Performing Arts: Dance
May 5, 2019
Damsels in flowing gowns and gentleman in creased tuxes lined the red carpet leading to the 2019 New York City Ballet Gala. With glasses of champagne in hand, the guests merged into the cocktail reception on a lovely spring evening.

Stepping in front of the curtain, Jonathan Stafford and Wendy Whelan, the ballet’s newly appointed Artistic Director and Associate Artistic Director, welcomed the audience to the evening’s offerings and the future of NYC Ballet.

Founded by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein, NYC Ballet closed the evening with Balanchine’s grand Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3, impressively guided by Megan Fairchild and opened the festivities with two premieres by Justin Peck (Resident Choreographer and Artistic Advisor) and a very active, Pam Tanowitz.

Unlike other Spring Galas that linked couture designers with choreographers, this year both Tanowitz and Peck were paired with costume designers Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung.

In Tanowitz’s Bartok Ballet the excellent Flux Quartet was seated on the side of the stage. Modeled on the post-modern ballet forms reminiscent of Merce Cunningham, Tanowitz’s brainy, clean choreography included witty gestures and unexpected body combinations.

Actively utilizing the full stage, dancers dipped into the floor and then headed skyward. They stretched across the foreground like human ribbons only to cross-fade into the background against groups of task-oriented dancers occupying various corners of the stage. Dressed in sheer charcoal tops and short-shorts, the first group of dancers merged into a second layer decked in shiny gold leotards.

In counter-point to the severe ballet positions and parallel stances came jaunty unison moves that broke into hop-skips and deep knee drops. Dancers’ backs faced the audience and odd counterparts, like a person rocking on the floor, framed iconic ballet poses.

A new aesthetic for the NYC Ballet, the dancers were a bit hesitant, showing the joints of connective choreographic tissue. Not unlike other choreographers, Tanowitz re-constitutes sequences from previous ballets. This is understandable, but in this case it suggested a rushed creativity.

In contrast to Tanowitz’s studied ballet, Justin Peck unleashed a dreamily lyrical piece that floated through soft lighting and chiffon-like skirts. Bright eased open on the musically gracious Sara Mearns, instantly perfuming the air with a nostalgia that embraced the rest of the impressive cast: Emilie Gerrity, Sara Adams, Gilbert Bolden III, Russell Janzen, and Andrew Scordato. Smooth glides traced the floor while arms and legs unfolded against expansive backs and lifted torsos. Couples played against one another and traded positions in the lingering dusk that left the audience way too early.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

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