New York City Ballet presented an All Robbins evening Friday with Glass Pieces (1983), Opus 19/The Dreamer (1979), and The Concert (1956).
I was looking forward to seeing Chase Finlay, who was injured last winter and scheduled to perform in Glass Pieces. However, he was replaced by Daniel Applebaum, eliciting a few groans from the audience when the announcement was made. (It must be tough to be the stand in for a famous dancer. Imagine warming up onstage with the curtain closed as the announcement is made: “FAMOUS DANCER will be replaced by YOUR NAME” followed by loud boos and cries of “oh no!”)
Glass Pieces, set to Philip Glass music, was my favorite of the evening. 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 dance 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, 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 music.
The second piece was Opus 19/The Dreamer, created in 1979 for Baryshnikov and Patricia McBride set to Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major. The piece “…focuses on the male protagonist’s elusive interactions with his ethereal counterpart,” according to the repertory notes.
Robert Fairchild is in the center in a white unitard as the curtain rises. After dancing with other males, he sits and watches six women enter the stage. Tiler Peck emerges from the pack with a set of spunky steps punctuated with a split jump with flexed feet. Robert takes notice, gets up, and dances with her. Over the course of the piece, they dance together several times, at times imitating each other with duplicate steps. Clearly, she enchants him in his dreamlike state. Several times in the piece, she leaves the stage and he is left on stage searching for her. In the end, the pair embrace as the curtain falls.
The third piece is a campy comedy, The Concert (or the Perils of Everyone) set to music by Chopin. I don’t like slapstick ballet comedies, although by the audience reaction, I was in the minority.
The piece opens as the egotistical pianist (Elaine Chelton) walks across the stage to the piano. After much primping and preparation cleaning keys and her glasses, she begins to play a beautiful Chopin piece. Several “audience members” are on stage shifting seats and other shenanigans during her “performance.” The focus is primarily on Maria Kowroski, who is so engaged by the performance that she does not move when another audience member takes her chair. Andrew Veyette plays the geek, clad in short trousers and glasses. In another section, a group of six women dance in unison, except for one that moves in opposition with the other five.
In the last segment, Andrew and other males wear butterfly-type costumes as the pianist leaps up with a butterfly net and attempts to capture the butterflies, closing out the silly piece.
It was a short evening of dance (an hour and twenty minutes, not counting two intermissions). I enjoyed Glass Pieces while the other two are not my favorite Robbins works.