NYCB New Combinations Falls Short

After featuring Balanchine classics in the first several weeks of the New York City Ballet Winter Season, it was out with the old, in with the new Thursday with a New Combinations theme as NYCB premiered two new works by Justin Peck and Pontus Lidberg.

I had high hopes for Peck’s The Times Are Racing after seeing the preview clip of Peck and Robert Fairchild hoofing it up in the new 2nd Avenue subway. The clip had a Jerome Robbins/Broadway feel to it, with exciting tap/jazz dancing with nice off-balance counter movements flowing to pulsating background music. However, Peck’s work is like a movie you are dying to see based on enticing clips in commercials. Then finding out that the best part of the movie IS the featured film clips, with the rest of the movie not measuring up. The short segment below is the highlight of the ballet, with little else to offer.

Peck’s The Times Are Racing is set to Dan Deacon’s 2012 album America, a throbbing, pulsating techno pop mash-up guaranteed to give traditional ballet goers a headache. In addition to Robert and Justin, the work featured Tiler Peck, Amar Ramasar with 16 supporting dancers. All are clad in street clothes, sneakers, athletic shorts, rain coats, hoodies, shirts with messages CHANGE, PROTEST, and DEFY, probably in response to the Trump Administration. Peck said in The New York Times that the election outcome changed the work to be less optimistic than it could have been. Throughout the piece, dancers energetically moved around the stage, filled with frenetic gyrations. Dancers were infectiously enthusiastic and having a great time, although the group parts were a mystery to me with disjointed movements with no purpose. Also puzzling was the rain coat attire in the beginning of the ballet; later on, dancers took off the coats and paraded them around for some reason. The meaning of the coats escaped me.

While the group dances lacked purpose, the duo of Peck and Robert Fairchild provided much-needed entertainment. The two tap danced in unison to the throbbing score as in the video above. Robert is great at tap/Broadway style and his effort Thursday was filled with boundless enthusiasm, a real joy to watch. The work also featured a pas de deux with Tiler Peck and Amar Ramasar, filled with hip hop movements in a largely forgettable segment.

Pontus Lidberg. Click for more photos.

Pontus Lidberg’s The Shimmering Asphalt, his first NYCB effort, is a multifaceted, complicated work, with dancers moving in and out in various patterns, shifting in focus with various lead dancers. David Lang composed the music commissioned for the work, a solemn score for violin, piano, and cello. Dancers wore gray skirts, which looked fine on the women, but strange on the bare chested men.

Much was going on. In one segment Sara Mearns danced with four men as they contorted her; in another, Taylor Stanley danced with four women. Chase Finlay and Sara also had a brief partnering segment; Russell Janzen, Rebecca Krohn, Lauren Lovette had interesting appearances. Overall, I enjoyed much of the work, trying to understand the flow and nuances. However, my enjoyment was fleeting as not much of the piece left an impression, except for the strange costumes. After the first viewing, there were no standout moments, although the work may pay dividends with further viewings.

More Reviews:

Alistair Macaulay of The New York Times
Robert Greskovic of The Wall Street Journal
Marina Harss of DanceTabs
Apollinaire Scherr of The Financial Times