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New York City Ballet Delights With a Varied Robbins Triple Bill

The All Robbins program offered this spring season by New York City Ballet is a testament to the range and depth of the choreographer’s genius. “Glass Pieces”, the 1983 work to the driving rhythms of music by Philip Glass, is an ideal opener with its masterful blend of postmodern and classical movement styles that call to mind the pulsating urgency of urban life.

On Friday, May 9th 2014, Rebecca Krohn and Amar Ramasar were outstanding in the section of “Glass Pieces” entitled “Facades”. He is one of my favorite NYCB dancers and he just keeps getting better. His technique is superb, but what really makes him a cut above is his believable emoting and his genuine connection with whomever he is partnering.

However, the ensemble work was less than perfect – especially the ladies, who couldn’t seem to stay in line. This flaw was particularly apparent when they faced off with the gentlemen, who were in precise single file. I’ve pointed out the sloppiness of City Ballet corps work before. Part of the fault must lie with the rehearsal directors but I think a larger problem is that the dancers, most of whom must be yearning for solo and principal work down the road, simply aren’t willing to be team players.

After an intermission, Tiler Peck and Robert Fairchild led the cast of “Opus 19/The Dreamer”, choreographed in 1979 for Mikhail Baryshnikov and Patricia McBride to the music of Prokofiev. Peck and Fairchild filled those famous shoes expertly, as they did when I saw the piece back in February. In fact Peck often reminds me of McBride, with her speedy and spot on footwork and larger-than-life stage presence. The ensemble was better in this offering, a dream-like evocation of a man in search of an elusive or perhaps imaginary love. Applause as well to solo violinist Kurt Nikkanen.

My favorite Jerome Robbins ballet, “The Concert, or the Perils of Everybody”, rounded out the evening. A comedic romp with one marvelous visual joke after another, the work never fails to elicit hearty laughter from start to finish.   

The curtain opens to reveal a grand piano downstage right. While the orchestra plays a rousing Chopin composition, pianist Elaine Chelton marches across from stage left with hilariously overstated pomp and reaches the piano just in time to bow on the last note of the selection. That is the first of many laugh-out-loud moments.

Chelton, who plays the Chopin piano selections extremely well, has a real gift for humor. She repeatedly interacts with the dancers who are her “audience” for the “concert” and often upstages the best of them. A choice moment happens at the very end of the ballet when she grabs a huge butterfly net and chases the cast, all of whom are in outlandish butterfly costumes by then. As you might imagine, the dancers – including the lead trio of Maria Kowrowski, Andrew Veyette, and talented corps member Gwyneth Muller -- had been romping to the Chopin piece that has been dubbed the “Butterfly “ Etude.

The absolutely choicest witticism of the ballet, however, is the satire about a corps de ballet gone wrong. One girl is always either a little behind or doing a different step from everyone else. You really have to see it to understand how riotously funny it is!  

Speaking of which, you still have time to catch this program on May 17th at 8 p.m. and May 18th at 3 p.m. If you’re in town, hurry on over to the Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. You’ll be glad you did!

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