BWW Review: THE NEW YORK CITY BALLET at The Kennedy Center
The New York City Ballet has completed its annual pilgrimage to the Kennedy Center. This year the venerable company brings an offering of Balanchine, Martins, Peck, and more Balanchine to Washington. (I did not see the second program, which featured choreography by Jerome Robbins). The choreography was well danced, and the orchestra sounded excellent. But compared to years past, the simplicity and repetitive nature of this program left me feeling underwhelmed.
The majority of the programs presented (including "Divertimento No. 15", "Zakouski", "Pulcinella Variations" and "Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux") revolved around pas de deuxes and solo variations. It is of course always a joy to watch a couple of principal dancers truly sparkle on stage-like Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle did in the Tschaikovsky-but after four consecutive programs with very little ensemble work, I found myself longing for the dynamism and depth that the corps de ballet moving en masse brings to the stage.
This made the final piece, George Balanchine's "Symphony in Three Movements" a welcome relief. The piece gives the ensemble plenty of chances to shine as they create complex movements around the principal dancers. This is Balanchine at his most quirky and playful; the choreography is filled with flexed feet, energetic leaps, and cocked hips. the company balances infectious energy with precise technique, making the piece truly engaging.
I am usually a big fan of Justin Peck's work, and while I enjoyed "Pulcinella Variations", it did not blow me away like last year's "The Times Are Racing". The sprightly footwork and leaps capture the spirit of Stravinsky's music perfectly, but the real stars of the piece, and the only things that felt innovative and fresh, were fashion designer Tsumori Chisato's delightfully abstract costumes.
Chisato's work was the only standout technical element of the night. Normally this company impresses me with its use of simple but effective lighting or backdrops, but other than the "Pulcinella Variations", the stage was left bare in a basic wash. The designers missed an opportunity to add texture and differentiation to an already monotonous program.
I look forward to seeing what the New York City Ballet brings to D.C. next year, although I hope they remember to include variations across programs and not just within them.
The New York City Ballet is at the Kennedy Center through Sunday, April 1, 2018. The Balanchine, Martins, and Peck program ran approximately 2.5 hours. Get tickets here.
Photo Credit: Paul Kolnik