In the winter season’s all-Jerome Robbins program of Glass Pieces, Moves, and The Concert, the endlessly different postures of humanity are seen marching in and out of light or under umbrellas which shield them from rain — all on undefined journeys. We don’t know the destinations of the women shuffling along in a line at the back of the stage in the dark during Glass Pieces, their forms backlit to obscure their individual faces while highlighting their distinct profiles. We don’t know the destinations of the aggressive groups and individuals in Moves who clearly harbor some disdain for one another but need each other in order to fulfill their killer-competitive instincts. We don’t know the destinations of the funny little people in The Concert who march in the same direction under individual umbrellas and then try to huddle together in mass under one or two umbrellas while continuing to travel.
We never know their destinations, but after more than a half century we are still fascinated by the journeys that Robbins mapped out for dancers over the course of his life. His centennial celebration will be in 2018. We hope that NYCB will include not only those works that he made for the ballet stage but also his vast contribution to Broadway. Never has NYCB had more dancers who could cross over from ballet to Broadway with true sparkle.
Robbins was a keen observer of social and anti-social behavior and the difficult relationships that individuals have with their groups in society. His ballets were not simply divided into soloist and corps work. The soloists frequently acted-out within or against the corps always suggesting a community undergoing some evolution or disruption.
On Tuesday evening the grands assemblés of the principals in the Rubric section of Glass Pieces (Ashley Hod, Meagan Mann, Lydia Wellington, Joseph Gordon, Peter Walker, Cameron Dieck) disrupted the earth-bound population of pedestrians walking hurriedly on their daily treks. In sleek pastel unitards that accentuated the long lines of their gorgeous limbs, the principals demonstrated an energy and purpose in their lives that was unknown to the others locked in daily drudge.
Maria Kowroski and Russell Janzen (debuting) gave the physique-dependent Facades pas de deux the length and limpid quality that makes it so much more than an acrobatic ballet from the ‘80s. How we have loved seeing Maria, Rebecca Krohn, Wendy Whelan, and Maria Calegari put their unique imprints on this role. A miscast of physical type in this PdD simply cracks the glass without achieving meaningful artistry.
The Akhnaten section performed by the corps de ballet sent the audience into a tizzy. Guest Conductor Harrison Hollingsworth (also principal bassoonist in the NYCB orchestra) inspired the dancers with his energy – or maybe it was vice versa – whatever it was, the audience was feeling the electricity run through their nerves.
The current generation at NYCB has given Moves a brand new contemporary energy that seems to have elevated the significance of the women in this ballet in terms of strength, control, directness, and ambition. This is not to suggest that the men are pushovers, but they are definitely facing a competitive tension from the women unlike generations before them. On Tuesday night, Emilie Gerrity and Taylor Stanley became embroiled in a consensual-bordering-on-fierce Pas de Deux where she looked like at any time she wanted, she could reverse roles and begin manipulating her partner. The sharp slicing limbs of Claire Kretzschmar and Ashley Hod also contributed much to this theme.
After the seriousness of Glass Pieces and Moves, The Concert offered comedic relief with Andrew Veyette, Sterling Hyltin, and Lydia Wellington leading the ensemble of very individual characters who attend a piano concert and vie for the attentions of the pianist (Elaine Chelton) and each other.
The HH Pump Bump Award is bestowed upon the ladies in the corps de ballet of Moves for their spirited situation control: