Dancing on Grass and Concrete at New York City Ballet

By | November 4, 2020
Dancing on Grass and Concrete at New York City Ballet

Dancing on Grass and Concrete at New York Metropolis Ballet

On the subject of digital site-specific work, there’s a skinny line between a dance on movie and a fragrance advert. It’s dispiriting to say that in New York Metropolis Ballet’s New Works Competition we get loads of eau de ballet.

That the corporate might current new work in any respect throughout a pandemic, because it did final week, with 5 quick movies that use the Lincoln Heart campus as a set, is admirable. (Just lately Metropolis Ballet known as off its winter and spring seasons.) However there’s solely a lot whipping hair and water splashing, grassy knolls and dreamy overhead pictures I can take.

The corporate did department out of its normal bubble, commissioning choreography by Sidra Bell, Andrea Miller and Jamar Roberts, who had been working with the dancers for the primary time; in addition to by Pam Tanowitz and Justin Peck, Metropolis Ballet’s resident choreographer and inventive adviser.

However what takes middle stage greater than the choreography is the filmmaking. Camerawork, each frantic and labored, will get in the best way of dancing, making a slickness — and a sameness — that turns stale quick. All however certainly one of these quick movies was directed by Ezra Hurwitz (with cinematography by Jon Chema). Mr. Peck, with Jody Lee Lipes, as director of images, took cost of his personal.

Simply as choreography wants a perspective, a web site wants a goal. One work, “Solo for Russell: Websites 1-5,” appears to have a cause for utilizing Lincoln Heart as its stage. Choreographed by Ms. Tanowitz with Russell Janzen — a uncommon occasion of credit score given to a dancer within the ballet world — the piece options the unflappable Mr. Janzen strolling with goal from one location to the subsequent, generally with a roll of Marley flooring tucked below his arm, generally altering out and in of costumes (by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung).

In a single iteration, strips of pale blue and yellow drape from Mr. Janzen’s collarbone to at least one leg. He’s already statuesque, however as he stands on the stage of the Damrosch Park bandshell, the sculptural impact of the draping material and the towering construction transforms him right into a monument from one other time. (Is that what a dancer has change into within the age of the coronavirus?)

Stoic and resolute, he has a last-man-on-earth high quality. The clipped pictures of motion — a gradual promenade with a leg held ahead in a pistol squat, a fast flip with a raised arm — are enhanced by Alfred Schnittke’s eerie music to convey a way of resignation and alienation. As an alternative of exhibiting us a whole dance, Ms. Tanowitz presents one thing extra intriguing and, given our emotional temper, relatable: the shards of 1.

Ms. Bell’s “pixelation in a wave (Inside Wires),” set to an authentic rating by her jazz musician father, Dennis Bell, incorporates a solid — Ghaleb Kayali, Mira Nadon, Emily Kikta and Peter Walker — bouncing between panorama pictures, which render them bite-size, and close-ups that have a tendency towards the dear. Working with the dancers’ traces and shapes as they intersect with and are juxtaposed towards the structure of the positioning — at one level, a raised garden above a concrete pathway — Ms. Bell’s chiseled shapes really feel random with all the fast cuts; as a substitute of the cool pressure she appears to be going for, it’s hectic.

Ms. Miller’s “new music,” set to music by the Chilean singer Víctor Jara, has extra stream as Harrison Coll, Indiana Woodward, Unity Phelan and Sebastian Villarini-Velez sail from the plaza to the wooded grove and into the water of the wading pool within the middle of Hearst Plaza. Often, Ms. Miller’s work appears linked to Ohad Naharin, the Israeli choreographer for whom she beforehand danced; this time, it’s Pina Bausch. Hair. Lengthy clothes. Acquired it.

The emotion of it, although, cracks one thing open in Ms. Phelan, who’s unleashed in a means she hasn’t been earlier than. However it’s all too earnest: As a gaggle, the dancers stroll into the water the place, after the digicam swoops overhead, they splash their chests with feeling.

The pool is a tempting location, and Mr. Roberts makes use of it, too, in his “Water Ceremony.” Most spectacular right here is the soloist, Victor Abreu, a member of the corps de ballet, who has all the time struck me as having a sure vulnerability: the look of a boy trapped in a person’s physique. In “Ceremony,” set to jazz music by Ambrose Akinmusire, Mr. Abreu reveals a newfound maturity and energy. And Mr. Roberts affords an arresting closing picture: The musicians, becoming a member of Mr. Abreu within the water, play the ultimate be aware.

However in each this movie and Ms. Miller’s, the usage of the pool feels apparent and facile; I saved considering of Eiko and Koma, the Japanese dance artists — and masters of site-specific work — who, in 2011, carried out right here, utilizing the reflecting pool as a means, partly, to discover the feeling of give up.

Mr. Peck succumbs to one thing else in “Thank You, New York”: sentimentality. The opening options pictures of the town alongside video portraits of the solid — Georgina Pazcoguin, Christopher Grant, Sara Mearns and Taylor Stanley — expressing their love for it in voice-overs. “New York, particularly, now’s a phoenix simply ready to rise from the ashes,” Ms. Pazcoguin says. “I do know it. I can really feel it. I can really feel the embers, I can really feel the power.”

They do fuel on, staring into the digicam with lingering gazes or off into the space. Woven all through are pictures of the skyline, the Statue of Liberty, a road of outside diners. After which it will get worse. The music begins: a reworked model of the music “Thank You, New York” by Chris Thile.

In several areas, the dancers let unfastened: Mr. Stanley, at Riverside Park, sways this fashion and that whereas pausing to lift his eyes and arms to the treacly lyrics “Reaching up for stars that we’ll by no means see.” To the sound of “Mmmm,” he bends his knees and provides a little bit swivel.

Mr. Grant glides throughout the handball courts at Brooklyn Bridge Park with fervent footwork whereas Ms. Pazcoguin, atop the corporate’s theater at Lincoln Heart, dashes to a nook of the roof and stares on the Metropolitan Opera: so close to and but thus far.

When it comes to their expansive, passionate dancing, the ladies positively have an edge: Each Ms. Pazcoguin and Ms. Mearns, who’s bathed in darkness whereas flittering throughout the pavement of a Chinatown road, by no means maintain again. It’s true on movie, too.

However this movie will not be a keeper for the pandemic time capsule. It’s one more sneaker ballet from Mr. Peck within the method of Jerome Robbins, although with out his refined hand. Halfway, it shifts into an unintentional comedy because the lyrics press on: “Thanks, New York, might I’ve one other/Dance with you upon the winds of change.”

The music creates some earworm trauma. (And for no matter cause, I can’t get Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York” out of my head, both.) However whereas the feelings behind Mr. Peck’s movie are clear — we miss New York, and we miss dance — this love letter doesn’t ship.

New Works Competition

Streaming at nycballet.com.

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