Friday 8 March 2024

Dance: Pushing forward

New York City Ballet: Mixed Bill
Sadler's Wells, London • 7-10.Mar.24 ★★★★

Displaying skills at the very peak of the artform, the New York City Ballet continues to blend a reverence of classical forms with modern touches. So this mixed bill is packed with moments that feel surprising and even thrilling as they subvert expectations. This is a spirit-lifting programme featuring four distinct pieces...

choreography Justin Peck
music Nico Muhly
dancers Megan Fairchild, Miriam Miller, Jacqueline Bologna, Sara Adams, Indiana Woodward, Unity Phelan, Daniel Ulbricht, Victor Abreu, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Sebastián Villarini-Vélez, Jules Mabie, Gilbert Bolden III
conductor Andrews Sill

First up is Justin Peck's jaunty gathering of 12 dancers wearing colourful practice garb, floating in shapes together and separately, echoing each other and then shooting off individually as if they are in a rehearsal jam session. It's expressive and fluid, with an almost weightless, bouncy sensibility that reveals the dancers' lyrical athleticism. Further impressive sequences include duets, solos and more group numbers, all held together with the buzzy choreography and bright music, performed live by an orchestra. Most powerful is the connection we feel between the dancers as they spin around each other, revealing a camaraderie that adds to the impact of the piece.

Duo Concertant
choreography George Balanchine
music Igor Stravinsky
dancers Megan Fairchild, Anthony Huxley
piano Elaine Chelton • violin Kurt Nikkanen

There's an instant cheeky sense of interaction between two musicians and two dancers on-stage, as Stravinsky's music starts things off before the physical movement begins. Balanchine's choreography still feels fresh and inventive, revealing beautiful lines, big emotions and engagingly expansive expressions. As these two gifted dancers spiral around the stage, they continually offer humane touches that bare their souls, with added moments of wit, emotion and dazzling footwork. Throughout the piece, they return to the piano and violin to get lost in the music, regroup and set off again. It culminates with a lovely black stage illuminated with action in tiny spotlights.

Gustave Le Gray No 1
choreography Pam Tanowitz
music Caroline Shaw
dancers Naomi Corti, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Ruby Lister, Mira Nadon
piano Stephen Gosling

The piano remains on-stage, as four performers appear dressed in red, with floaty drapes over full-body suits. Once again, there is interaction between the musician and the dancers, but this has a more technical feel to it, choreographed to focus on movement and shapes rather than deeper emotions. It's beautiful, with fascinating touches and some wonderfully cool moments. It's also rather self-conscious in the way it plays out, revealing impressive skill without deeper emotionality. The highlight is a wonderfully absurd sequence in which the dancers push the piano across the stage, and the pianist doesn't miss a note. 

Love Letter (on shuffle)
choreography Kyle Abraham
music James Blake
dancers Olivia Boisson, Jacqueline Bologna, Naomi Corti, Christopher Grant, Emily Kikta, Ruby Lister, Malorie Lundgren, Jules Mabie, Alexa Maxwell, Roman Mejia, Mckenzie Bernardino Soares, Taylor Stanley, Quinn Starner, Kennedy Targosz, Peter Walker

Ending on a high, this final piece is a wonderfully engaging mix of classical ballet moves with modern dance and hip-hop. The performances and choreography are often exhilarating, accompanied by soulful music that continually reveals new textures. This is a visceral piece that unfolds in a series of terrific variations in pace, creating an expressive, intriguing dreamlike atmosphere that's infused with life and humour. The movement is luxuriant, performed with serious strength while the 15 dancers allow their personalities to emerge in their interaction. With clever costumes that feature theatrical flourishes, and colourful lighting that adds textures to the floor, this is a lovely collection of impressive solos, romantic duets and buoyant group moments, coming full circle with Joy Division's Atmosphere.

For information: SADLER'S WELLS >

photos by Erin Baiano & Paul Kolnik • 7.Mar.24

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