NYCB Classics, Oct. 17


Sara-Mearns and Russell Janzen, Chaconne. Click for more photos.

New York City Ballet presented a nicely diversified program of NYCB Classics Friday evening consisting of old and new works: Chaconne (1963), Interplay (1945), After the Rain (2005), and Everywhere We Go (2012). Balanchine, Robbins, Christopher Wheeldon, and Justin Peck choreographed the pieces, respectively.

Chaconne is set to beautiful music by Christoph Willibald von Gluck with a blue-sky backdrop with clouds. Leads Friday were Sara Mearns and Russell Janzen, who both debuted in the role earlier this season. Russell is a member of the Corps but probably not for long; he is tall, with princely good looks and solid technique and has been cast in major roles this season.

The piece is technically straightforward, but requires precision and phrasing to the soft music. This is demonstrated nicely by a YouTube clip with Suzanne Ferrell and Peter Martins. Each step is completed with purpose in connection with the others, all with a regal, ethereal demeanor. Russell and Sara pulled it off nicely as both have the technique and gravitas to command the stage. Lauren King and Anthony Huxley also had a nice pas de deux, featuring several tricky promenades.

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 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, 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 seeing 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. This is a hard step because the landing must be perfect, with the dancer perfectly straight. Any lean in any direction will throw off the next double tour. Here the men struggled with this difficult step, sometimes off balance and not vertical on the tours, leading to messy landings.

Wendy Whelan and Craig Hall performed Wheeldon’s After the Rain. The piece premiered in 2005 and is set to sad, haunting, and moving music by Arvo Part. The beautiful work was performed on the 57th floor of 4WTC in lower Manhattan on September 12, 2013. “It is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, and a tribute to the future of the city that New York City Ballet calls home,” according to the NYCB YouTube site.

Wendy and Craig performed the piece to perfection. I could hear several people crying in the audience at the end, possibly motivated by the close of Wendy’s NYCB career (her final performance was Saturday) or the moving music coupled with the touching, masterful choreography. The five curtain calls to a standing ovation were well deserved.

Justin Peck’s Everywhere We Go is an interesting and energetic work set to commissioned music by Sufjan Stevens. The piece consists of nine movements, each varied and having its own personality. The 42-minute work has 25 dancers and there is a lot of dance to take in, with many innovations to the inspiring music.

Dancers that stood out include Daniel Applebaum, Ashly Isaacs, and Andrew Veyette. Daniel and Ashly are Corps members that are showcased in this work. Ashly partnered with Amar Ramasar and commanded the stage with big movements with bravado. Daniel’s solo work was energetic with Andrew pulling off many rapid pirouettes.

In one interesting section, Ashly and Amar dance from the center to corner stage left while a group of dancers shaped in an “L” converge with dramatic music as the backdrop. The dancers take a step to the corner and the two dancers on the ends peel off, leaving Ashly and Amar with little room in the corner.

Overall, I liked the work, although a few of the movements were not that interesting. Given the varied movements with numerous dancers, the work borders on information overload and I would love to see it again to pick up the many nuances the piece offers. With all the action, one viewing of this work is not enough.