Performing Arts: Dance
November 6, 2016
The sound of live music accompanying an entire dance program at City Center – what a difference it makes! Kudos to former New York City Ballet principal Damien Woetzel, who has been curating the Vail Dance Festival, for bringing the program to the east coast: a mix of ballet and modern dance classics with a collaboration by Woetzel and Memphis jookin’ dancers Ron “Prime Tyme” Myles and Lil’ Buck, the wunderkind he saw on video and invited to be a part of Vail years ago.

Part of Woetzel’s plan is to expose dancers to choreographers they would not otherwise experience. Balanchine’s masterpiece Apollo was danced by a mixed cast of principals from New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, and it’s fascinating to see the differences. Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild as Apollo and Terpsichore, are veterans of this ballet and clearly in their element. She is an exquisitely musical dancer, noted for her phrasing and technical ease.

Fairchild’s Apollo seemed to benefit from dancing this particular version of the work, which included the birthing scene cut in later versions: he was less studied, and the arc of his evolution more lucid. Isabella Boylston and Devon Teuscher from ABT were surprisingly tentative at first (I wondered, was there enough rehearsal time?) but by the end they were relishing the jazzy, hip swinging sequences that preceded that memorable, somber ascent to Mount Olympus.

Conversely, Tiler Peck dancing in Tudor’s Leaves are Fading, originally done for ABT, challenged her to dance very differently than is usually required of her. Expertly partnered by ABT’s Cory Stearns, she had to soften her attack and channel her fluidity in a more liquid, weightless manner. The coaching by Amanda McKerrow (who dance it unforgettably, much like Gelsey Kirkland, the original dancer) brought out a new dimension in Ms. Peck – the romantic ballerina – which we hope she will explore further.

Sadly, due to injury, we missed seeing Herman Cornejo and Alessandra Ferri dance Frederick Ashton’s Rhapsody. Carla Korbes (recently retired from Pacific Northwest Ballet) took on Martha Graham’s Lamentation, which was a strangely muted rendition of this canonical sedentary solo, from a ballerina whose Terpsichore in Apollo a few years ago was absolutely spectacular.

Sarah Mearns danced a solo originally choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky for Wendy Whelan (such different dancers!), to music with a Spanish flair by Luigi Boccherini. Pretty light fare, she was playful with the musicians onstage, and seemed to run out of room when unleashed. Mearns is a dancer whose depth and drama seemed at odds with Ratmansky’s earnest humor.

A joyful multicultural mishmash closed the evening, with a fabulous “jookin’ jam session.” Dancing to everything from gansta rap to bagpipes to violins, Buck and Myles, impressed with their talent, wit, and the sheer intelligence of their movement. Buck reprised his now well-known rendition of The Dying Swan, and it’s interesting to see how audience giggles fade away as he gets more immersed in the music. Most of all, the rapport between the dancers and musicians (Sandeep Das, Grace Park, Eric Jacobsen, Cristina Pato, Date Davis, and Wu Tong) was a joy to listen to, and watch – here’s to seeing more of this kind of eclectic, wide-ranging fun collaboration.
-EYE ON THE ARTS, NY – Nicole Duffy Robertson

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