modern dance pioneers like Martha Graham and Paul Taylor. Robbins expertly punctuates pedestrian movements with twisted and off kilter classical choreography, highlighting the abilities Balanchine carefully honed in his dancers.
The second movement of this riveting work, Façade, showcases the talents of Rebecca Krohn and her partner Adrian Danchig-Waring. Krohn's exquisite control is utilized in its entirety in this slow and very demanding pas de deux. Her lines are perfect. Her phrasing is exact and seemingly intuitive. Ms. Krohn is a very musical dancer. Her strength and attention to detail is well suited by her partner. Maneuvering her supple body through some very difficult transitions, Danchig-Waring shows an unwavering focus on his partner and expertly matches every line of her body. The way these two work together is a wonderful example of pas de deux at it's best, and it's not even Petipa!
To be perfectly blunt, people say that companies like City Ballet are living in the past. America's golden age of dance has ended. Regardless of how innovative they were 50 years ago, there are only so many times you can repeat the same old ballets. Young choreographers like corps member Justin Peck are showing audience members just how wrong they are in thinking that the New York City Ballet is one of these "museum companies."
"Year of the Rabbit" is a remarkable work. Peck uses a new orchestration of Sufjan Steven's inventive score from his album Enjoy Your Rabbit. As the title of the work suggests, the Chinese Zodiac inspires the music. Each relatively short movement is named for a different year of the Zodiac and flows effortlessly into the next in order to form a cohesive whole. What I find so unique about this piece is Peck's ability to work within the style and technique that Balanchine created in a fresh and captivating way. He uses the neo-classical foundation and augmented vocabulary of Balanchine in a way that is wholly his own. Certainly, the lineage can be traced but the essence of the work is unquestionable new and his own. It's exceptional to find a young choreographer who shows such depth and mastery in his work.