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David H. Koch Theater
Lincoln Center, NYC
May 10, 2012
When the great ballerina Natalia Makarova joked that she had “danced every bird in the business,” she should have hedged her bets. Clichés don’t die easily on the ballet stage, and Makarova would have been prudent to add, “every bird, so far.”
Hatching in a nest already crowded with swans, firebirds, bluebirds, and nightingales, Mes Oiseaux opened New York City Ballet’s gala program earlier this month. Peter Martins choreographed it to showcase fledgling dancers Lauren Lovette, Ashly Isaacs, and Claire Kretzschmar, whom bird-catcher Taylor Stanley pursued and intercepted in various poses.
Mes Oiseaux alighted without energetic flapping, thank goodness, and without feathers. No pillows had to die to make the women’s flared black skirts, with splashes of color peeking out from beneath them. The ballet was essentially a plotless exhibition of steps. Yet Martins assigned to each woman a different movement character. Lovette hovered, fluid and mercurial, while Isaacs tore down center-stage all muscle and speed. Martins gave Kretzschmar the adagio to show off her long legs, draping her over Stanley’s shoulder.
Marc-André Dalbavie’s atmospheric score supplied all the mystery in this piece, since by hastening to introduce the women at the outset Martins precluded their making suspenseful entrances. They landed one-by-one on a series of dark chords, and steps repeated three times quickly grew predictable. In the end they flew away, leaving Stanley propped against and symbolically tied to the ground.
At least Mes Oiseaux possessed clarity. The evening’s second premiere, Benjamin Millepied’s over-reaching Two Hearts, featured ensembles within which different groups moved independently. Trying to imitate the knitted complexity of a Trisha Brown, Millepied created an impossible muddle. Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle were the hapless lovers at the center of this thicket, discovering each other as if by chance, abandoning and resuming their duet in a way that unintentionally suggested diffidence. The ensemble, too, would freeze and gradually return to life. A gruesome folk song (included in Nico Muhly’s score) and Constructivist costumes added to the outlandish jumble of ideas.
Millepied has a knack for winning attention—not least through his relationship with Hollywood actress Natalie Portman. But while this wanna-be choreographer’s name is everywhere, nothing he has produced thus far suggests he has any talent.
Designer Marc Happel’s updated costumes for Symphony in C are still a study in black-and-white contrasts, but now the women’s bosoms have been stuffed with Swarovsky crystals. This garish bling only draws our eyes away from their legs and feet.
Megan Fairchild brought musical sensitivity to the first movement, but is too petite to command the role. Flimsily partnered by Jonathan Stafford, Sara Mearns labored in the adagio and was outshone by demi-soloist Ashley Laracey, a lyrical young dancer always fully present. Joaquín de Luz still flies, if dancing to a slower tempo, in the third movement. Fourth-movement leader Tiler Peck emerged radiant and serene to become the heroine of this evening, with partner Adrian Danchig-Waring showing off his beautiful jump, and clean, extended lines.
New York City Ballet continues at the David H. Koch Theater through June 10. See www.nycballet.com.
For another take on Millepied's Two Hearts, see Wendy Perron's blog here.
Pictured at top: Claire Kretzschmar and Taylor Stanley in Martins' Mes Oiseaux.
Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.