Amidst recent turmoil behind the scenes, the incomparable New York City Ballet is still admirably taking risks. I saw the Company in a mixed repertoire performance on the heels of the announcement that principal male dancers Amar Ramasar and Zachary Catazaro had been fired for “inappropriately sharing texts of sexually explicit photographs,” according to The New York Times. A third principal, Chase Finlay, resigned soon before, having allegedly participated in similar behavior. All of this is coming to light at a time when scandal is already plaguing the City Ballet. George Balanchine’s protégé and successor Peter Martins retired from his role as ballet master in chief early this year among accusations of abuse and sexual misconduct.
But despite the difficult atmosphere, the Company chose not to play it safe in this refreshing performance. There were no standards on the program, which featured three new works and one piece from 2006. Most notably, considering the current climate, the male dancers featured prominently. In Matthew Neenan’s new piece “The Exchange,” only principal dancer Tiler Peck’s phenomenal technique and artistry could compete with the eight men for attention. The same was true in “In Vento,” Mauro Bigonzetti’s 2006 commission for the Company. Bigonzetti dedicated the piece to Balanchine, whom he calls his “master and master of all [his] masters.” But unlike Balanchine, who said, “the ballet is a purely female thing; it is a woman, a garden of beautiful flowers, and man is the gardener,” Bigonzetti’s “In Vento” does not relegate its men to the task of supporting the women. Instead, it frees them to perform with bravura. Again, only Peck, whose every move enraptures, could draw the eye away.
Kyle Abraham’s unconventional new City Ballet collaboration closed the program. “The Runaway” is a hip-hop/ballet mashup rarely seen on the Lincoln Center stage and set to music by artists including Kanye West and Jay-Z music, also a welcome rarity for setting. The breakout star of this piece is Taylor Stanley. As the male lead, Stanley seamlessly melds ballet technique with full hip-hop flair. “The Runaway” was another showcase for the male dancers, as well as for eye-catching, “animal couture” costumes. The aesthetic was also a mashup, which I can only describe as high fashion-tribal-manga. Perhaps a more apt title for the dance would be, “The Runway.”
In a program featuring men, only one female choreographer was included. Gianna Riesen’s new work, “Judah” is a colorful piece with tons of air in it, blending leads Lauren Lovette and Preston Chamblee with the ensemble dancers in a semi-narrative piece. It was the best of the night.
Catch the Company in its final fall season performances this week. Programs include works by co-founding choreographer and Broadway icon Jerome Robbins, and a farewell evening featuring fifteen-year City Ballet veteran Joaquin De Luz dancing Balanchine, Robbins, and Martins.