This Bitter Earth – 21st Century Choreographers, NYCB

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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.