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Robbins Faves & Flops: NYCB's Bernstein Collections

by Taylor Gordon
May 4, 2008
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The dances of Jerome Robbins can broadly be put into two categories: lively and theatrical, or dull and lengthy. Sunday's Bernstein Collaborations Program at New York City Ballet offered a peak into both.

The company is celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the choreographer's death with a festival of many of his works – those that have been active in American repertoire all along, and those that have been revived thanks, in part, to support from The Jerome Robbins Foundation.

One way to celebrate is to spread the joy that Robbins brought to the stage by bringing in guest artists from other prominent companies. Over the spring season dancers from American Ballet Theater and others will join NYCB at New York State Theater in notable roles.

Sunday, ABT principal Marcelo Gomes joined the cast of "Fancy Free" as a suave and flirty sailor on leave with buddies Tyler Angle and Joaquin De Luz. The latter was also formerly a principal at ABT, the company for which Robbins created the timeless work in 1944. Gomes, with his smooth technique, was completely at home here. The boyish camaraderie of the group was so natural you'd never know they came from competing companies. Variation after variation to woo the ladies (Tiler Peck, Amanda Hankes) charmed the audience as well.

The piece was preceded by a brief video clip of Robbins in rehearsal years ago with current NYCB principal Damien Woetzel, who will retire later this season.

"West Side Story Suite," later on the program, also shone with Robbins' flare for theatrical narratives. An abbreviated version of the 1961 film and 1957 stage play, which Robbins directed, the work features the singing of Rob Lorey, Lara Marie Hirner, Stephanie Blast, Julie Price, Whitney Webster, and many of the dancers themselves. The Dance at the Gym scene was particularly energetic on Sunday, with the bright costumes by Irene Sharaff popping off the stage and clearly defining the boundaries between the Sharks and the Jets.

"West Side Story" is being revived for Broadway in early 2009, but Broadway beware: the liveliness of Georgina Pazcoguin as Anita in "America" will be hard to beat!

The only downer to the Robbins festivities was "Dybbuk," a 1974 work that was revived by the company in 2007. Overly long and complex, the work didn't sit well sandwiched between the two other masterpieces on the program. Janie Taylor (filling in for Rachel Rutherford) and Benjamin Millepied were intense in their movement, even when it was simple. Yet as a whole there was little coherence in the dance, which would be fine but for its droning on and muted color scheme of costumes and scenery. It's rude to sleep at a party, but "Dybbuk" offers a yawn where other Robbins repertoire is eye popping, unstoppable, and celebratory.
Ashley Bouder in New York City Ballet's The Four Seasons

Ashley Bouder in New York City Ballet's The Four Seasons

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik


Nikolaj Hübbe in New York City Ballet's Watermill

Nikolaj Hübbe in New York City Ballet's Watermill

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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