Now, this was a little more like it.
Full concept, robust theater, stunning costumes, some okay steps. It could have used an airplane crash somewhere in it, probably. When Nijinsky created his own Jeux to Debussy’s so-titled work in 1913, he reportedly wanted to incorporate an airplane crash into the drama, but he was talked out of it. This was a few years prior to his first institutionalization, but people probably already recognized that the genius was flying with one bent wing. Antony Tudor, on the other hand, most likely would have had the people on stage simply looking up in the air for the plane while registering impending doom. Really, it’s rather pointless to speculate what either of them would have done.
What Kim Brandstrup did, however, in his version of Jeux to the same Debussy music that Nijinsky used was to create a little game-drama in which Sara Mearns was the first one to be blindfolded in the game where she tried to catch someone to dance with. She wore a plainer-than-plain black 1940-ish dress that had a slim silhouette, a gorgeous square neckline in the front and back, and short sleeves. Gorgeous neckline on that dress. Then, Adrian Danchig-Waring appeared in a tee-shirt, jean-like pants and tennis shoes with his basketball like a Young Man From the Playground Opposite but with wholesome, honorable intentions. He just wanted to play.
Sterling Hyltin and Amar Ramasar and five couples were dressed in fashionable 1940-ish gray and black suits or dresses - all costumes were stunning and designed by Marc Happel. The lighting by Jean Kalman was very dark and shadowy with a nearly-naked bulb hanging in a downstage corner. All of it - very, very interesting.
So, the game continued with Sara trying to catch the other players who sometimes taunted her a little bit. It was totally harmless, though, since she was blindfolded and couldn’t see them. The corps choreography was inventive in the way that the dancers were swept off and onto the stage. Collectively, the corps was a character as it is in many of Tudor’s works. But - and there always has to be a but - the principals’ choreography somehow looked a lot like all of the other stuff that we’ve seen. Why does every fast supported pirouette have to end with a grand ronde de jambe? Why so many obnoxious pique passes? Why was that Ratmansky supported ballotté stuck in there? Come on, folks. Somebody needs to erase the blackboard so that we can start with a fresh, clean slate.
Sara finally appeared without her blindfold, having apparently had enough of the game and removed it off stage. She registered displeasure at what she saw in the downstage corner, danced a little pas de deux and then decided it was time to blindfold Adrian to start the game anew. And that’s how it ended.
The brief use of the basketball in Brandstrup's dance was like Nijinsky’s use of the tennis ball and rackets in his version of Jeux. The whole thing was clever without trying too hard to appear clever.
Also on the program were the four premieres from last week with their same casts. Haglund has nothing new to say about them.
The H.H. Pump Bump, a sleek black stiletto, goes to Sara Mearns and Adrian Danchig-Waring for their dance theater this evening and for making us wish we could see NYCB restore one of its Tudor works sometime soon.