New York City Ballet is into the third week of its Winter Season 2013 program, and if audiences were given a lavish selection of ballets during the first two weeks, this week’s offerings are every bit as enticing. Along with master choreographers George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, the line-up features works by Christopher Wheeldon, William Forsythe, Alexei Ratmansky, Peter Martins, and a world premiere by Company member, Justin Peck.
The Jerome Robbins work is ‘Glass Pieces’ which premiered in 1983, and represented quite a departure for New York City Ballet - both in terms of choreography and choice of music. The title of the ballet derives from the musical setting - a selection of pieces by contemporary composer, Philip Glass. Glass was “a natural magnet” for the choreographer, says Robbins’ biographer Amanda Vaill. His music is normally described as “minimalist”, however Glass prefers “music with repetitive structures”, and Jerome Robbins used it to great effect in this portrayal of the pulsating energy of “our systemized life” - in the words of New York Times critic, Anna Kisselgoff. “Mr Robbins succeeded in taking ballet into a brave new world,” she wrote at the time of the premiere. "'Glass Pieces' is stunning.”
Watch a video clip of 'Glass Pieces'
When Justin Peck’s ‘Year of the Rabbit’ premiered last fall, it received a very enthusiastic reception. Described as an “elaboration” of his ‘Tales of a Chinese Zodiac’ which he created in 2010 for the New York Choreographic Institute, this work is a collaboration with American singer-songwriter, Sufjan Stevens, whose electronica album and song cycle ‘Enjoy Your Rabbit’ was also inspired by the Chinese zodiac. ‘Year of the Rabbit’ is performed to Michael Atkinson’s new orchestration of the score, which he created for the ballet.
Follow this link to see a promotional video clip for ‘Year of the Rabbit’
The final work in this program is George Balanchine’s ‘Vienna Waltzes’. A native of Saint Petersburg, Balanchine is known to have been fascinated by the imperial grandeur which was so much a part of his youth. The Viennese waltz reflects the splendor and elegance of the Hapsburg court, and ‘Vienna Waltzes’ is Balanchine’s tribute to this glittering era. Described in the program notes as “a work of monumental scale, with a magnificent finale”, the ballet moves from the moonlit forests of Austria to the ballrooms of Vienna, with music by Johann Strauss Jr, Franz Lehar and Richard Strauss - the pieces chosen to reflect the way in which this dance form evolved over the years. Costume designs are by Karinska, who was for many years NYCB’s principal costume-maker.
Also taking place this week is the Company’s New Combinations Evening. An annual event, it’s a tribute to the legacy of George Balanchine, held around the anniversary of his birth, and an occasion on which world premiere ballets are presented.
The world premiere for this season is another work by Justin Peck, his third commission for the Company in the past six months - the other two being ‘In Creases’ which debuted in summer 2012, and ‘Year of the Rabbit’. Peck, a 25 year-old member of the Corps de Ballet, is one of the youngest choreographers commissioned by New York City Ballet. His new ballet is set to a score by 20th century Czech composer, Bohuslav Martinů - ‘Sinfonietta La Jolla’.
This video clip shows Peck rehearsing the Company in his new work
On the same program is a rarely performed work by Balanchine, ‘Variations Pour une Porte et un Soupir’ - a series of 14 variations, as pas de deux, set to Pierre Henry’s music of the same name, which translates as ‘Variations for a Door and a Sigh'. The score reproduces a range of sounds associated with human sighing and the opening and closing of a door. The pas de deux in this avant-garde work are performed by a woman in a black cape - representing the Door - and a man who portrays the Sigh.
Alexei Ratmansky’s stylish and contemporary ‘Concerto DSCH’, is set to the equally stylish - and popular - Shostakovich Piano Concerto No 2. Ratmansky - presently Artist in Residence with American Ballet Theatre - created it for New York City Ballet’s 2008 spring season, to a score which fairly brims with the optimism felt by the composer after the ending of the Stalinist era. The ballet takes its title from a musical motif with which Shostakovich represented himself. The four notes of this motif, in German notation, stand for his initials in the German spelling of his name: D Sch.
The final set of works to be presented this week includes Christopher Wheeldon’s ‘Polyphonia’, set to ten piano pieces by György Ligeti. It was his fourth work for the Company, and the first choreographed after his retirement from NYCB, when he became its first-ever Artist in Residence in 2000.
The program also includes William Forsythe’s pas de deux from his ballet, ‘Herman Schmerman’, which he created for NYCB as part of the 1992 Diamond Project, and set to an electronic score by Thom Willems,
Peter Martins’ ‘The Waltz Project’ takes its name from a collection of piano waltzes compiled by Robert Moran in 1976 - all written by American composers. Included in the contributors were Milton Babbitt, Philip Glass, Morton Gould, Roger Sessions and Moran himself. The collection premiered at Chicago’s Art Institute in 1978, and was recorded in 1981 as ‘Waltz Project’. Peter Martins’ selections are danced by four couples, in a work which debuted in 1988 as part of New York City Ballet’s first American Music Festival.
All performances will take place at the Company’s home, the David H Koch Theater at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets can be obtained at the theater’s box office, at www.nycballet.com and by phone at 212-496-0600.
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