It’s a good thing that the 21st Century is still young – at 2014, it’s entering what is typically a period of obnoxious adolescence. Who doesn’t know a 14-year-old who should be locked up for a few years until he comes to his senses? But a century will occasionally produce a young genius like Jack Andraka – that high school freshman Intel Science Award winner who developed a promising test that could expose biomarkers of pancreatic cancer. We mention Jack to remind everyone of the Annual Dance Against Cancer gala benefit performance coming up on May 5th. Produced by NYCB’s Daniel Ulbricht, the gala features performances by well known dancers, many of whom are dancing in memory of loved ones who battled cancer or in support of those who battle it today.
In addition to Ulbricht, performers will include Clifton Brown, Maria Kowroski, Gillian Murphy, Jared Matthews, Tiler Peck, Robert Fairchild, Tyler Angle, Taylor Stanley, Herman Cornejo, Michael Trusnovec, the simply irresistible girl in the yellow dress and her friends from Contact, and many others. The performance of Wheeldon’s After the Rain is cast as TBD but, well FYI, Craig Hall and Alessandra Ferri will perform it in Italy on May 10th at the gala opening of the new Florence Opera House. We know that Alessandra will mine something new out of that PdD.
Anyone who has an extra $150 lying around should consider attending the Dance Against Cancer benefit performance. Unfortunately, Haglund does not.
But he did score a 4th Ring Society ticket to NYCB’s opening night dubbed an evening of 21st Century Choreographers for which “photograffeur" JR staged a concept piece about the 2005 riots in the Parisienne housing projects, which, we recall, burned as well as our own. At the time, music and visual artists were getting some of the authorities’ blame for inciting the riots, and JR was in the thick of it all since he had plastered his photographs all over the buildings in the area. After JR's spectacular contribution to the NYCB’s Art Series last fall, Peter Martins decided to help him bring a multi-media idea to the stage, and JR chose to relive the thrills of 2005 in a piece entitled Les Bosquets. Thrilling for him, maybe, but for many, it was eight minutes of life down the drain. The JRinas and JRinos in the house, identified by their distinctive JR hats, loved the dance and applauded enthusiastically.
Les Bosquets featured Lauren Lovette, who was costumed in a white paper-like (of course, paper) swanny tutu, and Lil Buck who chased Lauren around while doing moves on his tenni-toe shoes. A large corps of dancers who portrayed rioters and police moved in infantry-like lines across the stage while wearing black and white dotted unitards. The costumes, all designed by NYCB’s Marc Happel, were the art-i-est part of the piece. Hopefully, some pictures will emerge.
Wheeldon’s This Bitter Earth marked the return to the stage of Wendy Whelan after surgery and a long lay-off. Her tender PdD with Tyler Angle set to the Max Richter/Dinah Washington musical mash-up from the motion picture Shutter Island registered with emotional strength. If the audience seemed to be nervously holding its collective breath the whole time, the exhale and tumultuous reception at the end was its clear relief that this artist had finally made it back on stage. The beautiful Valentino costume designs worn for this ballet during the fall 2012 gala have been replaced by Reid Bartelme’s designs that are earthen and ordinary – not an improvement at all.
Barber Violin Concerto by Peter Martins and the PdD from Herman Schmerman by William Forsythe completed the first half of the evening. Megan Fairchild, Sara Mearns, Jared Angle, and Ask la Cour gave an adequate performance of what is one of Martins’ best compositions. Ashley Bouder is always able to push this ballet into and past the realm of its original cast, but she had cigarette puffing duties tonight in the second half.
Maria Kowroski and Amar Ramasar found some humor in Herman Schmerman - Forsythe’s ballet-schmallet in which the performers do little dancing but lots of schmancing to faux-show their fun in strutting through what amounts to a pairs competition in arrhythmic gymnastics.
Alexei Ratmansky’s Namouna, A Grand Divertissement, to the Edouard Lalo’s score returned to the rep in good shape. Here again, the costumes were one of the strongest elements of the ballet. The long empire-waist dress designs and the funky single-layer tutus that are transparent like insect wings were created by Marc Happel and Rustam Khamdamov. Sterling Hyltin, Robert Fairchild, Ashley Bouder, Sara Mearns, Megan Fairchild, Daniel Ulbricht, and Abi Stafford were the power-cast with Bouder’s cigarette girl the highlight as she puffed away while delivering the most creative steps in the ballet with innate comedic timing.
Namouna was enjoyable but there was a lot of walking around and pedestrian-type movement, particularly for the corps, instead of dancing. However, when the principals started firing those allegro pistons, you sensed that there is no other company that can press the pedal of a Ratmansky ballet to the floor quite like NYCB.
The first Pump Bump of the spring season, a stainless steel and sterling silver stiletto from the House of Borgezie, goes to Ashley Bouder who last night began the season spectacularly.