It's like the guy who wants to race his powerful new sports car up the street past his neighbors' houses to demonstrate how he can fire it from 0 to 100 mph in 5 seconds, but he doesn't consider that he has kids sitting in the back seat.
H.H. was alerted to this today when we got this message from a reader:
I follow Lauren Lovette on Instagram and her latest post of her in a thong leotard while showing side boob left me speechless. I went on the photographer's account and it seems dancers at NYCB and ABT have jumped on the Misty bandwagon of posing in underwear or very little clothing.
I'm no prude and I can acknowledge that the photographer is talented, the dancers have amazing bodies from the years of training and that they are all adults. However, these photos are what I would consider to be the type that a dancer might want for their own home or private viewing or for the photographer to show in a gallery as a series on dancers, etc.
The fact that it's all over Instagram and is accessible to a young impressionable audience (especially young girls), disturbs me. I hope up and coming dancers don't think this is the wave of the future and it's how they need to promote themselves.
Others have expressed similar disappointment today.
We wonder how many SAB girls are standing in front of their dorm room mirrors, hiking up their leotards into the cracks of their asses, stripping away their clothing in order to practice their Lauren poses and their Misty poses and then snapping pictures to send to friends or load into Snapchat or Instagram.
The fact that it is entirely possible to send these images privately to groups of friends, but the dancers have chosen to broadcast them to all age groups demonstrates even more irresponsibility. Not only that, but they "properly" credit the photographer with a link to his professional IG page which reveals that he mixes in photos of children posing like the dancers, leotard- or bikini-clad, and identifies them by name. Hello, Social Services?
All of the poses in these pictures have been previously caught on camera hundreds of times over the years. There is nothing either imaginative, original, or creative about the composition of the images. Their novelty rests 100% on exposing the tits and asses of the women or making it clear that the ballerinas were willing to take their clothes off for the photographer.
Is it really much different than this?
We hope that the ladies were compensated handsomely for their time and their parts. Or maybe they're just waiting for Gia Kourlas to give them a call to include them in another one of her inane wastes of space on the culture page about how real super-cool ballet dancers are off-stage.
Honestly, we never thought we'd see the day when Donald Trump appeared in H.H.
This whole idea of a Sarah Lane/Daniil Simkin Giselle has staggering potential – IF Simkin will portray Albrecht as an immature, self-absorbed cad who recklessly toys with Giselle's heart. It's been quite a while since we've seen a dancer take Albrecht to a point where he risks the audience not liking the character. Baryshnikov was willing to go there. Sometimes Stiefel would get very close. But for the most part, men who dance Albrecht are unwilling to risk the love of the audience in order to propel the drama of Giselle's heartbreak and death to its highest possible point and to make the reconciliation and sad resolution more meaningful. Come on, Simkin, take the risk...
Don't plan on missing the final NYCB performance of the season when Ashley Bouder closes it out as Liberty Bell in Stars and Stripes on October 9th 16th (thanks, Dave). Her engines will be revving. The review of last night's performance, which was very good, will be somewhat delayed while Haglund addresses academic obligations and tries to keep up with his over-subscribed life that includes tonight's NY Phil performance of Beethoven's 5th. Are there any other old folks out there who can still remember when there was a definite dearth of dance in NYC during the fall? Who can keep up with it now? By the way, we're still waiting for an NYCB offer to pop up as an AARP Deal of the Day. We're very serious about the need for this outreach.
Much of yesterday's World Ballet Day Live transmission is up on YouTube. Just put World Ballet Live 2016 in the YT search bar and up pop lots of goodies including a session with Suzanne Farrell working on Gounod Symphony with her company.
Although each section of Balanchine’s Jewels includes a good-sized corps de ballet who articulate his beautiful patterns of movement, it is the Pas de Deux that are perhaps most memorable. Over the course of three performances of Jewels this week (a fourth comes this afternoon) Haglund gained a sense that Emeralds is the gem that has consistently kept its closest ties with the earliest interpreters who danced it for the choreographer. It seems the least affected by the years gone by. Rubies has acquired, in some instances, similarities to the Siren in Prodigal Son or Slaughter on Tenth Avenue. Diamonds, in some cases, has fallen far from the mark of the original and flirts with caricature.
Tiler Peck with Amar Ramasar and Abi Stafford with Jared Angle shared the first couple role in Emeralds during the week. Rebecca Krohn with Ask la Cour and Ashley Laracey with Adrian Danchig-Waring shared the second couple role that includes the “walking” PdD. The poetry, atmosphere, and honest emotion created by their performances steered the audience head-on into the willing surrender to the beauty and mournfulness of Faure’s haunting melodies. So strong was the feeling of connecting to the past, so clear was the spirit of this ballet that we simply cannot be thankful enough for whatever is happening at NYCB these days to promote such artistry. With all of the ballerinas, but particularly with Abi, the viewer became entranced by the subtleties of grace and the absolute care given to articulation. At times, the ballerinas' optimism ran counter to Faure’s fatalism - who should we believe, we asked ourselves and then quickly answered, go with the ballerinas. While both Amar and Jared were admirably attentive to their partners, we must remark that we have never seen Jared give so much so honestly to his ballerina and to the music. Artistry and honesty suddenly erupted to the surface for us to see, perhaps enabled by not having to worry about whether the L5-S1 was going to survive the next lift of the ballerina. We would like to see him get a break from heavy lifting duties for the remaining time of his career so that he can give us more of what we saw this week.
Rubies received a consummate performance from Joaquin De Luz and Megan Fairchild who recalled the playfulness and wholesomeness of Villella and McBride while energizing the choreography with modern-day pistons. While we are extremely grateful that Ashley Bouder has returned to the stage and is dancing so vibrantly, we have to question some of her artistic choices in Rubies that relied on lethal aggressiveness that one expects from the Siren in Prodigal Son or in Slaughter. We don’t think the roles are interchangeable. While the throw-away style of choreography suited Ashley's partner, Andrew Veyette, his difficulty conveying anything other than a sense of taxing mechanics and drudgery spoiled the fun of Rubies. We want to see what Taylor Stanley and Harrison Coll could bring to this role.
Teresa Reichlen, on the other hand, may have no past or present equals in the role of the Tall Girl. She brilliantly walked a fine line between an approachable woman and a dangerous one. She seduced while also conveying Don’t bother waiting at the stage door for this showgirl because you don’t have a chance – unless you’ve got money. Her dynamics – the enticing footwork on the floor suddenly punctuated with the wallop of a battement to the ceiling – were as strong as those in Stravinsky’s music. She allowed her four knee-high-to-a-grasshopper suitors to have fun manipulating her long legs, but clearly, they weren’t going to get any more than that. Savannah Lowery in the same role in the other cast was "selling it” with everything she had, but conveyed that she was willingly within every man’s reach.
Teresa in the Diamonds PdD the next evening opposite Russell Janzen was simply stunning in her beauty and technical eloquence, and let us say up front that there are few ballerinas who enhance the silhouette of the Diamonds tutu more beautifully than Tess. Her cool-warm/warm-cool temperature was perfect for the role. Her elegance was understated and so very natural. In Janzen, she had the partner of her dreams. Wow, has he ever stepped up to fulfill our expectations and beyond. So noble in his bearing, so surgically accurate in his partnering, so trustworthy in his individual artistry that there is a sense that he along with Jon Stafford are the first danseurs in successive generations to inherit the role and dance it as it was originally intended. The boss is doing a good job here.
While we admire Sara Mearns' technical gifts, her impassioned mining of drama from choreography, and her sheer power, we think that she has taken Diamonds to a place where Balanchine never intended. We’re not sure where the idea came from that Diamonds was laid atop the story of Odette and Siegfried, but we’re pretty sure it’s misguided. Unfortunately, some interpret it that way instead of sticking to the noble man and somewhat reluctant woman in the grandeur of Imperial Russia discussing their possibilities. And it certainly is not about the child birthing experience. There were times this week when it seemed that Sara screamed I can’t help it; I have to push. It may have been dramatically powerful and emotionally releasing but it was not Diamonds – nor were the hyperextended elbows, stiff arms, and splayed hand positions that looked stroke-induced. This is not Diamonds. Diamonds is this. This is what Balanchine intended Diamonds to be. This is what today’s NYCB interpreters should honor.
It is somewhat disconcerting to know that a close traditional reading of Diamonds could result in the New York Times critic either ignoring it altogether or complaining about the women being "too tame, too weak, too passive" (read too beautiful, too confidently elegant, too assured in the value of their own femininity). Anyone who breathes musically like Suzanne Farrell did, is a traditional beauty like Farrell was, or has longer/more narrow limbs than the critic’s favorite ballerina risks facing a barrage of Trump-like insults if she is paired in another cast in the same role as Sara Mearns. It certainly isn’t Sara’s fault. We love her in much of the NYCB repertory and she likely knows not to take the NYT critic’s declaration of her as a Romantic ballerina seriously. There is nothing from the Romantic era in her dancing; it is all 21st Century high-pitched emotionalism that sells really well across the entertainment world.
Here is what Diamonds should be. Let’s honor it:
The H.H. Pump Bump Award, Gucci's stylish emerald green stiletto, goes to Teresa Reichlen and Jared Angle – for her Diamonds and Rubies and for his unexpected heartfelt dancing opposite Abi Stafford in Emeralds. We can't wait to see what is in store for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Jewels next year.
Wow! It seems that Aaron Sanz got the call early for his debut in Symphony in Three Movements at NYCB. Last night he subbed for Taylor Stanley. Haglund had to miss it, but he has already heard this morning that Aaron was fantastic and that he and Sterling Hyltin looked fab together. We can't wait to see them next week.
Here is another example of New York Snapback Ability. From Ballet Hispanico's Artistic Director and CEO Eduardo Vilaro in the September newsletter:
From Eduardo: ¡Saludos!
Many of you are now aware of the flooding that hit our home at Ballet Hispánico about one month ago now. This incident has revealed so much to me about our community and I am so grateful. Grateful, because it allowed me to witness the amazing staff team we have who rallied like the superstars they are. The immense outpouring of support we've received, both monetary and emotional, from our peers, neighbors, and complete strangers has been overwhelming. I send you all my heartfelt thanks for your compassion and understanding as we recover as a community.
We're certainly getting back to our feet (as only dancers can do!) with our annual return to the Apollo Theater in November. Our School of Dance is bustling with more activity than ever now that we've opened adult classes, and we can't wait to watch our dance familia grow--won't you join us?
. . . snapback like a rubber band -- proud of New York!
The first Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema presentation is coming up on October 16th. Grigorovich's The Golden Age to Shostakovich's score will be relayed live on a delayed basis around the U.S. and the world. In Manhattan you can see it at the usual cinema haunts at Empire on 42nd, Kips Bay, Union Square, and then on October 18th at the Beekman Theater on the East Side. To look for specific cinemas in your area, go to the Bolshoi Ballet in Cinema website and plug in your zip code.
Haglund is very curious about this ballet because Irek Mukhamedov created the main character in Grigorovich's production back in the '80s which means it will probably be dramatically multi-layered. Mukhamedov is now associated with Tamara Rojo's English National Ballet, one of the guest companies on World Ballet Day Live. We wonder if we'll see him working in the background during the transmission. Here's an artist who can definitely rekindle fantasies better than most anyone else.
What an interesting weekend that is going to be for balletomanes: Baryshnikov channeling Nijinsky and his deteriorating mind at BAM on Saturday followed the next day by Grigorovich's commentary on Russian mafia and gangs from the same time period. Insanity and crimes-- the stuff of good ballet theater.
Per the Wall Street Journal, Lincoln Center will run a livestream all-day event on its Facebook page and its constituents' FB pages next Friday, October 7th. The broadcast called From Sunup to Curtain Down will include:
A day in the life of NYCB Principal Megan Fairchild
A visit to SAB
A behind the scenes look at Lincoln Center Theater's production of Falsettos
A visit with actors and directors involved with the New York Film Festival
A pre-performance meeting with Lang Lang who will be banging out Beethoven's PC No. 4 with the NYPhil that night.
Surely if it's going to run all day, there will be a lot more than this. But why can't we find the info on Lincoln Center's FB page or website? Maybe it will show up today.
Don't forget the 20-hour livestream of World Ballet Day Day that begins on Tuesday, October 4th. It actually begins late on Monday, October 3th for those of us in the U.S. The Australian Ballet opens the celebration which progresses through Bolshoi Ballet, Royal Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, and concludes with the San Francisco Ballet.
Details and times are on the World Ballet Day Live website from which you can also watch the livestream. It will broadcast on FB as well.
The regional guest companies invited to participate by the Big Five are Hong Kong Ballet, Queensland Ballet, West Australian Ballet, English National Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Scottish Ballet, Northern Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Houston Ballet, Boston Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo and Nederlands Dans Theater.
Don't forget. Here's the link: WORLD BALLET DAY LIVE
Here’s a sneak peak at a new resource for dancers, students, parents, teachers, balletomanes, and anyone who harbors dreams, expectations, unrequited love, or simply passion for ballet.
Ballet Mentor, which will officially launch on October 1st, is the brainchild of Eric Tamm, Luis Ribagorda, Sarah Lane, and Craig Salstein – all esteemed current or former artists of American Ballet Theatre. Ten professionals with current or past connections to ABT, each of whom enjoys high respect within the ballet field and has a reputation for integrity and common sense, have joined the endeavor to provide private mentoring to individuals through a subscription-based service. Cory Stearns, Calvin Royal III, Craig Salstein, Sarah Lane, Katherine Williams, Nicole Graniero, Gillian Murphy, Thomas Forster, Jared Matthews, and Yuriko Kajiya are the inaugural mentors for this new and very unique program.
Here is what Eric Tamm conveyed to Haglund today:
This website gives students, teachers, parents, and balletomanes direct contact with professional dancers, who can answer questions, offer advice and guidance, and customize a unique one on one experience for whatever subjects/topics want to be addressed. Specifically, we felt that there was a huge gap between students and those of us, who have the experience in navigating a career in ballet, so hopefully Ballet Mentor can better prepare people for company life and make educated decisions to achieve their goals. The beautiful thing is this platform can be used in numerous ways depending on the Subscriber and their needs (i.e. ballet theory, schools & summer programs, the audition process, etc.). The knowledge that we have gained as performing artists over the years shouldn't be lost but passed down…and we’re excited to share it.
. . . .
There are 10 mentors (5 Women / 5 Men) to choose from currently, but that is scheduled to grow with time. Subscribers are asked to sign up for lengths of time (1 month, 3 months, or 12 months), after which they are then paired with a mentor and communication begins. All messages are private and sent/received through the Ballet Mentor website. All mentors are performing artists with hectic travel and rehearsal schedules, so responses are guaranteed within 7 calendar days. The whole experience should be very personalized and unique to the Subscriber…making it exciting to all involved!
From the About Us page:
In an art form with no words, Ballet Mentor gives ballet a voice by connecting the professional dance world with those who desire to love and learn more about it. Ballet Mentor breaks the boundaries of the stage and opens up information & life experiences attained by the world’s top professional artists. Founded by four professional ballet dancers from American Ballet Theatre, Sarah Lane, Eric Tamm, Craig Salstein, & Luis Ribagorda, our goal is to encourage connectivity in the ballet world and develop a supportive environment in which relationships surrounding a love for ballet will grow. We understand what the road to becoming a professional ballet dancer takes and Ballet Mentor was designed to give that extra boost to the next generation.
A lot of parents of students and professionals read Haglund’s Heel, and now and then, they write to Old Hag off-blog with questions, pent-up frustrations, thanks, observations - you name it. Even the parents of some of these mentors have written to Haglund over the years, but shshsh, don’t squeal. So obviously there is a need for more connectivity between ballet participants (and those who support them) with professionals who have already forged a path to a successful career and have encountered the common troubling or perplexing issues. Look at it this way, if you are giving your child sound advice but he’s not buying it, and all of a sudden he gets a message from Jared Matthews or Cory Stearns that says basically the same thing — as a parent, you win. Game over, you win. The same goes for the teacher who might be trying to stop foot-winging or ear-whacking extensions. Hear it from Gillian Murphy and all of sudden it matters a lot more to the student.
We can see that this website and subscription model are going to be especially valuable tools for ballet teachers in all parts of this country, urban and remote, and around the world. Who knows – maybe a teacher will be able to persuade the mentor to come to town for some guest teaching or perhaps just a Skype Q&A session in the studio. Anyone entrusted with a ballet classroom has an economical opportunity to get top-notch mentoring that will improve educational outcomes.
We can’t wait to see this get off the ground. Take a look for yourself: Ballet Mentor
It's no secret that more than a few of the balletomanes who love these Stravinsky/Balanchine Black & White programs bear the burden of geometriphagia* – the uncontrollable feeding on geometric shapes. By now, readers know that Haglund has had the affliction for a long time.
Whenever these programs appear on the stage, the audience's chatter about pirouettes and big jumps is pushed down the disposal in favor of symmetry, asymmetry, congruence, adjacency, angles, diameters, lines, and beloved circles which are conversationally whipped to a froth like some delectable chocolate mousse topped with miniature Oreos. [Short pause to munch on a rhombus.]
Wednesday night’s and Saturday matinee’s program had the sweet double-stuff filling that one’s front teeth ache for.
Stravinsky Violin Concerto was led by Sterling Hyltin, Rebecca Krohn, Robert Fairchild and Amar Ramasar whose lean lines, flexibility, sharp pointes, and daring speed etched out the master’s musicality like an architect’s dancing compass:
What a thrill it was to see Robert Fairchild, back in his top dancing form, push his center into the floor with a little jazz accent and then rip it high. This ballet and Symphony in Three Movements are among Sterling’s best roles. The lightness, ease, and clarity with which she achieves the geometry in the choreography is thrilling. Rebecca’s limbs create the most gorgeous, tapered, uninterrupted curves that suggest the concept of infinity. Amar, too, sources the jazz elements from the steps and delivers bold dynamics from fierceness to fun throughout. The corps was excellent in both performances.
Monumentum pro Gesualdo, Movements for Piano and Orchestra, and Duo Concertant comprised the center of the program. Teresa Reichlen and Ask la Cour skillfully and thoughtfully led the first two brief ballets with the second revealing a more potent picture with dance. It didn’t hurt that the corps de ballet included Claire Kretzschmar and Ashley Hod whose mile-long limbs and tight torsos can clarify shapes like few others. Haglund hopes that he lives long enough to see that little Kretzschmar pick and sass her way down the middle of the stage the way Sterling does in the first movement of Symphony in Three Movements. [Short pause to slip a sublingual lemniscate under the tongue.]
Megan Fairchild and Anthony Huxley captivated in Duo Concertant and made their story believable. The ballet is a gift to those who find their freedom in blistering allegro that accelerates like a wind gust – as these two brilliant dancers certainly do. Arturo Delmoni and Nancy McDill as the onstage violinist and pianist seemed to revel in Stravinsky’s challenging score.
Symphony in Three Movements received a forceful reading by Tiler Peck & Taylor Stanley, Ana Sophia Scheller & Daniel Ulbricht, and Savannah Lowery & Andrew Scordato. Tiler’s fierceness of energy is a nice contrast to the ebullience that we normally associate with her. It’s not one of my favorite ballets for her, though, only because she does not achieve with her limbs the absoluteness in the geometric shapes that Sterling, Janie, and Wendy have in the past. The PdD with Taylor was much better at the matinee than on Wednesday. When Stanley stood behind Tiler while interlocking and entwining arms with her, there was a theatrical weight to it that invited extra attention.
Daniel Ulbricht and Ana Sophia Scheller romped through the first section with enormous vivacity and play. Savannah Lowery and Andrew Scordato were carefree and lively in their section, as well. The corps de ballet ladies in white leotards and swinging ponytails stole the show like they often do. As the curtain rose on the diagonal line of stationary beauties, you could sense their springs were tightly coiled. Then those long limbs launched into an array of lines and angles where the precision was breathtaking.
In these Balanchine Black & White programs, the corps de ballet plays an especially important role in defining the overall concept of what is on stage. They don’t often get the recognition that they deserve. One such dancer has been toiling in the back of the corps of Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Monumentum, and Symphony in Three Movements for a few years while gaining authority, expansiveness, and sharpness with every season. On Saturday evening, October 8th, Aaron Sanz will take the big step to the front of the stage to dance a lead in Symphony in Three Movements with Sterling Hyltin. He is geometry personified – from his square Clark Kent jawline to his eagle-like wingspan to the triangle formed by his broad shoulders and slim waist. You think you’re watching Superman on the ballet stage. He’s mild mannered but intense and probably able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. We’re very happy that this young man gets the chance to step forward and can’t wait to see what his future holds.
The H.H. Pump Bump Award, a black & white peep toe number from Valentino that will set you back $1395, is bestowed upon Sterling Hyltin who rips through Stravinksy/Balanchine roles like she owns them.
* Yes, we made this up.
Today when Haglund got home from work the little Scrub Daddy peeps in the kitchen were smiling more broadly than usual and chatting up a storm during their afternoon tea party.
Haglund said, "Wassup, Daddios? What did I miss?"
They chimed, "We can't tell you."
Haglund said, "Come on, guys, we're Scrub Buddios."
Mr. Blue said, "All I can say is Sterling, and too bad you can't go to the opening night of Cinderella in Philly."
Haglund said, "Tell me everything you know or I'll ––"
Mr. Blue said, "–– or you'll what? Squeeze the smile right off my face? Go ahead and try."
Haglund said, "Okay, guys, let's have it all."
They all started talking at once, and Haglund couldn't understand any of it. Mr. Green was chanting, "Sar–ah! Sar–ah! Rise from the grave hallelujah!" The Yellow Twins were nearly overcome with emotion while blabbering "De–von! De–von!" with the evil twin hissing and spitting while angrily flapping his imaginary wings.
Haglund finally had to take control of the situation because it was upsetting the cats who are at odds with the Scrub Daddy community anyway. Time for some Scrub Daddy Therapy until they can calm down from what was apparently a very exciting news day:
... 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.