The New York City Ballet has returned this spring under new leadership (very excited to have Wendy Whelan co-leading the company) having gone through their annus horribilis of successive #MeToos last year. For me the news that Amar Ramasar will be allowed to return is welcome—he is one of my favorite dancers. But in the meantime, men who were once eclipsed have emerged in fine fettle and a new program of ‘shorts’ ( a repeat of opening night) showed them off.
It was a Balanchine sandwich as it began with Valse Fantaisie from 1967—a pink tutu trifle that was in its time considered ‘modern’ but now feels a bit lightweight and ended with Western Symphony, something I grew up seeing at City Center which felt newly frisky and dare I say it, Camp (the Met fashion show opens this week on this theme). Highly flavored with Agnes de Mille, it was choreographed by Balanchine in 1954.
Alas despite high expectations, I was not taken with the new Pam Tanowitz Bartok Ballet which also had some equestrian flavor at the outset but then went through iterations in which I detected Irish step dancing, robots and Gold Bugs (I loved the golden bathing suit costumes however, which fit right in with the State Theater’s golden hues which are looking better and better each time I visit).
Justin Peck’s new mini-ballet Bright is a pouf of Sara Mearns loveliness but feels like an entre-acte for something down the road.
For me, the highlight of the evening was A Suite of Dances performed by Gonzalo Garcia, accompanied, on stage, by cellist Ann Kim. This Robbins piece, a solo to Bach cello variations, is so fresh and charming that it shone even, or perhaps especially, among the new work. Originally created for Baryshnikov, now performed by Garcia, an example of a longtime NYCB dancer who is just finding the spotlight, it takes on a quiet insouciance: as a musical-dance collaborator, there is nothing like Jerome Robbins. At once carefree and deep, like all of Robbins ballets it marks the looking backward-and-forwardness that characterized all his work. Often feeling jilted, on the rebound, or just plain lonely despite all his professional successes, Robbins lets that poignant quality imbue his more overtly playful hands-on-hips, pointe-to-flat choreography echoing the dichotomies of Goldberg Variations and Dances at A Gathering with which it shares an era. This is the ballet not to miss.
Photos by Erin Baiano and Paul Kolnik courtesy of NYCB.