ASH: *Isaacs, *Stanley
SONATAS AND INTERLUDES: T. Peck, *Huxley [Solo Piano: Grant]
TARANTELLA: M. Fairchild, De Luz [Solo Piano: McDill]
‘RŌDĒ,Ō: FOUR DANCE EPISODES: T. Peck, Ramasar, Ulbricht, Garcia, Veyette
SLAUGHTER ON TENTH AVENUE: Mearns, T. Angle, *Chamblee, Dieck, Scordato, *Coll, Prottas, *Sanz
This program, subtitled 'Americana x Five', was immensely satisfying. Everything was not first rate choreography -- but each work was danced with style and conviction by its talented cast.
'Ash' was choreographed by Peter Martins in 1991 to Michael Torque's commissioned score of the same name. The original cast featured Wendy Whelan and Nilas Martins as the lead couple -- with four supporting couples that included such starry names as Yvonne Borree, Monique Meunier, Kathleen Tracey, Albert Evans and Ethan Stiefel.
With its neo-Baroque score, high energy and sections of 'call-and-response' choreography, 'Ash' is reminiscent of Balanchine's infinitely superior 'Square Dance'. Martins' largely symmetrical step-for-note choreography seems frantic and airless, providing his dancers with a test of stamina, but little opportunity for genuine artistry.
|Taylor Stanley and Ashly Isaacs in Peter Martins' 'Ash'. Photo by Hiroyuki Ito for The NY Times|
Still, the cast was superb. Ashly Isaacs and Taylor Stanley in role debuts made strong impressions as the lead couple -- Ashly all speed and sharp angles and Taylor expansive with tensile strength in the convoluted partnering. Devin Alberda stood out in one brief, dynamic solo.
Richard Tanner's 'Sonatas and Interludes' is danced to a series of pieces for prepared piano by John Cage which were played on stage by Cameron Grant. Sometimes the music sounds like the humming of insects and at others like a child let loose in a hardware store, but Tanner hears it well and responds with interesting choreography. It was created in 1982 for the Eglevsky Ballet with Heather Watts and David Moore and then was brought into NYC Ballet's repertory in 1988 for the company's American Music Festival when it was danced by Watts and Jock Soto.
Tiler Peck and Anthony Huxley (in a debut) were beautifully connected in duets requiring split-second timing. They seem less austere and more human than what I recall of their estimable predecessors. I need to retract my previous reservations about Anthony's partnering skills which were strong and confident here. Still, it's remarkable how his dancing expands when he holds the stage alone. Tiler tackles the challenges of this role with her own combination of grit and sensuality.
Balanchine's 'Tarantella' to the music of Louis Moreau Gottschalk orchestrated by Hershey Kay is a crowd pleasing gem from 1964 choreographed for Patricia McBride and Edward Villella. We've probably seen it 25-30 times over the years.
|Megan Fairchild airborne in Balanchine's 'Tarantella'. Photo by Paul Kolnik for NYC Ballet|
It was danced on this program by Megan Fairchild and Joaquin de Luz. Megan, newly returned to the company after her stint on Broadway in 'On the Town', seems to have brought back a welcome verve and confidence which matches nicely with Joaquin's natural showmanship.
We were seeing Justin Peck's 'Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes' which opened during the Company's last Winter Season for the second time. My post about the 2/8/2015 performance is here:
and there are brief comments about a NYCB seminar with Justin on 2/9/2015 in a 'quibbles and bits' post here:
Justin uses Aaron Copeland's "Four Dance Episodes from 'Rodeo'" which Copeland created from his original ballet score for Agnes de Mille's 1942 ballet 'Rodeo'.
The lead cast on Friday evening featured Tiler Peck in the role created by Sara Mearns, Anthony Huxley in the role created for Gonzalo Garcia, and Andrew Veyette in the role Justin created for him that Andy was able to dance last February.
This work for 15 men and a single woman holds up very well under repeat scrutiny. Of course, the second episode for five men -- Daniel Applebaum, Craig Hall, Allen Peiffer, Andrew Scordato and Taylor Stanley -- continues to be the extraordinary core of the work. While Taylor Stanley seems to have the 'featured' role in this quintet, my eye continues to stray to Craig Hall as the calm anchor of the group. Craig does less showy stuff than the other four -- but has far greater impact for me. In their slate blue and beige 'rugby' outfits these men create shifting formations that remind me of rock outcroppings in the badlands.
|Craig Hall, Daniel Applebaum, Allen Peiffer and Andrew Scordato support Russell Janzen in Justin Peck's 'Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes'.|
Photo by Paul Kolnik for NYC Ballet
Here's a clip from NYC Ballet of Justin Peck and Taylor Stanley discussing the work:
Tiler Peck is boldly all-American in the third episode's pas de deux with Amar Ramasar. In addition to partnering Tiler, Amar adds some goofball moments elsewhere in the ballet which play well now -- but will they continue to get laughs as the ballet ages?
|Tiler Peck and Amar Ramasar in the Third Episode of Justin Peck's 'Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes'.Photo by Hiroyuki Ito for The NY Times|
George Balanchine's 'Slaughter on Tenth Avenue' was created in 1936 for the Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart musical 'On Your Toes' starring Ray Bolger and Tamara Geva. Balanchine originally created 'Slaughter' for a movie starring Fred Astaire, but Astaire turned down the role. Balanchine mounted it for New York City Ballet in 1968 with Suzanne Farrell as the Striptease Girl and Arthur Mitchell as the Hoofer. We were there for its opening night that year.
|George Balanchine with Suzanne Farrell and Arthur Mitchell working on 'Slaughter on Tenth Avenue' in 1968.|
Photo by Martha Swope from the collection of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
It has returned to the repertory frequently since 1968 and with its familiar music and slapstick sensibility it's always a crowd-pleaser. On Friday evening Sara Mearns was a classy, sexy stripper and Tyler Angle was a suave, dapper hoofer. Tyler had a 'wardrobe malfunction' -- a rip in the seat of his pants that started near the beginning of the big tap finale and seemed to get bigger with each pirouette -- but he tapped right through to the end with no obvious embarrassment and the cool of a real trooper.
|Sara Mearns as the Striptease Girl in Balanchine's 'Slaughter on Tenth Avenue'. |
Photo by Paul Kolnik for NYC Ballet
'Slaughter on Tenth Avenue' was the perfect climax to a satisfying evening of American ballet inspired by American music.