David H. Koch Theater
January 31, 2013
Justin Peck may only be in his mid-twenties, but based on Paz de la Jolla, his new work for New York City Ballet, he senses the poignancy of fleeting youth. After the success of last year’s Year of the Rabbit for NYCB, Peck once again shows his skill with structure, group geometries, detailed ballet phrasing, and showcasing his peers to great advantage. The premiere’s title nods at both Peck’s Southern Californian roots and Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu’s lush, pleasurable accompanying music, Sinfonietta la Jolla.
A beachfront setting is implied by the women’s bathing suits and the men’s tees and shorts (by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung), with the exception of one Marilyn-style white dress, on Sterling Hyltin, who flirts and gambols with Amar Ramasar. Tiler Peck, the third lead, dances several bravura solos full of rapid weight shifts, darting footwork, and off-kilter turns. Despite the devilishly hard phrases, Peck dances exuberantly, and later does a series of à la seconde turns, traditionally done by men. Tiler Peck is one of the company’s most musical, expressive, and skilled dancers; she can handle any technical challenge.
Sterling Hyltin, Amar Ramasar, and Tiler Peck in Justin Peck's Paz de La Jolla.
All photos by Paul Kolnik, courtesy NYCB.
Ramasar and Hyltin portray a more traditional romantic couple, but their partnering feels like a playful date. He repeatedly lifts Hyltin to modest heights, sometimes breezily away from his body, and spins her in pirouettes punctuated with her arms first low, then medium, then high. As he naps, Hyltin is engulfed by the corps of 15, now clad in filmy blue tunics to form a beckoning human wave, encircling her in trios. Hyltin, a precise, petite dancer, moves with power and boldness here, seemingly relishing a newfound liberation. The corps members pair off, showcased in brief segments that weave in bits of folk dance.
If Peck has learned from Alexei Ratmansky—from his orderly geometric patterns, cues from nature, and a relaxed wit that flickers throughout—he holds his own with his clever, curlicue ballet phrases and a spirited inventiveness. He favors elegant lines and shapes arms in lovely, soft curves that contrast with Balanchine’s fully extended ones, which often end with splayed fingers. And the dancers look like they’re having a blast.
NYCB will perform Paz de La Jolla again on Feb. 6 and Feb. 8.
The company's winter season continues through Feb. 24.
Pictured at top: Sterling Hyltin and Amar Ramasar.