Ballet has the stigma of being old, dry, and unexciting – I remember my family griping about “serious ballets” before coming to one of my numerous dance recitals growing up, and even now it’s often tough to get a non-dancer to come with me to see a ballet performance. This stigma is extremely unfortunate, however, because the work being done in the ballet world right now is extraordinary and anything but old.
New York City Ballet is one of the major ballet companies based in NYC, and was created by the ballet master George Balanchine. The company performs his legendary works with great frequency (one of his works will most often close a show), but the company is anything but a stale shrine to this artistic genius. While they keep alive the spirit and original choreography of Balanchine, the current Ballet Master and Artistic Director (Peter Martins) has also kept the company fresh and exciting.
This current season, showing at the David H. Koch theater in Lincoln Center from May 2 to June 27, is titled Architecture of Dance. In addition to showing the standard Balanchine works and a mix of old choreography created for the company, seven new ballets have been commissioned. The choreographers worked with an architect, the Spanish-born Santiago Calatrava to create the scenery for the stage. It is rare to have such collaboration with other artists for a ballet performance, and this type of interaction between artists shows just how innovative NYCB is attempting to be.
In the performance I saw last night, I saw an older work by Christopher Wheeldon, a premiere by Mauro Bigonzetti, and a Balanchine piece set to music by George Gershwin.
Wheeldon’s piece, “After the Rain,” was a ballet in two short acts. The second act in particular, featuring Wendy Whelan and Craig Hall, was breathtaking. Whelan was ethereal and beautiful, and Hall, who I had never seen before, was simultaneously strong and elegant. Using simple costumes and background scenery, this piece was an excellent example of Wheeldon’s contemporary style.
The Architecture of Dance piece in last night’s bill (Bigonzetti’s “Luce Nascosta“) was not quite what I anticipated. I had expected a more overt use of architecture, but this piece instead used a simple moving decoration overhead and an innovative use of lighting (square spotlights, gobo designs flooding the stage, and so on). Architecture aside, this piece was phenomenal. The costumes were dark but worked well with the mood, and the movement was individualized and unique. The repetition of certain themes pulled the piece together well, and it was so powerful that at times I was even close to tears! It is very much in the realm of contemporary ballet, and I highly suggest catching this piece before the season ends.
The last piece was a standard Balanchine fare, “Who Cares?” It was well done, especially showing off the talents of now-famous Tiler Peck and a rhythmically stellar Robert Fairchild. It is from Balanchine’s more Broadway-influenced period, but full of legitimate choreography and funny narratives to keep you entertained.
I plan on going again soon to see at least one more of the newly commissioned ballets – I’m particularly looking forward to the pieces by Peter Martins, Christopher Wheeldon, and Alexei Ratmansky. Lucky for me, this is financially possible – normal ballet tickets cost big bucks, but students can rush the show for a mere $12!
To get these cheap tickets, go to the box office in the David H. Koch theater an hour before curtain with your valid student ID. You can pay with cash or credit card, and then enjoy the West Side or simply sit by the fountain until the curtain goes up. Be sure to get there at least ten minutes prior to curtain in order to get seated, and consider bringing opera glasses if you get seated too far up. Last night I got to sit in the Second Ring and didn’t have a bad view, but seat availability for rush tickets changes from night to night. And a word to the wise – the gelato in Lincoln Center is the perfect refreshment right before entering the theater, just make sure you finish it before walking in!
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