BWW Review: New York City Ballet's New Combinations, February 3, 2019
I always enjoy mingling with the crowd during ballet intermissions to hear their views and to see if mine corresponds with theirs.
Sunday offered a rare treat even before the curtain went up. I heard three people discussing the program, and one said something to the effect that it was about time to rid the company of the old and bring in the new, everything, forget the past, which included those ballets of the company's first artistic director. Hearing things like that used to set me off, but not anymore. Has this person ever been to the City Ballet before or even know anything about its history?
I didn't say anything, so I took my seat.
It was an afternoon of the "new combinations." No Balanchine or Robbins. This is fine, especially if the new works have something to offer us. I take it the company had done its due diligence to check on just what would attract an audience, besides THE star of the afternoon, Taylor Stanley, who was appearing in two of the works and was absolutely, totally, magnificently smashing!!!!!!
But one dancer does not an afternoon make!!!!!!
William Forsythe's Herman Schmerman was first choreographed in May of 1992 as part of the then company's Diamond Project. In a review, the then New York Times dance critic, Anna Kisselgoff, described it as "some well-designed trivia."
Costumes designed by Gianni Versace should be well designed.
Forsythe added a pas de deux the following year, and since then the opening was dropped altogether. It returned to the company during the 2019 winter season, so now the ballet can be seen in its entirety.
My question is why?
Five dancers, Naomi Corti, Sara Mearns, Unity Phelan, Harrison Ball, and Joseph Gordon are the participants in the first section. You might think you are watching a miss-matched Balanchine ballet, three women, two men, they all seem to be interacting, they have a certain edge, yet they never connect on any level. In the pas de deux, Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle dance together then go off-stage, she returns in a yellow skirt, he returning bare-chested in a yellow skirt. It's all in jest, and like the title, it tries to be self-mocking and even serious. Even though the audience laughs at their appearance, there is nothing more to do, except keep dancing.
Jonathan's Peck's new Principia seemed like many other Pecks I have seen; it had a 24 corps member; six principals and three soloists. With so much, you'd think the company would deliver-which it did not. It was all polished; ran smoothly, just like the other Peck ballets. I concur with many others that the music by Sufjan Stevens was very uneven, providing no base for the dance, shuffling everyone around the stage, now here, now there. The patterns were lovely; we had more same-sex partnering, Taylor Stanley and Tiler Peck danced a pas de deux, everyone was waiting to see Stanley explode in some solo. The only moment of real feeling and depth was at the end, when the company gathered together downstage, holding hands, closing their eyes and looking up. A very right Jerome Robbins moment-but it wasn't by Jerome Robbins.
Kyle Abraham's The Runaway, the runaway hit of the fall season, due mostly to Taylor Stanley's knockout performance, ended the program. Taylor is so connected to the performance, so bound up in every move, his muscles contracting on the beat, I wonder if anyone could ever replace him?
I don't think so.
Many people have criticized the costumes by Giles Deacon, outrageous, nutty, black, white, feathers, skirts that impossible to maneuver-maybe there's something to it. Is Abraham critiquing the times as a sign of moral outrage, is he telling us that dance will move on-forget what the naysayers tell us. Maybe, Like Nijinska's Les Biches, people will look back at this as a seminal work of dance history and say, "this is what we were like."