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New York City Ballet: Ash, This Bitter Earth, The Infernal Machine, Jeux, Pas de la Jolla
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New York City Ballet: Ash, This Bitter Earth, The Infernal Machine, Jeux, Pas de la Jolla

- Onstage with the Dancers
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New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

This Bitter Earth
The Infernal Machine
Pas de la Jolla

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 20, 2016 Matinee

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Ash (1991): Music by Michael Torke, Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes by Steven Rubin, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Daniel Capps, Performed by Ashley Laracey, Zachary Catazaro, Sara Adams, Spartak Hoxha, Laine Habony, Sebastian Villarini-Velez, Ashley Hod, Devin Alberda, Unity Phelan, Cameron Dieck.

I’m always happy to see a Peter Martins revival piece, as they’re usually brimming with ebullience and youthful energy, a great way to open a weekend matinee. This was the case with his 1991 Ash, seen in contrasting shades of blue, purple, and black, and set to a Michael Torke score. Zachary Catazaro and Ashley Laracey partnered for a lyrical, lively duet, in which Mr. Catazaro ends up on his knee in rhythmic momentum. Devin Alberda, part of an eight-dancer ensemble, was dashing in his mid-air leaps, spins, and slide landings. I look forward to seeing Ash again in future seasons.

This Bitter Earth (Excerpt from Five Movements, Three Repeats) (2012): Music by Max Richter and Dinah Washington (from the modern picture soundtrack from “Shutter Island”), Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Reid Bartelme, Lighting by Mary Louise Geiger, Performed by Sara Mearns and Tyler Angle.

Wheeldon’s This Bitter Earth, a rapturous Pas de Deux, featuring Sara Mearns and Tyler Angle, was spellbinding in rhythmic motion, rapturous slides, lilting falls, languid lifts, gazes in ecstasy, and mystical gestalt. Mr. Angle, the consummate partner, showcased Ms. Mearns with attentive, physical support. The lighting shifts to orange, as Ms. Mearns pushes and pulls the air in elevated luminosity.

The Infernal Machine (2002): Music by Christopher Rouse, Choreography by Peter Martins, Costumes by Catherine Barinas, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Daniel Capps, Performed by Unity Phelan and Preston Chamblee.

This afternoon, this 2002 Martins work took on magic. Two young, Corps dancers, Preston Chamblee and Unity Phelan, created outsized chemistry and mutual charisma in this gripping, gyrating, powerful piece. The spontaneity was so refreshing, what balletomanes long for. The pulsating, percussive, atonal score, conducted by Daniel Capps, added to the heightened tension of Martins’ ballet. Mark Stanley’s spotlight showcased propulsive motion in the dimness, with Catherine Barinas’ elegantly effective costumes. Mr. Chamblee and Ms. Phelan were astounding in intertwining interconnectedness.

Jeux (2015): Music by Claude Debussy, Choreography by Kim Brandstrup, Costumes by Marc Happel, Lighting by Jean Kalman, Conductor: Daniel Capps, Performed by Lauren Lovette, Sara Mearns, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Craig Hall, and a Corps ensemble of ten.

Kim Brandstrup’s Jeux, which debuted last year, has a gorgeous orchestral score by Debussy, today conducted by Daniel Capps. One central character figures in this theatrical work, Sara Mearns. She appears distraught and blind-folded, wandering about, apparently seeking Craig Hall, an elusive love interest, who attaches first to her and then to Lauren Lovette. 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 ballet, This Bitter Earth, was now concealed in a bland, black costume, in keeping with this theme, the color of her blindfold.

What’s gripping about this ballet is its emotional tension, an element of film noir, à la Debussy. The choreography includes an ensemble waltz sequence, Mr. Hall’s rapturous lifts for Ms. Lovette, Mr. Danchig-Waring’s spinning of Ms. Mearns against his torso, and rapid dancing of the ensemble around or about Ms. Mearns, evocative 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 soon.

Paz de la Jolla (2013): Music by Bohuslav Martinů, Choreography by Justin Peck, Costumes by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung, Costumes Supervised by Marc Happel, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrews Sill, Performed by Sterling Hyltin, Tiler Peck, Amar Ramasar, and the Company.

Justin Peck is a native-born Californian, so Paz de La Jolla, choreographed to a score by Bohuslav Martinů, brings him home. This is a playful, lyrical ballet, with the Corps adding blue cotton skirts, when they lie down to morph into a human ocean. Amar Ramasar is the lucky guy at the beach who gets the girl, Sterling Hyltin. Another girl, Tiler Peck, a perky ingénue, serves as a one-girl Greek Chorus, who helps the young lovers reclaim each other amidst the waves and crowds. Mr. Ramasar is dressed in a costume of beach shorts, as Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung have kept the costume design inherently “at the shore’. The Corps is lively, as well, dancing cartwheels and jumping about, even clapping to wake the two lovebirds. When Ms. Hyltin wades into the rolling waves of Corps dancers, she seems more alive and abandoned. Mr. Ramasar is assisted by the beach-goers to find his soul-mate. They sleep, they wake, they swim, they frolic, they clap, all to the Southern California motif. In the ensemble, Taylor Stanley and Emilie Gerrity caught my eye.

Kudos to all.

New York City Ballet in Justin Peck's "Paz de la Jolla"
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