Justin Peck’s Principia, which debuted Friday before a packed house at Koch Theater as part of New York City Ballet’s New Combinations program, is an uplifting work filled with a sense of community and belonging, in contrast to his defiant The Times Are Changing from last year. On the downside, it has few memorable passages, unlikely to leave a lasting impression.
Principia, named after Isaac Newton’s classic that set out the basic laws of motion, consists of three couples, three lead females, and nine supporting dancers clad in minimalist gray/blue leotards and unitards. It opens with an interesting pattern of dancers hunched down on the floor in a spotlight (lighting by Jennifer Tipton). Several pop up and move about, then go back to the floor while others leap into action, set to a buoyant Sufjan Stevens orchestra score. The work has a sense of togetherness and camaraderie, reminiscent of Jerome Robbins’ Glass Pieces.
One recurring movement is a cluster of dancers with arms raised; one dancer touches the top of a bundle, releasing a dancer who performs a few steps and then touches another bundle to repeat the process. Some sections are repetitive, such as simple lifts that passed one dancer to another.
Tiler Peck and Taylor Stanley made an impact with a nice pas de deux, with Tiler energetic in a frenetic solo. Claire Kretzschmar/Daniel Applebaum and Brittany Pollack/Harrison Coll were the other couples, both expressive.
The work ended with a somber tone as dancers held hands in solidarity as the curtain closed.
Principia has a number of nuances. I would benefit from more viewings and would welcome seeing it again, which stands in contrast to William Forsythe’s Herman Schmerman, which premiered in 1992 as part of the Diamond Project. Herman Schmerman is basically two separate works, the first with a cast of six dancers and the second a pas de deux with Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle. The score by Thom Willems features electronic clanking sounds. Apprentice Naomi Corti got the work and her young career off to an inauspicious start with a bad fall; she recovered with textured movements and I look forward to her future work. The pas de deux with Tiler and Tyler featured a costume change in the middle with both changing into yellow skirts. The movements in the work were largely derivative and repetitive. I don’t need to see it again.