Justin Peck’s latest work for the New York City Ballet, The Times are Racing premiered last spring but I just caught up with it as their short repertory season opened after weeks of Swan Lake. All I could think was, as much as I love Swan Lake (and I do still love it even after umpteen viewings since I was a girl and George Balanchine did his one act Swan Lake-lite version at City Center), the company was ready to let loose on some more contemporary work.
And revel they did in the hip-hoppy, tap-dancey, lightening speed steps that Peck has created for them to the the last four cuts on Dan Deacon’s America album. The Opening Ceremony costumes don’t add much (ok, for me Opening Ceremony design is like my closet when I’m ready to shed years worth of swap meet stuff) but this ballet, or dance, really, is so high energy and fast paced that Balanchine, who prodded his dancers to always go faster, would certainly be impressed.
Peck himself dances in this piece with Ashly Isaacs looking unisex in her white ‘wife-beater’(don’t like that term) and jeans and he samples Dorrance style tap (which summons all the other great tap dancers) and jerky moves from music video. But the really show stopping moments are the great pas de deux from Tiler Peck and Amar Ramasar, here, the stupendous couple dancing their hearts out, bicycling their legs and arms, freezing, faking, just giving it up for Peck.
After what I felt was one of Alexei Ratmansky’s lesser efforts (Odessa) with its chorus lines and messy combinations, The Times Are Racing came as a contemporary-if musically jolting-- tonic. The times are racing, the news cycle is racing, the internet is delivering everything too fast: we hardly can catch our breath waiting for the next shoe to drop. Peck captures all that and more.
(Please forgive the blurry images. I requested some from NYCB and did not receive)