I'm not usually a fan of City Ballet (I'm not really into the Balanchine style...unpopular opinion alert!), but this mixed bill of new works piqued my interest. As always with such programs, there were some pleasures and some duds.
The evening started with Myles Thatcher's "Polaris" and Robert Binet's “The Blue of Distance.” They were attractive enough, but ultimately forgettable. I can only remember that "Polaris" had Tiler Peck as a solitary star figure alienated from a group of dancers (to be fair, she was very good), and "The Blue of Distance" was the one where everything was really blue. The costumes were nice here, but perhaps too nice, as they just amplified the generic prettiness of the works.
Things picked up with Troy Schumacher's “Common Ground,” perhaps my favorite piece of the evening. The choreography here seemed to have more of it's own voice. The commissioned score was very good, and the piece had lovely musicality. I enjoyed the joyful slightly more casual nature of the dancing, and all of the different dancer interactions seemed to have a point. The costumes felt kind of like random remnants of fabric sewed together, but in a way they worked with the tone of the piece.
Justin Peck's “New Blood” displayed a lot of the strengths of the company. It was energetic and fast. However, I felt that this energy stayed on the same level throughout the whole piece, which quickly became tiring. It seemed one dimensional, and all of the brilliant moments became muddied because of the lack of contrast. One dancer (who my friend tentatively identified as Lauren King) stood out to me, because her slightly more languorous movement quality, especially in the upper body, provided a point of differentiation. The costumes, variously colored ombre catsuits, were just unfortunate.
The program was concluded with Kim Brandstrup's "Jeux," which is set on Debussy's score of the same name. If there is anyone out there who follows my blog closely (unlikely), you may remember that I saw Ballet West do a version of this earlier this year, which I hated. Last night's work was much more successful. The setting was film noir-ish. The lighting design was quite interesting here; a single bare bulb initially lit the stage, and later on enlarged shadows of the dancers accompanied a pas de deux. The "games" referred to in this piece were subtly portrayed, with none of the cloying cliched sexual tension of the aforementioned Ballet West work. Sara Mearns was perfectly cast in this piece. She is perhaps my favorite NYCB dancer, as she moves and looks completely differently from everyone else in the company. Here, her luxurious and dramatic qualities were put to good use, and I loved the way her movements filled the gorgeous music. I feel like this was an unusual work for the company, as it seemed to be more of a "tanztheater" work than their other repertoire.
The New York Times wrote a very interesting article on the making of this piece and the choreographer, who does not come from a typical ballet background at all.