An Inspiring Evening with New York City Ballet

Every year my family goes to New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker around the holidays. And every year my Dad falls asleep during the Snow scene at the end of the first act. “It’s just so relaxing with the music and the falling snow!” He maintains each time. But dance, and ballet in particular, is not just beauty and soft scores. It is also thought provoking and inspiring; stimulating works with modern sensibilities. Thursday’s program was a clear indication that these elements of dance are alive and well at New York City Ballet.

The Company’s winter season is in full swing, with performances continuing through March 4th. Earlier in February, City Ballet premiered a new ballet by Corps member Peter Walker set to music by Oliver Davis. The piece, entitled “Dance Odyssey”, was on a three part bill that also featured “Red Violin” by Peter Martins, and “Russian Seasons” by Alexei Ratmansky. I went to the David H. Koch theater on Thursday to check it out, and had a wonderful evening!

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Red Violin Photo by Paul Kolnik

“Red Violin” by Martins with music by John Corigliano, features Martins’ signature complex partnering, and I was in awe of the athleticism required from each dancer to execute the choreography. The piece is not one of my favorites, but the cast was absolutely excellent, featuring superb dancers of all ranks. Emilie Gerrity and Joseph Gordon were ying and yang on Thursday, as if they were made to partner together. Their seamless execution of the difficult steps was exhilarating and electric. Megan LeCrone and Zachary Catazaro danced with a fierceness and cutting power that befit the mood of this piece. Harrison Coll, a member of the Corps de Ballet, just received the Janice Levin Dance Award, and it was clear why on Thursday. He is dancing with strong confidence and grace, and was a joy to watch on stage.

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Dance Odyssey Photo byAndrea Mohin/The New York Times

“Dance Odyssey” by Mr. Walker was the second piece of the evening, and I loved this new work by the up-and-coming young corps member. You could tell that the dancers love performing it as well. So, was this a new take of Homer’s “Odyssey” in dance form? Not exactly. There was little solo journeying, treachery, and certainly much more merriment, but the effect was bright and inventive. George Balanchine may have said that “Ballet is woman,” but I absolutely love watching the men in this Company dance. Their athleticism, strength, and finesse is striking and dazzling. I was especially taken by Adrian Danchig-Waring in this piece, and am thrilled to see him back from a long-term injury. Another favorite part was a short duet with Anthony Huxley and Devin Alberda that featured whimsical movement and nimble footwork. I wish there had been more of these two! Happily, this ballet will be back in the spring on April 28th, May 1st, May 22nd, and May 23rd.

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Sara Mearns in Russian Seasons.
Photo by Paul Kolnik

The final ballet of the evening, Alexei Ratmansky’s “Russian Seasons” set to a score by Leonid Desyatnikov, is a piece first presented by City Ballet in 2006. I had not had the privilege of seeing this ballet until Thursday, but have been a huge admirer of Mr. Ratmansky’s for many years. This performance did not disappoint! Russian Seasons is a very nuanced and fascinating piece that keeps the viewer engaged throughout. There are folk-dance inspired movements and dashes of humor amidst an exploration of larger themes such as celebration, love and death. Mr. Ratmansky has made comments about the notion of “equality” in ballet that has come up in recent years with instances of same sex partnering and conversations around the roles of men and women in dance. He has asserted that “sorry, there is no such thing as equality in ballet: women dance on point, men lift and support women.” This is true in classical ballet, but that does not mean that a choreographer cannot innovate within this traditional realm. “Russian Seasons” is a perfect example of Mr. Ratmansky’s ability to do just that. Women in this ballet deliver rousing, electric and strong performances, while the men are able to be seen as both forceful and vulnerable.

NYCB’s Season runs through March 4th. Check out other upcoming performances here. I promise you will not be disappointed!