Vespro – 21st Century Choreographers, NYCB

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Vespro
21st Century Choreographers III
New York City Ballet
3 May 2014
Lincoln Center, NYC

Music: Bruno Moretti
Choreography: Mauro Bigonzetti
Principal Casting: Maria Kowroski, Brittany Pollack, Tyler Angle, Jonathan Stafford, Joaquin De Luz
Pianist: Alan Moverman
Mezzo-Soprano: Meg Bragle
Soprano Saxophone: Ed Joffe

Costumes: Julius Lumsden (Costumes Supervised by Holly Hynes)
Lighting: Mark Stanley

Premiere: 2002, New York State Theater

Vespro is the first of three Bigonzetti/Moretti ballets commissioned by NYCB, the others being In Vento (2006) and Oltremare (2008). The designer Julius Lumsden, an artist in residence at NYCB, is also a strong presence in this dance, with costumes that evoke Italian Futurismo.

Vespro is choreographed for 13 dancers and three on-stage musicians – a pianist, soprano saxophonist, and a countertenor (who was replaced by a mezzo-soprano for this performance). The libretto is based on writings by Michelangelo Buonarroti.

The ballet begins with Joaquin De Luz first perched on top of the piano, then crashing onto it repeatedly as the other dancers observe and respond. This male lead – originally choreographed for Benjamin Millepied – is a tour de force, with an unusual focus on the upper body. In fact, all the dancers perform at the edge of the impossible, ever challenged with going off-balance.

But Saturday’s performance was mostly distinguished by the appearance of Maria Kowroski, the only remaining dancer from the original cast. As if into a bespoke gown, Ms. Kowroski slipped effortlessly into Vespro‘s extreme neoclassical forms.