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New York City Ballet: Belles-Lettres, Mothership, American Rhapsody, Concerto DSCH
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New York City Ballet: Belles-Lettres, Mothership, American Rhapsody, Concerto DSCH

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

American Rhapsody
Concerto DSCH

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
Resident Choreographer: Justin Peck
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
May 7, 2016

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Belles-Lettres (2014): Music by César Franck, Choreography by Justin Peck, Costumes by Mary Katrantzou, Costumes supervised by Marc Happel, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Daniel Capps, Piano: Elaine Chelton, Performed by Lauren Lovette, Jared Angle, Ashley Laracey, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Brittany Pollack, Taylor Stanley, Rebecca Krohn, Tyler Angle, Anthony Huxley.

It was wonderful to see and listen to Justin Peck’s Belles-Lettres again, performed tonight by an exceptional ensemble of four couples and solo dancer, Anthony Huxley. To César Franck’s piano solo work, masterfully played by Elaine Chelton, and with dancers in Mary Katrantzou’s costumes, almost see-through, with lace and doily patterns, like authentic old letters, the mind is transported toward mystery and mayhem. Mark Stanley’s pinkish-black backdrop centers the elegance within. The Laracey-Danchig-Waring duo and the Pollack-Stanley duo should be seen more often in these partnerings. Anthony Huxley added frills as the lone solo, in sophisticated, mature fashion. Some imagery includes dancers spinning en pointe, while others stand stage rear, backs to the audience. I found this ballet evocative of Robbins’ In the Night, with its shimmery, romantic sweep. Daniel Capps conducted with panache.

Mothership (Premiere May 4, 2016): Music by Mason Bates, Choreography by Nicolas Blanc, Costumes by Marc Happel, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Clotilde Otranto, Performed by Jacqueline Bologna, Alston MacGill, Clara Frances, Claire Von Enck, Silas Farley, Alec Knight, Christopher Grant, Sebastian Villarini-Velez.

This premiere work for City Ballet, by Nicolas Blanc, is designed for a Corps ensemble of eight, danced to Mason Bates’ score of the same name. The piece is created for orchestra and electronica, with performers in Marc Happel’s leotards, long-sleeved burgundy for women and sleeveless navy for men. There’s much spinning, sliding, twisting, turning, all to the electronically infused musicality, expertly conducted by Clotilde Otranto. I look forward to seeing this again, as the eleven-minute piece flew by. In the ensemble, Silas Farley drew my eye, with his reliable seriousness of purpose.

American Rhapsody (Premiere May 4, 2016): Music by George Gershwin, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Scenic Design by Leslie Sardinias, Scenery supervised by Marc Stanley, Costumes by Janie Taylor, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrews Sill, Piano: Cameron Grant, Performed by Tiler Peck, Robert Fairchild, Unity Phelan, Amar Ramasar, and the Company.

There is no music quite like George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, and the symphonic version, used in Wheeldon’s new ballet, American Rhapsody, seen tonight in one of its earliest performances, is incomparably magnetic. Not only does City Ballet Orchestra expand this Gershwin masterpiece, but we are also dazzled by Leslie Sardinias’ spellbinding set in light and deep shades of blue, peach, and navy, with images of a full orange moon against the nighttime sky. Janie Taylor’s costumes are also in burnt orange, blue, and teal. Tiler Peck dances with her offstage partner, Robert Fairchild, who recently starred in Wheeldon’s An American in Paris on Broadway. He and Ms. Peck have a longstanding relationship with Mr. Wheeldon in additional choreographies, such as the 2013 A Place for Us.

Tonight, this duo did not disappoint, in the effervescent musicality and energy of their Pas de Deux. In fact, this segment of Wheeldon’s new ballet is worthy of Galas and special events. The other lead couple, Amar Ramasar and Unity Phelan, is in the exact same costumes as Ms. Peck and Mr. Fairchild, featured in teal, only the Ramasar-Phelan duo is featured in blood orange. The choreography, as well, overlaps that of the other lead duo. A sizeable Corps ensemble, eight men and eight women, is infused with the rhythms and jazz of this remarkable brassy, New York musicality. Each instrumental phrase is expanded in lifts, spins, and geometric shapes. I look forward to revisiting American Rhapsody soon.

Concerto DSCH (2008): Music by Dmitri Shostakovich, Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrews Sill, Piano: Susan Walters, Performed by Sara Mearns, Brittany Pollack, Tyler Angle, Gonzalo Garcia, Anthony Huxley, and the Company.

I remain struck by Holly Hynes’ orange-red, green-orange costumes, matching colors for each duo, with a bit of blue-grey, in Alexei Ratmansky’s Concerto DSCH,. scored to Shostakovich’s riveting score, his Second Piano Concerto. Susan Walters played the elegant “Andante” second movement (plus the other two, both “Allegro”), with its soulful, slow motion pas de deux. Ratmansky’s work is angular with dancers positioned with bent elbows, in the “Allegros”, leaping about each other with powerful ensemble athletics and vigorous surprises. Yet, the style remains balletic, never modern.

There are brisk, dynamic leaps, with tight timing, and full body springs that defy gravity. Concerto DSCH is replete with eloquence of mood, momentum, direction, and space. Now they fall on the stage, now they huddle, now they toss themselves about with abandon. There’s a taut design to this visual integration, and we cannot stop gazing at the gestalt. Moods shift, with flirtation, humor, the unexpected, and the audacious. Each lead danced to maximum potential, and, in the seven Corps duos, I was drawn to Gretchen Smith and Andrew Scordato.

Ashley Laracey and Adrian Danchig-Waring in Peck's "Belles-Lettres"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Unity Phelan and Amar Ramasar in Wheeldon's "American Rhapsody"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

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