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New York City Ballet: Polaris, The Blue of Distance, Common Ground, Estancia, The Most Incredible Thing
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New York City Ballet: Polaris, The Blue of Distance, Common Ground, Estancia, The Most Incredible Thing

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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

The Blue of Distance
Common Ground
The Most Incredible Thing

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
February 9, 2016

(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 Emilie Gerrity, Chase Finlay, Ashly Isaacs, Meagan Mann, Daniel Applebaum, Andrew Scordato, Ghaleb Kayali, Taylor Stanley.

Zuhair Murad’s costumes for Myles Thatcher’s Polaris were all sky blue, shimmering, short pleated tutus, with high necks for women, and a similar, silvery costume for Corps dancer, Emilie Gerrity, in her role as muse. The men wore sleeveless, deeper blue, button shirts and blue tights. [The initial evocation was a memory of the perfumy imagery of the curtain opening onto Serenade, with the Company all in billowy blue.] Four musicians play the chamber “Allegramente”, from Walton’s Piano Quintet in D minor, in the pit, while seven dancers create non-symmetrical figures, with Ms. Gerrity wandering dreamily, through and around the choreographic shapes. Mr. Thatcher, like the other featured contemporary choreographers in tonight’s program, is a Corps member of the San Francisco Ballet. Although this work is brief, I was transported by the streamlined musicality of the chamber score and by the mesmerizing shapes of dancers in blue. Other than the engagingly present Ms. Gerrity, Daniel Applebaum and Taylor Stanley particularly caught my eye.

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, Piano: Elaine Chelton, Performed by Sara Adams, Unity Phelan, Indiana Woodward, Antonio Carmena, Zachary Catazaro, Preston Chamblee, Sebastian Villarini-Velez.

For the Robert Binet work, The Blue of Distance, expanding the earlier focus on blue, Hanako Maeda of ADEAM created tutus with nude necklines and differentiated deep blue bodices for women, and white, layered, tulle skirts. From a distance, as the title says, the bodices looked like plunging blue necklines. And, the men were in deeper blue, sleeveless leotards and matching tights. Elaine Chelton, solo pianist, performed “Oiseaux tristes” and “Une Barque sur l’Océan” from Ravel’s Miroirs. Ms. Chelton created glistening tonalities, like frozen droplets of rain melting into a pond. The three women, Sara Adams, Unity Phelan, and Indiana Woodward, were all stunning, while leaning in, en pointe, toward their partners, Antonio Carmena, Preston Chamblee, and Sebastian Villarini-Velez, holding onto their arms or falling into an embrace. At other moments, partners walk toward stage rear, in parallel rhythm. Zachary Catazaro takes a more punctuated and energized role as a central character. Mr. Binet, Choreographic Associate of the National Ballet of Canada, has a bright future.

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.

For Corps dancer, Troy Schumacher’s second season showing of Common Ground, the full orchestra was in the pit, with Andrews Sill conducting Ellis Ludwig Leone’s staccato and pulsating commissioned score, titled for this ballet. The Marques-Almeida duo designers created costumes for men, with loose white pants and differentiated tops of colorful chiffony scarves sewn together, in varying shapes and sizes. Women were solely in the scarf costumes, some with sewn sleeves, some sleeveless. Costumes seemed fashioned from attic trunks, casual, fantastical, and imaginative. Tiny lights, rear stage, expand on the ballet’s title. Partnered lifts and jubilant jumps are vivid, as well as an uneven ensemble circle of uplifted arms, while balancing on one leg. In fact, the tall and lanky Teresa Reichlen was partnered by the compact rising star, Anthony Huxley. I enjoyed listening to what may have been a vibraphone in the pit.

Estancia (2010): Music by Alberto Ginastera, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Scenic Design by Santiago Calatrava, Costumes by Carlos Campos, Costumes Supervised by Marc Happel, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrew Litton, Singer: Steven LaBrie, Performed by Tiler Peck as Country Girl, Tyler Angle as City Boy, Andrew Veyette as Wild Horse, and the Company as Wild Horses, Estancia Workers, and City Folk.

Wheeldon’s Estancia was just as satisfying as it was on premiere, six years ago. The original casting of Tyler Angle and Tiler Peck as City Boy and Country Girl brought out seasoned leads with added gesture and nuance in their nighttime pas de deux. I would like to see this pas de deux showcased in future repertory and galas, as it’s so poignant and breathtaking, a serene interlude in a percussive, busy ballet. Andrew Veyette was even more comical and primal in his Wild Horse characterization, in contrast to the female dancer as the tamed filly. The familiarity of uncluttered plot and happy ending of this Wheeldon ballet allow the viewer to focus on Santiago Calatrava’s gorgeous, painted Pampas and twinkling, starry sky. We can visually explore Carlos Campos’ (supervised by Marc Happel) warm brown horse costumes, with fillies en pointe, as well as the retro Argentine City costumes, in refined grays and white. Plus, we can listen to the explosive and ever-changing Ginastera score, so expertly conducted by Music Director, Andrew Litton, this time. Steven LaBrie, singer, added depth and cultural authentication to this story ballet set in the Argentine Pampas. Kudos to all.

The Most Incredible Thing (2016): Based on the story by Hans Christian Anderson (Read the story here.), Music by Bryce Dessner (Commissioned by NYCB), Choreography by Justin Peck, Visuals/Costumes by Marcel Dzama, Costumes Supervised by Marc Happel, Lighting by Brandon Sterling Baker, Conductor: Andrew Litton, Performed by Taylor Stanley as The Creator, Sterling Hyltin as The Princess, Amar Ramasar as The Destroyer, Russell Janzen and Ask la Cour as The King, Megan Fairchild as One O’Clock The Cuckoo Bird, Rebecca Krohn and Adrian Danchig-Waring as Two O’Clock Adam and Eve, Jared Angle, Daniel Applebaum, and Gonzalo Garcia as Three O’Clock The Three Kings, Daniel Ulbricht as Six O’Clock The Gambler, Megan Fairchild as Ten O’Clock The Cuckoo Bird Returns, and the Company and Students from the School of American Ballet as Four O’Clock The Four Seasons, Five O’Clock The Five Senses, Seven O’Clock The Seven Deadly Sins or Seven Days of the Week, Eight O’Clock The Eight Monks, Nine O’Clock The Nine Muses, Eleven O’Clock The children, and Twelve O’Clock Deity.

This recent, premiere work, by Justin Peck, the Company’s Resident Choreographer, was terribly confusing and disjointed. On an evening with five unique ballets, this, the fifth, required a level of introduction. It would have been prudent to enclose a bolder, more user friendly plot synopsis, overhead surtitles, or projections similar to Susan Stroman’s Double Feature. Mr. Peck’s choreography for a rare Hans Christian Andersen tale (one I do not recall from my own childhood readings) was more a spectacular visual event, rather than a credible story ballet. In fact, Visuals and Costumes, by Marcel Dzama, were mesmerizing and spectacular. This would have been better as an abstract ballet, rather than one that left members of the audience mumbling in the aisles. Or, it may have been wise to lead with this work, presenting a bolder printed, briefer plot synopsis, given that there’s time prior to the ballet to explore the program. Yet, with Marc Happel’s bright, colorful, surreal costumes, as noted, I enjoyed the experience as media gestalt.

Taylor Stanley was The Creator of a clock, who wins the hand of The Princess (Sterling Hyltin), after a battle with The two-faced Destroyer (Amar Ramasar), and a two-headed King (Russell Janzen and Ask la Cour) gives The Creator half his Kingdom to boot. Each hand of the Clock is noted above, and each character or ensemble of characters has their own bright surreal costumes. Those costumes have giant polka-dots and designs that have been replicated, somewhat, in the Koch Theater Promenade, upstairs, on the giant marble sculptures and projections. The entire experience was evocative of a MOMA media event. Yet, it was fascinating, as any media event would be, to watch, listen to, and absorb. The choreography, with the ensemble of five as the four leads and the twelve “O’Clocks”, seemed secondary to the overall fusion. This newly designed work may improve with a tighter story ballet and either a smaller cast or added visual cues. I just cannot wait for next week’s La Sylphide.

Kudos to all.

Unity Phelan and Zachary Catazaro
in Robert Binet's "The Blue of Distance"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

The David H. Koch Theater
Photo Taken the Night of the 9/15 Lunar Eclipse
Courtesy of Roberta Zlokower

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