Review Roundup: 'Namouna, a Grand Divertissement' at New York City Ballet

New York City Ballet recently presented Namouna, A Grand Divertissement.

A truly monumental work, Ratmansky abstracts Édouard Lalo's comical 19th-century story ballet into a stylized series of witty and animated dances for seven featured performers and a large ensemble.

Mystery, wit, drama, and romance share star turns in Alexei Ratmansky's original and aptly named "grand divertissement." With Édouard Lalo's lively score from a 19th Century French ballet about a slave girl named Namouna as inspiration, Ratmansky has used what he calls "the clichés of classical ballets" in a new, endlessly inventive, and light-hearted way. A large corps, intriguing dance patterns, and virtuoso soloists fill out the playful plot involving a young man searching for his love. Using the props detailed in Lucien Petipa's original 1882 production, alluring women dance for the young man as cymbals clang and a seductress tempts through a fog of cigarette smoke. Many distractions and whimsically-wigged look-alikes confound, confuse, and stand in the way before boy finally finds girl for a joyful, athletic, and romantic climactic pas de deux.

Let's see what the critics have to say!

Barnett Serchuk, BroadwayWorld: Justin Peck, City Ballet's resident choreographer and the great voice of the current ballet world, (I didn't say that, it's from others) had his "Decalogue" presented. Set to a music score by Sufjan Stevens, the work explores in ten movements the interconnected that, if I am viewing it properly, exists in modern day world. We have male female partnering, as well as same sex partnering. Although this has become commonplace in Peck's ballets, here he seems to move ahead in his explanation of what makes these different same couplings so interesting. For all of this, "Decalogue" doesn't seem gay or straight or even gender fluid. It goes to the heart of what a dance is between couples, male or female and how they all connect in the end. And it has the added benefit of the wonderful Sara Mearns and Jared Angle, both seasoned professionals whose grasp of music and technique, vision and brawn, gesture and acceptance of what is put to them, is all consuming. After watching the performance I thought it should be called a "Ballet Exercise with Sara and Jared." Maybe someday. I think Peck still has some maturing. But there is great hope there.

Gia Kourlas, The New York Times: Alas, "Namouna" was part of "Here/Now," a dog of a program that lasted nearly three hours. And for what? Neither Benjamin Millepied's derivative "Neverwhere" nor Nicolas Blanc's sophomoric "Mothership" warrant repeated viewings. And even Mr. Peck, the company's resident choreographer, is off his game with "The Decalogue." Set to music by Sufjan Stevens, "The Decalogue" has its moments - Ms. Mearns's decisive finishing touches on the simplest of positions and Unity Phelan's voluminous reach were reasons to perk up - but is a meandering, bloodless ballet. It was heartbreaking to see people leave before "Namouna," which closed "Here/Now," but who could blame them?

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