Performing Arts: Dance
October 2, 2015
In what is already a competitive week of cultural events, NYC Ballet plunged into a successful Fall Gala performance. No curtain speech addressed the fashionable audience; instead, a brief behind-the-scenes video projected a snap shot of the designers commissioned to create outfits for the four world premieres and one revival.

Happily, most of the choreographer-designer marriages produced fine results. Over the past few years, Peter Martins has converted NYC Ballet into a ballet choreography incubator. Many of the new works don’t survive more than one season, but enough go on to supplement dance company repertories around the world.

On this occasion, the four featured choreographers included two well-known names, Tyler Peck and Troy Schumacher as well as Canadian Robert Binet and San Francisco Ballet dancer Myles Thatcher -- all were worthy entrants.

“Polaris” by Thatcher forges a well-focused piece for seven dancers to a score by Mules Thatcher and sparkling, airy costumes by Zuhair Murad. Men in sleeveless blue vest and pants support women in shiny, knee length silver skirts that flow in the clearly dictated steps. Tyler Peck leads the group in rhythmically astute choices and signature exuberance. Oddly, when she first arrives, Peck peers outward—as if gazing at her reflection. Soon, dancers pull into duets or trios and then spread out in the shape of a group photograph until Peck remains alone, curtsying to the audience.

The piano music of Maurice Ravel played by Elaine Chelton forms the focal point for Mr. Binet’s “The Blue of Distance.” Costumed by Hanako Maeda of ADEAM, Binet builds contrapuntal phrases between couples. An imaginative choreographer, Binet melts straight-backed ballet poses into tear drop curves. Visually intriguing, movements transmute and punctuate images in diagonally vertical lifts and crisply metered sequences. Maeda dresses men in bright blue sleeveless unitards, and the women in blue bodice tops over white knee-length skirts that enhance the choreography’s simple ingenuity.

New York City Ballet’s Resident Choreographer, Justin Peck, tackled music by the baseball-hat clad Steve Reich. Unitards by Humberto Leon of Opening Ceremony and Kenzo feature Picasso style cut-outs that expose body sections. Men’s muscular bare legs stretch into lunges, gripping the floor like modern dancers. Reich’s repetitive motifs contrast against the streamlined women elongating their backs and legs. Like water molecules reacting to the minimalist music, dancers magnetize into trios, pivot on point and roll across the floor in this muscular ballet featuring the engrossing Ashley Bouder and her partner Adrian Danchig-Waring. One oddity: In an opening scene, men lean over women stretched out on the floor, imitating hands pumping a heart to restore life. This image is repeated at the end.

Only one ballet suffered from on over-eager designer--Troy Schumacher’s “Common Ground” to music by Ellis Ludwig-Leone and costumes by Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida of Marques’ Almeida. Even in the brief video you could see the witty costume’s flaw. In the end, too much brightly colored, shredded material obliterates the shape of the choreography. Spirited dancers cruise through the quirky choreography that rips bodies from central groups onward to another orbit only to pick up a different dancer and move along. “Common Ground” deserves another viewing with leotard and tights.

To close the gala performance, Peter Martin’s invited Peter Copping of Oscar de la Renta to redesign costumes for the swanky “Thou Swell” to romantic music by Richard Rodgers. A fine match, the elegant and whimsical costumes perfectly suited the 1930’s style club scene populated by café tables, a pianist and two crooners, Norm Lewis and Rebecca Luker. Circular red feather shoulder stoles, long sleek silver capes and men in black shirts tucked into cummerbunds sailed across the floor. Back for one night, Robert Fairchild (star of “An American in Paris”) projects his newly assumed Broadway flair, always keeping his eye on the girl and snapping in and out of positions. However, the whole cast shines as bright as the glittery costumes.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Celia Ipiotis

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