... just a little too gimmicky and out-of-context for NYCB's marketing department to use to promote new and often not great choreography. They can do better than that. There is only now. There was only then. There will only be when. Pseudointellectual goop. The full quote from Balanchine was:
Why are you stingy with yourselves? Why are you holding back? What are you saving for––for another time? There are no other times. There is only now. Right now.
He was talking about artists' efforts, not audiences embracing trivial choreography just because it's new.
Now, about last night…..
NYCB’s Fall Season Gala was interesting enough and covered a wide span of styles in choreography, music, and costuming. Of the four premieres, two disappointments came from the most experienced choreographers who, of course, had the most to lose. The two successes – including a major one – came from nascent dance makers who let their imaginations fly.
What a breath of fresh air it was to experience Lauren Lovette’s For Clara to Robert Schumann’s Introduction and Concert-Allegro, Op. 134. The title of the piece is a reference to the composer’s wife who was not only a five-star concert pianist but a talented composer whose creative output was snuffed out in favor of domesticity, as was customary during the time. It is interesting that Clara Schumann plays an important role in the new offerings for NYCB’s fall season while simultaneously ABT will feature a new work in its upcoming fall season with music by Fannie Mendelssohn, an accomplished composer who was discouraged from writing music due to gender stereotyping.
Lauren’s voice in this grandest of all choreographic cathedrals is a new one but already booms. Now bear in mind that we’ve said stuff like that before about other new choreographers and then cringed when their subsequent works were little more than the re-hashing of ideas seen initially along with the overuse of the same dancers to interpret their works. So we’re going to be cautiously happy and not allow ourselves to build any weighty expectations for the future. But we are definitely happy.
Kudos to Emilie Gerrity, Unity Phelan, Indiana Woodward, Zachary Catazaro, Chase Finlay and a corps of twelve for their incredible commitment to Lauren’s themes and imagination. With highly musical peaks and valleys that propelled the music through our senses, her ballet limited convolution in favor of elocution. When phrases were saturated with steps, as in several of Indiana’s diagonals of speedy virtuosity, they were fully supported by Schumann’s notes played beautifully by pianist Susan Walters and conducted passionately by Clotilde Otranto.
While the ballet was not narrative in form, it took us on a sort of journey through relationships; perhaps it was the course traveled by a single relationship. Pensiveness, joy, play, difficulties were all reflected in the various pas de deux. There were a few lifts that leaned more toward athleticism than artistry, but it may be that they just need a few more rehearsals to bridge that gap.
The costume designs contributed little to this ballet, but thank goodness they didn’t interfere either. Narciso Rodriguez created simple lines with lightweight fabric. Women wore brief, soft-skirted tunics while the men were bare chested. It seemed like a conscious effort to be laid-back cool which fizzled.
In the next ballet, The Dreamers by Justin Peck, Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar came out wearing Dries Van Noten’s designs that looked a little too much like Espada & Mercedes in a Rothko-ish manic/depressive episode. The Rothko influence was intentional, as suggested by the video that preceded the ballet. Our guess is that the other influence was not intentional.
Peck was once again drawn to Bohuslav Martinù for the music which resulted in the same-old, same-old convoluted let’s-swing-the-girl-around-in-the air and jut bare-legged extensions here and there like they were projectiles. It was more of the senseless – sorry to have to repeat my own original phrase – angst & yank of contemporary ballet.
Corpsman Peter Walker’s premiere ten in seven featured a four-member band on a raised platform on stage who played Thomas Kikta’s original guitar score commissioned for the ballet entitled vii for X. Kikta, Emily’s father, played guitar while Arkadiy Figlin was on guest keyboard, Raymond Mase on trumpet, and James Saporito on percussion. We’re familiar with Peter’s choreographic style having seen several of the charming and creative videos that he and Emily have produced together. There is a Manhattan coolness and confidence that runs through his work.
The evening’s piece clearly had a Broadway feel to it and was definitely better choreography than much of what we see on Broadway. A little jazzy, a little let-me-show-ya-what-I-got attitude ran through the ballet of seven sections danced by an ensemble of ten. Among the cast, Taylor Stanley, Sean Suozzi, Spartak Hoxha, Ashly Isaacs, and Indian Woodward impressed with their intensity and ability to merge styles. We’re afraid that Russell Janzen may never be a jazz bunny, though. That’s okay, we have adored this man in everything he has danced up to now. We’d pay to watch him sit on the stage and read a book.
Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Unframed to a patchwork of music by Boccherini, Elgar, Vasks, and Vivaldi was Exhibit A for why ballet should not rely heavily on modern/non-ballet-fully-informed choreographers to save it. You end up with ballet cliché after ballet cliché that illustrates the very limited working vocabulary of the choreographer. Dullness prevailed last night. There were but two brief lights: Daniel Ulbricht (with, forgive Haglund, but he can’t recall who the woman was) in a PdD and Adrian Danchig Waring in another section. These two guys poured the choreographer’s clichés into their NutriBullet Magic Bullet ballet blenders with their own potent vitamin powder and whirled out some decent, nutritional smoothie. The fact that Tiler Peck, Sterling Hyltin, the Angles, and other big players couldn't rescue this piece says a lot.
The costumes looked like something out of Pilobolus’ Fruit of the Loom commercials. Underwear. Come on. How low do you have to go to create interest?
Thank goodness for Valentino. The only disappointment was that he didn’t come skipping down the ramp on stage after his collection was presented in the finale of Bal de Couture like he did at the premiere a few years ago. Ashley Laracey, Isabella LaFreniere and Claire Kretzschmar wore Haglund’s favorite gowns of insanely expensive black and white Italian silk. It’s going to be hard for the NYCB costume shop artists to ever surpass what they created for Valentino. We don’t mean that it’s all downhill from there, but the accomplishment was so exceptional that it may never be equaled. We don’t care what the choreography by Peter Martins contributed or didn’t contribute to the event. These gowns worn with extraordinary grace by NYCB’s women should be welcomed back regularly as a reminder of what truly great design is.
We’re so happy to see NYCB back on stage and dancing so well. Our first HH Pump Bump of the season, one of Valentino's modest but complicated beauties, is bestowed upon Lauren Lovette for her promise-filled ballet For Clara.