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New York City Ballet – Slice to Sharp, Hallelujah Junction, A Simple Symphony, Mercurial Manoeuvres

by Robert Abrams
February 28, 2009
Lincoln Center
Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc.
140 West 65th Street
New York, NY 10023
212.875.5456

Featured Dance Company:

New York City Ballet
New York City Ballet (office)
New York State Theater
20 Lincoln Center
New York, NY 10023
212-870-5500
www.nycballet.com

At the matinee today, the New York City Ballet presented a program they called "21st Century Movement".

I loved the opening movement of Slice to Sharp. As the curtain rose, three couples were already moving in a slow windmill-like balanced turn. Each couple was linked through one arm from the man to one arm from the woman, leaning away from each other, counter-balancing each other. Each of their other arms were stretched out in the opposite direction.

The rest of the ballet was mostly duets with some group numbers. Some were slow and some were fast. The dancing and the choreography were fine, but other than the very beginning, Slice to Sharp didn't excite my enthusiasm.

Hallelujah Junction definitely excited my enthusiasm. The choreography brought to mind the inner workings of a fine Swiss clock. In the first extended section of the ballet, there was often a central figure surrounded by two or four outer figures. For instance, near the beginning, there was a woman in white in the middle of four women in black. Then the pattern repeated with men, but with the colors reversed. Both the dancing and the music, performed live on two grand pianos set high at the rear of the stage, were precise, brisk and timely. Eventually the stage filled with ten dancers. The movements had a "swing, mark. swing, mark." character to them. By this I mean that between beats the movements followed a graceful arc, followed by a precise stop. And again. And again. In a manner that held my attention throughout.

Eventually it felt like the clock slowly broke down. The music slowed its tempo. The dancing became more lyrical and fluid. One image that stands out is that of a woman draped over a man's shoulders. This section displayed a more reflective kind of time. It also happened to include a segment with the kind of counter-balanced turn I liked so much in Slice to Sharp.

In Hallelujah Junction's third section, the music and the dancing became more energetic, similar to the first section. This time a series of pairs danced. Perhaps like a clock, but set free. For a short while, there were four pairs on stage. Ten dancers took the stage in center-periphery patterns reminiscent of the first section. One man in black entered, leaped across the stage, and with that the cast struck a sharp button ending. Like a clock striking the hour.

I would gladly see Hallelujah Junction again.

Simple Symphony started with eight ballerinas in tutus. It was very classical, very pretty. Some of the duets were very engaging.

Mercurial Manoeuvres had a bold start. A lone man in red moved forward framed by red curtains. The light shifted to reveal a corps of dancers behind the curtains dressed in blue. The blue costumes had red accents, such as a series of red buttons, or wide, red shoulder straps.

Other bold moments. A soloist performed impressive leaps. A woman moved across the stage (downstage, towards audience right) boxed by four men while a man moved in the opposite direction (upstage, towards audence left) boxed by four women. The duet by the couple in costumes that contrasted with the red-blue theme was very graceful. A woman, flying, carried by four men, swooping low and then up again. Some crab walking across the stage (ballet dancers can have fun too). An energetic finish with much triumphal arm movements.

On the whole, I thought that Mercurial Manoeuvres felt like an abstraction of an animated United States flag.

The 21st Century Movement program, taken together, showcased the New York City Ballet's consistent ability to perform both contemporary and classical styles of ballet. There was nothing wrong with any of the four ballets presented, but for my tastes, Hallelujah Junction was the only clear winner: a ballet that stood out as a superior work of art.



Slice to Sharp
Music by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber and Antonio Vivaldi
Choreography by Jorma Elo
Costumes by Holly Hynes
Lighting by Mark Stanley
1st Violin Solist: Arturo Delmoni
2nd Violin Solist: Lydia Hong
Dancers: Maria Kowroski, Teresa Reichlen, Ana Sophia Scheller, Wendy Whelan, Joaquin De Luz, Robert Fairchild, Craig Hall, Ask la Cour

Hallelujah Junction
Music by John Adams
Choreography by Peter Martins
Costumes by Kirsten Lund Nielsen
Lighting by Mark Stanley
Duo-Pianists: Cameron Grant, Richard Moredock
Dancers: Sterling Hyltin, Gonzalo Garcia, Daniel Ulbricht, Lauren King, Erica Pereira, Brittany Pollack, Stephanie Zungre, Daniel Applebaum, Allen Peiffer, David Prottas, Troy Schumacher

A Simple Symphony
Music by Benjamin Britten
Choreography by Melissa Barak
Costumes by Melissa Barak
Costumes supervised by Marc Happel
Lighting by Mark Stanley
Dancers: Sara Mearns, Jared Angle, Tiler Peck, Ana Sophia Scheller, Tyler Angle, Sean Suossi, Sara Adams, Megan Johnson, Rachel Piskin, Kristen Segin, Mary Elizabeth Sell, Lydia Wellington

Mercurial Manoeuvres
Music by Dmitri Shostakovich (Piano Concerto No. 1 in C minor, Opus 35)
Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon
Costumes by Carole Divet
Lighting by Mark Stanley
Piano: Alan Moverman
Trumpet: Ray Mase
Dancers: Tiler Peck, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Joaquin De Luz, Kathryn Morgan, Erica Pereira, Saskia Beskow, Likolani Brown, Maya Collins, Kaitlyn Gilliland, Amanda Hankes, Glenn Keenan, Lauren King, Ashley Laracey, Gwyneth Muller, Brittany Pollack, Gretchen Smith, Stephanie Zungre, Zachary Catazaro, Cameron Dieck, David Prottas, Christian Tworzyanski
New York City Ballet's 'Slice to Sharp'

New York City Ballet's "Slice to Sharp"

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik


New York City Ballet's Sara Mearns and Jared Angle in 'A Simple Symphony'

New York City Ballet's Sara Mearns and Jared Angle in "A Simple Symphony"

Photo © & courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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