NYBC’s Thursday mixed rep performance with a theme of American composers consisted of some of my favorite works: Hallelujah Junction (2001), Interplay (1952), and Glass Pieces (1983), along with Tarantella (1964). The music for Hallelujah Junction and Glass Pieces is stunning and serves as a majestic backdrop for innovative choreography.
I like Peter Martin’s Hallelujah Junction (2001), unlike most of his other works. The piece is set to a score of the same name by John Adams. The music was written for two pianos and named after a small truck stop near the California-Nevada border. The score centers on delayed repetition between to the pianos, creating an effect of echoing sonorities, according to the program notes. “There is a constant shift of pulse and meter, but the main rhythms are based on the rhythms of the word ‘Hal-le-LU-jah.’”
The piece features a lead couple, Lauren Lovette and Gonzalo Garcia, with Daniel Ulbricht providing occasional solo fireworks. Four couples round out the cast. The piece is set to a dark stage with two pianos to the rear. The music is unique, with recurring patterns throughout. Lauren and Gonzalo have an introspective, intricate pas de deux to the complicated score while Daniel darts in and out of the action, doing what he does best, double sauté de basques, double assembles, turns in second position alternating in turns in attitude. In another section, Daniel and Gonzalo had an alternating brisé volé section along a diagonal that was well timed. The music is frenetic at times, and it is an accomplishment for supporting dancers to keep up with the music, given the choreography.
Glass Pieces, set to Philip Glass music, is also a great work. The piece opens with dancers walking briskly and randomly across the stage, much like everyday scenes from busy pedestrian crossings in New York. Keeping with Glass’s score, the scenery and costumes are minimalist in nature; dancers in unitards with a few women in skirts perform in front of a simple checkered background. Every now and then, three couples break up the frenetic informal walking with slow duets comprising of basic dance steps. Some steps are constant throughout the piece, such as lunges with an exaggerated outstretched arm, exaggerated struts with clenched fists, reinforcing themes from the repetitive music.
The second section has a row of 12 women in silhouette across the back of the stage, with a repeating shuffling motion, stopping periodically as they hold their pose. In front of the women are Rebecca Krohn and Amar Ramasar, dancing a sensual pas de deux to the soft, slow music. Flowing arms and lunges are recurring themes. At the end, the 12 women in the back slither off as Amar carries Rebecca off stage.
The last section begins with loud drumbeats. Here Robbins creates a number of interesting patterns and geometric shapes with the dancers. In one section, three men and women weave in and out, creating a circle. In another, six men dance in contemporary style, with flexed feet and legs turned in, creating a triangle. Another section features 12 men with recurring head bobs and lunges. I enjoyed Robbins’ innovative effort of creating visual images of Glass’s dramatic, frenetic, and exciting music.
Jerome Robbins’ Interplay was his second work, after his masterpiece, Fancy Free. The piece consists of four men and women, dressed in informal, colorful costumes. The piece is fun and whimsical, egalitarian (all but one dancer is a Corps member) in nature as there are no lead couples; it is about the interaction of friends as they have a good time, set to Broadway-type music by Morton Gould. The steps are classical in nature, with jazz infusions and quirky movements like dancers clapping and waving to one another.
The piece is busy with never a dull moment. There is an adolescent quality to the piece as the dancers play tag, hopscotch, and skip around the stage in friendly bantering. In one creative segment, dancers approach the edge of the stage in darkness, peer down into the orchestra pit, and strut in silhouette after taking a peek at the musicians.
Near the end of the work, dancers choose teams and have a ballet competition. The women do pirouettes while the men rip off multiple double tours; after landing one double tour, the dancer pops it up into another double tour. Harrison Ball and Peter Walker, who was also active in Glass Pieces, had the honors, ripping off three and four tours respectively.
Claire Von Enck and Spartak Hoxha were the leads in the lively Tarantella, a short 7-minute pas de deux by Balanchine. The two were energetic in this whimsical, rapid-fire piece. For Claire, the steps were there, but something was missing in some of her steps such as her coupé grand jetés, fouetté turns, and turns from fifth position that made her dancing seem tentative.