21st Century Choreographers, Oct. 15

New York City Ballet’s 21st Century Choreographers program was a mixed bill of five ballets, three of them new works.

The program started with For Clara, a new work by Lauren Lovette, who is a principal in the company. In an article in the program about For Clara and ten in seven, Lovette mentioned that the Schumann music used for For Clara revealed many of different emotions. That’s true, but it often felt like the music overpowered the dance. There was also no consistent tone or shape to the dance; at the end, I didn’t have a way to describe the feel of the piece.

The dancing was strong, though. Indiana Woodward danced with abandon, really throwing herself into the steps. Emilie Gerrity was precise and elegant, and Unity Phelan was fast and more formal than the other two lead women. Of the men, Chase Finlay stood out for his power.

Next was The Dreamers, a new pas by Justin Peck. This piece belonged to Sara Mearns. She danced it with such intentionality, and the pas felt like she was controlling and initiating it much of the time. There was a section of the piece where the two appeared to fall asleep and then got up one by one. This was an interesting concept, but the section was too short to have any power. Amar Ramasar’s costume was truly ugly; this was definitely the piece where I was least a fan of these being Fashion Gala works. Mearns’s skirt was good for the part, but there were too many colors on the dress.

The third piece was a pas de deux from Chris Wheeldon’s After the Rain, danced by Tiler Peck and Jared Angle. This, much like the last pas, belonged to the woman; it was Tiler Pecks’ show. She was so controlled and exquisite. She moved seamlessly between appearing limp and strong. There were motifs in the choreography (fluttery wrists, backbends), but they were never overdone. The choreography was understated but felt really even with the music, neither overpowering the other, not fighting each other. Every muscle movement mattered.

The third new work of the program was Peter Walker’s ten in seven to music by Thomas Kikta (with the band performing onstage). This piece was better for the live music, and the set was built for the band being onstage. This had a strong social dance flavor, with steps drawn from dances like swing and waltz, and it felt like the dancers were gathering to dance together on the street.

The first two pas de deux in ten in seven had other dancers in the background (four women in the first, four men in the second), and they felt unnecessary; their presence didn’t seem to add to the scenes and was in fact distracting. The second pas, Divertissement du Blues, started with something like a dance-off between Indiana Woodward and Sean Suozzi (whose part I would very much like to learn), and I would have enjoyed seeing that dance-off continue instead of moving into something more unified and like the other parts of the work. Woodward and Suozzi had so much energy and fun. My favorite of the pas was the fifth section, Le son de deux, danced by Emily Kikta and Russell Janzen. This was the one that felt like it had a waltz influence, and it was calmer and more focused than the other sections. I also enjoyed Divertissement Harmonique, the fourth section, danced by Walker, Ashly Isaacs, and Rachel Hutsell. Hutsell was particularly impressive, and I look forward to seeing more of her.

The program ended with Peck’s Everywhere We Go. It’s a very geometric piece, using lots of different lines, shapes, patterns, and angles, though the dancing itself is not angular. The way these lines and shapes morph, how patterns appear and resurface, is mesmerizing. The section at the end with dancers fainting while others catch them and lay them down was long, though, and the mood was quite different from the rest of the piece. The geometry, though, remained, with dancers shifting through a changing array.

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