Performing Arts: Dance
April 7, 2017
New York City Ballet principal dancer Ashley Bouder has taken matters into her own hands. Her program titled, “At the Dance, Women Take the Lead,” comprised of three ballets created by women, included her own venture into choreography. In a recent interview, Bouder added her voice to the growing chorus of dismay over the dance world’s lack of women in positions of power, creative or otherwise. Kudos to her for doing something about it.

And what collaboration! Working with the New York Jazzharmonic, directed by Ron Wasserman (who has played in the NYCB orchestra since 1988), the musicians lined the back of the stage, a force in their own right throughout the evening. Bouder’s choreography for In Pusuit Of, to music commissioned from Jazzharmonic associate director Miho Hazama, was an energizing balletic interpretation of the music inspired by Masai jumping, Polish Mazurek dancing, and Sufi whirling dervishes – although on this last one, Bouder chose to focus on what happens after spinning, in a duet with some turning (chainees with assymetrical arms) but many more off-balance moments and tricky partnering, danced with assured authority by Ashley Hod and Devin Alberda.

In the other movements, the dancers, especially Indiana Woodward, went from lyrical lilt in one moment to jazzy the next, reflecting the playfulness of the choreography and score. Bouder’s fast-paced Balanchinean lineage was clear, with plenty of fleet footwork and symmetrical balletic structure, but she is also clearly developing her own inventive twists on classical ballet. More please.

Liz Gerring’s Duet was another world premiere, for Bouder and Sara Mearns, another NYCB principal who is Bouder’s opposite in ballet type (tall, longer, often cast in slow adagio roles), although this mattered little in the dance itself. Both women danced at the same time, in their own trajectory, sometimes in unison, in a choreography that was a meditation in the modern dance lineage through Merce Cunningham, to music by Anna Webber (that at one point seemed to briefly refer to Stravinsky’s Rite). With plenty of extensions and tilts requiring balance and a grounded weight, she focused on the vast control that these dancers possess.

Gerring’s work can be more athletic, with lots of jumps, running, floor work and freer use of the torso, but this piece was another excellent example of watching dancers and choreographers work in different methods experiment, and challenge themselves in other ways.

Susan Stroman’s Blossom Got Kissed, to the swing sounds of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn and revived for this program, had the ingredients of a fun finale: an awkward ballerina who “gets rhythm” after being kissed by a musician. This slight condescension in the plot can be forgiven because of the humor and zest of the choreography, and the fact that there is a whole lineup of ballerinas with rhythm dancing around her. The plucky Ballerina (Bouder) and the Musician, danced with lots of charm by Andrew Veyette, along with the entire cast, gave the audience a light-hearted, if not life-altering send-off back into the cold, winter night, warmed by the fun onstage.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Nicole Duffy Robertson

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