Haglund wishes that he’d had a better time at NYCB Friday night. With the exception of a scorching rendition of Alexei Ratmansky’s Concerto DSCH, it was a fairly lackluster evening.
Neither the New York Philharmonic nor the Chamber Music Society has been able to generate a lot of wild enthusiasm for the music of Gyorgy Ligeti, even though the local critics try to help them market it. He’s a hard sell to the general public, and he can be hard on the ears of those whose love of music stems from life’s organic rhythms. Such people are commonly found in ballet audiences. NYCB, via Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia, has found some success with Ligeti by seasoning his music with crotch-splitting aerial acrobatics performed by lean, leggy women who wear skimpy purple leotards. It wouldn’t really matter whether Wheeldon’s choice of music for Polyphonia was Ligeti or Lizt or Lil Kim – the content is his appeal – at least for some, like the man seated behind Haglund who let out a breathy moan every time Maria Kowroski split open her legs while being manipulated by Jared Angle. While Balanchine invented a few splittzy moves and used them judiciously in his meaty choreography, Wheeldon makes them the main ingredient in his cheesy recipes. Haglund wishes that Wheeldon would get back in touch with his inner classical austerity or else take his splittzy choreography to the gentlemen’s clubs where it belongs.
Susan Stroman put the fantasticDavid Berger Jazz Orchestra on stage to play Duke Ellington’s great music for her World Premiere of For the Love of Duke – a composite of her previously choreographed Blossom Got Kissed with the new Frankie and Johnny...and Rose which was more of the same but less. The latter featured Amar Ramasar as Johnny who was determined to sample both women: the pretty and wholesome Tiler Peck as Rose, decked out in hot rose colored leotard with attached short skirt made of individual strips of fabric, and Sara Mearns as Frankie, in the same costume only purple violet in color. Johnny and Rose were enjoying a dance when Frankie showed up and there began the clichéd pattern of the man dancing with one woman and then tossing her aside – actually over a table – to dance with the second woman and over and over again. The two women ended up tossing Johnny aside, shook hands, and the segment ended when Johnny popped up from behind the table with a third woman in red.
More leggy, splittzy choreographic material. Splittzies in pointe shoes apparently are just as seductive as splittzies in stilettos, but even more so when the ladies' legs have sparkly stuff on them. But here the women were in control and each was far more woman than Johnny could handle.
Then it was on to Part II with Blossom (Savannah Lowery) and The Musician who plays the triangle (Robert Fairchild) and a corps worthy of Broadway’s brightest lights. Most can hear Broadway beckoning to Fairchild. He has enormous stage appeal and manages to make everything he does the most fascinating thing on the stage – except when he’s dancing with Sterling Hyltin who then becomes the most fascinating thing on stage. Here he had the task of converting the uptight ballerina in blue tutu (Lowery) into jazz club material like the corps ladies in red leotards with attached short skirts made of individual strips of fabric. Suddenly she ran to the back and whipped off her tutu to reveal her red costume – ah, transformation accomplished.
So the best of the evening was first and the first was the best. Wendy Whelan, Ashley Bouder, Tyler Angle, Joaquin DeLuz, and Andrew Veyette romped through Ratmansky’s Concerto DSCH with great energy, abandon, and sizzling technique. It was just the exhilaration we needed to help sustain us through the static patterns of Polyphonia. Bouder and DeLuz tore around the stage after each other, leaving their allegro dust in most everyone else’s teeth. Veyette very nearly kept up with them. No static patterns here. It’s nonstop movement by everyone on stage. Tugging, pushing, pulling, flashy feet, big smiles, energized corps formations – all good to watch. Concerto DSCH wins the Pump Bump Award for the evening, a blue winged beauty with pink beading: