Performing Arts: Dance
October 2, 2021
NYCB continues to take bold steps encouraging commissions by choreographers outside of the traditional ballet community. In keeping with a Spring Gala tradition, NYCB paired 2 choreographers with 2 fashion designers. Andrea Miller collaborated with Esteban Cortazar and Sidra Bell (the first African American female to choreograph for NYCB) connected with Christopher John Rogers.

Both revealed moments of inspiration and both fell under the spell of NYCB's glittering production values ultimately losing track of the main event--the choreography.

Sky To Hold starts inside a whirling mist. Ecstatic dancers in bodysuits that get more colorful with time, rip through space like sprites ushering in Taylor Stanley who unfolds from an amoebic form. Back-bends transmute into crab-walks making Stanley an oddly compelling character. He's joined by the free-spirited, golden- haired Sara Mearns uninhibitedly commanding her universe.

The commissioned score by Lido Pimienta includes live vocals by Pimienta standing in a glowing yellow gown on the side of the stage. The atmospheric music suggests the Lion King or perhaps that image materializes when dancers on mens' backs, arms spread in angular forms over bent legs approximate untamed--or mystical animals in the wilds. Some of the most propulsive moments are a result of the captivating partnering including a dancer hooking a leg over another dancer's shoulder and releasing the torso into a pendulum swing. 

On the other end of the dance spectrum, Sidra Bell's Suspended Animation to music by Nicholas Britell, Oliver Davis and Dosia McKay shocks the senses with iridescent Baroque-nouveau costumes topped by outrageous hats, some of which resemble 1950's lampshades. Posing and gliding like tiny ballerinas in a music box, the eye-popping costumes are shed -- over the course of the ballet -- to reveal sleek, embellished, body hugging outfits.

Possibly, the opening speaks to  ballet's roots in the sumptuous courts of Louis XIV? Traditional ballet combinations fold over a more flexible modern dance torso, isolated limbs and free-wheeling arms.

In one of the final tableaus, dancers in the high-fashion gowns move behind a screen against the stripped down modern ballet folks moving in front--conceivably suggesting the past and the future remain in active conversation?

The night I attended, the program closed with George Balanchine's joyous "Western Symphony" -- a tutorial on how to make choreographing dance look natural.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

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