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All the duets were beautiful, strange, interesting. But what really knocked me out was Fools Paradise, Wheeldon's latest group piece. It has a mysterious elegiac quality and it just keeps coming…in twos, in threes, in sixes, and finally in nine. Half way through, there’s even a sort of danger, a little like his piece Shambards for New York City Ballet. He gives the eye so much to look at. Almost symmetrical shapes, that become twisted or soaring or human in some way. In one section two congruent trios in different parts of the stage had a delicacy of touching bodies that drew me in completely. The mathematics of his group pieces (how many are dancing in which sections) isn’t easy to grasp quickly, like say in Balanchine’s work, but you’re always interested to see what will happen.
Of the several duets shown, I really enjoyed Tryst Pas de Deux, made in 2002 for The Royal Ballet’s Darcey Bussell and Jonathan Cope. They performed it last night, with a backdrop that’s lit like a Rothko painting, both shimmering and bleak. Bussell is magnificently pliant and yet crystal clear. There’s a cool, slightly dark feeling, but mostly she is fascinating to watch fold and unfold, sometimes leading with her behind or swiveling her hips while on exquisite point.
The seven-song There Where She Loved (2000) is bursting with tenderness and poignancy, and there are sublime moments when the live singer reaches a note that melds with a dancer’s lift. It brought out great performances in the NYCB dancers, sometimes whole new aspects.
First Ashley Bouder. She’s been an exciting dancer these last couple years, but never have I seen her do such small subtle, funny movements as the little yoyo thing she did with her hand as though controlling her flexed foot like a yoyo.
Second Craig Hall. In the opening of the second song (Kurt Weill’s “Surabaya-Johnny”), a Marlon Brando-type sensual-type insolent-type is sitting/slumping on a chair and I can’t tell who the dancer is. But the women (Ashley Laracey is the first) feel his charisma. It’s Craig Hall, with a kind of sexiness I rarely see in ballet. Previously he’s been an attentive partner but not much of a presence.
Third Maria Kowroski, who always has exquisite line, but sometimes a bit vacant. In the last song (Weill’s “Je ne t’aime pas”) she is a real woman, torn by her conflicting emotions.
And Aesha Ash, last seen wandering through Alonzo King’s work, seemingly having lost the confidence and robust quality she has while in NYCB, is here absolutely radiant and gorgeous.
I came looking to see if Wheeldon could craft a varied evening. I didn’t find that exactly, because well, the evening wasn’t varied enough. Even the guest choreographer, Forsythe, is in the same vein (though I loved Wendy Whelan and Edwaard Liang in it). And there 's a slight problem in that Wheeldon is so fascinated by shapes and relationships that there wasn't much kinetic momentum—until Fools’ Paradise. But I left feeling overwhelmed by his choreography…even deeper and more beautiful than I had thought.