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New York City Ballet: Polaris, The Blue of Distance, Common Ground, New Blood, Jeux
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New York City Ballet: Polaris, The Blue of Distance, Common Ground, New Blood, Jeux

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

The Blue of Distance
Common Ground
New Blood

Founders: George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers: George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief: Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress: Rosemary Dunleavy
Children’s Ballet Master: Dena Abergel
Orchestra, Music Director: Andrew Litton
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects: Robert Daniels
Associate Dir. Communications: Katharina Plumb
Communications Associate: Kina Poon
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 16, 2015

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews.)

Polaris (2015) Music by William Walton, Choreography by Myles Thatcher, Costumes by Zuhair Murad, Costumes supervised by Marc Happel, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Musicians: Kurt Nikkanen on Violin, Maureen Gallagher on Viola, Fred Zlotkin on Cello, Alan Moverman on Piano, Performed by Tiler Peck, Craig Hall, Emilie Gerrity, Ashly Isaacs, Daniel Applebaum, Andrew Scordato, Ghaleb Kayali, Taylor Stanley.

On second viewing this season, in a center orchestra seat, compared to the higher view for the Gala, Myles Thatcher’s new work, Polaris, to the chamber, Walton score, was incandescent. Tonight I thought of Jerome Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun, with a lone female dancer gazing in a mirror, almost not seeing her male partner in proximity. Tiler Peck, in a silvery dress, performing with the same cast as at the Gala, walks among and around the ensemble, all costumed in blue, as they connect only with themselves. The ensemble shapes, tonight, at once seemed to resemble a bronze Rodin sculpture, with the cast connected, holding arms and hands, bent into a multi-level figure. Then, at another point, the figural shape was evocative of the final moments of Balanchine’s Apollo, with a winding row of leaning dancers with arms reaching in varying height. Although, this time I could not view the chamber quartet, its tones and rhythms were clear and resonant.

The Blue of Distance (2015): Music by Maurice Ravel, Choreography by Robert Binet, Costumes by Hanako Maeda of ADEAM, Costumes supervised by Marc Happel, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Solo Pianist: Elaine Chelton, Performed by Sterling Hyltin, Rebecca Krohn, Sara Mearns, Tyler Angle, Harrison Ball, Preston Chamblee, Antonio Carmena.

Also, on second viewing, the new Binet-Ravel piece, from the center, orchestral viewpoint, was more ethereal, other-worldly, and elegant. Elaine Chelton, once again, brought out the sparkling luminosity of the two pieces form Ravel’s Miroirs. The dancers move as if flying and sailing, in homage to “Oiseaux tristes” and “Une Barque sur l’Océan”. Sara Mearns, in fact, revived her swan-like, fluttering, undulating arms, always so remarkable in Swan Lake. Ms. Krohn and Ms. Hyltin, as well, were compelling in bent torso embraces, as the three female leads were partnered by Tyler Angle, Preston Chamblee, and Antonio Carmena (replacing Gonzalo Garcia from the first cast). And, once again, Harrison Ball, in deep blue unitards, as were all the men, was the lone, central figure, in light-soft, athletic elevations. His motion was flawlessly fluid, buoyant, and ingénue.

Common Ground (2015): Music by Ellis Ludwig Leone (Commissioned by NYCB), Choreography by Troy Schumacher, Costumes by Marta Marques and Paulo Almeida of Marques’Almeida, Costumes supervised by Marc Happel, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrews Sill, Performed by Ashley Laracey, Alexa Maxwell, Teresa Reichlen, Joseph Gordon, Anthony Huxley, Russell Janzen, Amar Ramasar.

Troy Schumacher’s Common Ground, danced to the commissioned Leone score, presented with the same first cast, seemed more radiant, with more of the colorful, chiffony scarf-costumes in full view, thanks to my adjusted seating. I noted the rapid spinning, the floor collapses, the eerie, eloquent adagio, and the fascinating choreographic feature of a dancer or dancers landing on one leg, then another in succession. This ballet has pulse and personality.

New Blood (2015): Music by Steve Reich, Choreography by Justin Peck, Costumes by Humberto Leon of Opening Ceremony and Kenzo, Costumes supervised by Marc Happel, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrews Sill, Performed by Peter Walker, Brittany Pollack, Taylor Stanley, David Prottas, Kristen Segin, Claire Kretzschmar, Lauren King, Daniel Applebaum, Andrew Veyette, Georgina Pazcoguin, Meagan Mann, Ashley Bouder, Adrian Danchig-Waring.

Justin Peck’s New Blood, danced to Steve Reich’s Variations for Vibes, Piano, and Strings, also had its first cast intact. Once again, it was more memorable and meaningful on this night. Peter Walker and Brittany Pollack caught my eye, which was easy, given the strong, avant-garde, makeup design of Humberto Leon of Opening Ceremony and Kenzo. Mr. Leon’s costumes, as well, with multi-colored, patched leotards, grab the viewer’s attention. Some of the tights even leave open a bare section of leg, as do the leotards, for a quasi-Cubist effect. The gestalt is high energy, matching Reich’s scintillating vibes. Instantaneous duets and solo spotlights occur on and off the rambunctious beat, conducted by Andrews Sill.

Jeux (2015): Music by Claude Debussy, Choreography by Kim Brandstrup, Costumes by Marc Happel, Lighting by Jean Kalman, Conductor: Daniel Capps, Performed by Sterling Hyltin, Sara Mearns, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Amar Ramasar, and a Corps/Apprentice ensemble of ten.

Kim Brandstrup’s Jeux, which just had its recent debut, is totally different on its own, with a gorgeous orchestral score by Debussy, conducted by Daniel Capps. Like Polaris and The Blue of Distance, there’s one central character in this more theatrical work, this time a woman, Sara Mearns. She appears blind-folded and wanders about, apparently seeking Amar Ramasar, an elusive love interest, who attaches first to her and then to Sterling Hyltin. And, in the midst, Ms. Mearns is approached by Adrian Danchig-Waring, in casual attire more akin to his role as Tony in Robbins’ West Side Story Suite. He even bounces a ball, reminiscent of West Side Story’s basketball court. Marc Happel’s black/grey costumes for the rest of the ensemble are almost funereal, stark, modest. Ms. Mearns, who had just danced in a breathtaking costume by Hanako Maeda, in The Blue of Distance, was now concealed, in keeping with this theme, in black, the color of her blindfold.

What’s gripping about this ballet is its emotional tension, lacking in the four, previous, abstract works. The plot is thin and vague, but with the black/grey costumes, and Mr. Danchig-Waring’s t-shirt and dark jeans, there’s also an element of film noir, à la Debussy. The choreography includes an ensemble waltz sequence, Mr. Ramasar’s rapturous lifts for Ms. Hyltin, Mr. Danchig-Waring’s turns of Ms. Mearns into his torso, and much speeding of the ensemble around or about Ms. Mearns, evocative, also, of Balanchine’s La Valse. It’s entirely possible that Mr. Brandstrup has been inspired by City Ballet’s vast repertory. I look forward to seeing this ballet again next season.

Kudos to all.

Rebecca Krohn and Preston Chamblee
in Robert Binet's "The Blue of Distance"

Sara Mearns and Tyler Angle
in Robert Binet's "The Blue of Distance"
in costumes by Hanako Maeda of ADEAM
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

New York City Ballet
in Troy Schumacher’s "Common Ground"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Sara Mearns in Kim Brandstrup's "Jeux"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at