Tag Archives: ballet

Barber Violin Concerto – 21st Century Choreographers, NYCB


Barber Violin Concerto
21st Century Choreographers I
New York City Ballet
29 April 2014
Lincoln Center, NYC

Music: Samuel Barber
Choreography: Peter Martins
Principal Casting: Sara Mearns, Ask la Cour, Megan Fairchild, Jared Angle
Solo Violinist: Arturo Delmoni

Costumes: William Ivey Long
Lighting: Jennifer Tipton

Premiere: 1988, American Music Festival, New York State Theater, with Merrill Ashley, Adam Lüders, Kate Johnson, David Parsons

Peter Martins’ ballet on Samuel Barber’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra was one of four pre-21st century works presented in last week’s program.

Originally performed by Merrill Ashley and Adam Lüders of NYCB as the classical couple, with Kate Johnson and David Parsons of the Paul Taylor Dance Company as the modern couple, Barber Violin Concerto improves with age, if a quick reading of reviews over the years is any indication.

Check out a couple of sentences from Anna Kisselgoff‘s scathing review of the premiere:

“What Mr. Martins had in mind in ‘Barber Violin Concerto’ is almost too clear in its definition of modern dance and ballet… Ballet is elegant and aristocratic while modern dance is primitive and uncouth? Not to anyone who has seen any dance for the last 50 years.”

Then compare Roslyn Sulkas, writing in 2010:

“‘Barber’ demonstrates Mr. Martins’s best attributes as a choreographer: a gift for ingenious partnering; an unpredictable responsiveness to the music; a craftsmanship in moving dancers around the stage. Each pair first dances alone. Then the couples meet, ultimately exchanging partners. The heart of the work is the pas de deux by the ballerina and the modern dance man, in which his faunlike primitivism is tamed by, but also incorporated into, her fluid expansiveness. The breadth and sweep of Ms. Mearns’s dancing is extraordinary here, and she has an apparently instinctive sense of how to imprint a movement momentarily on the eye, even as it seems part of an ineluctable flow. Mr. Angle, a wonderful partner who can often be a muted personality onstage, brought real force to his weighted, hooked-arm movement. And in the final cross-genre duo of the Barber concerto, Mr. Askegard and Ms. Fairchild were potent and funny as a dreaming prince and the buzzing-fly irritant that he must finally acknowledge.”

Time and the evolution of culture are the differentiating factors. It’s that context of zeitgeist that I love about ballet.

(Hold that thought! More to come about Megan Fairchild and Sara Mearns, as well as about the New York City Ballet Orchestra, in future posts.)

This Bitter Earth – 21st Century Choreographers, NYCB


This Bitter Earth
21st Century Choreographers I
New York City Ballet
29 April 2014
Lincoln Center, NYC

Music: Dinah Washington and Max Richter
Choreography: Christopher Wheeldon
Principal Casting: Wendy Whelan, Tyler Angle

Costumes: Valentino (Costume Supervision: Mark Happel)
Lighting: Mary Louise Geiger

Premiere: 2012, Vail International Dance Festival, with Wendy Whelan and Tyler Angle

Following Les Bosquets, (a brief “pièce d’occasion conceived by 2014 Art Series collaborator JR, featuring guest artist Lil Buck and original music by Woodkid”), Program I opened with Christopher Wheeldon’s poignantly lyrical This Bitter Earth, a duet from his Five Movements, Three Repeats.

Returning to the NYCB stage for her final season before “retiring” (to focus on new collaborations in modern dance) – Wendy Whelan reaffirmed her supreme command of post-Balanchine classicism in a razor-sharp performance that adeptly carried the emotional weight of the Clyde Otis ballad, as realized by Dinah Washington:

This bitter earth
Well, what fruit it bears
What good is love that no one shares
And if my life is like the dust that hides the glow of a rose
What good am I?
Heaven only knows.

Choreographer Wheeldon incorporated into his ballet the conclusion to the soundtrack of Martin Scorsese’s 2010 thriller Shutter Island , in which Scorsese’s longtime musical collaborator Robbie Robertson layered Dinah Washington’s vocal over Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight”, creating a mash-up that “collapses worlds of time and idiom into an improbably pure evocation of a shuttering heart.” (Bradley Bambarger, New Jersey On-Line)

In future posts I will have more to write about the integrative genius I see at play within this company.

Live Another Day – Ballet in the 21st Century


21st Century Choreographers
New York City Ballet
29 April – 4 May 2014
Lincoln Center, NYC

Pace, Jennifer Homans, but I think Apollo’s angels may not quite be ready for their eulogy. A close reading of New York City Ballet’s three-night survey of contemporary ballet gives cause for hope that this “most impossibly fantastic art form” may defy the odds to survive for yet another generation, and even emerge anew as the century’s preeminent performing art.

Over the next several posts, I’ll discuss some of these ballets with an eye to the future, and try to provide some context to help appreciate the significance of the performances and their reception, along with a sense of the zeitgeist that I believe set this experience apart.




Principal Casting: Sara Adams, Devin Alberda, Jared Angle, Tyler Angle, Daniel Applebaum, Harrison Ball, Ashley Bouder, Ask la Cour, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Joaquin De Luz, Megan Fairchild, Robert Fairchild, Gonzalo Garcia, Emilie Gerrity, Joseph Gordon, Craig Hall, Anthony Huxley, Sterling Hyltin, Russell Janzen, Maria Kowroski, Claire Kretzschmar, Rebecca Krohn, Lauren Lovette, Sara Mearns, Tiler Peck, Allen Peiffer, Brittany Pollack, Amar Ramasar, Teresa Reichlen, Gretchen Smith, Abi Stafford, Jonathan Stafford, Sean Suozzi, Daniel Ulbricht, Andrew Veyette, Lydia Wellington, Wendy Whelan

*The program also included Les Bosquets, “a pièce d’occasion conceived by 2014 Art Series collaborator JR, featuring guest artist Lil Buck and original music by Woodkid.”