AUDIENCE REVIEW: Review of New York City Ballet's Digital Fall Season
New York City Ballet
Fall Season 2020
I chose to watch three different pieces from New York City Ballet’s Digital Fall Season 2020 New Works Festival; specifically “Thank You, New York,” “Water Rite,” and “New Song.” Below are my reviews on each piece.
In the piece titled “Thank You, New York,” it was an homage to NYC, directed and choreographed by Justin Peck, (NYCB resident choreographer/artistic advisor) with dancers Christopher Grant, Sara Mearns, Georgina Pazcoguin, and Taylor Stanley. The music was from a unique version of Chris Thile’s eponymous song also titled, “Thank You, New York.” Cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes expertly captured the dancing with creative angles, framing the movement amazingly. It began with scenic landscapes of NYC, with a voiceover of what NYC means to each dancer (ex: possibility, opportunity, freedom). It continues with each dancer expressing their frustration at not being able to perform because of the pandemic, and their desire to push through tension in order to make change. The dancers performed outdoors, and the balletic movements were fast and flowy, with one movement elegantly blending into the next. The dancers utilized street clothing and park landscapes in order to give a more casual vibe. The music is dynamic, and allows the dancers to be expressive. It’s incredibly passionate, and there are a lot of quick coupe steps and port-de-bras. I was quite impressed with the fast footwork/choreography, as well as the ability to do pirouettes in sneakers on the cement sidewalks, showcasing the high technical level. I enjoyed the different background changes, as well as the zoom-ins with the cinematography highlighting different parts of the dancer. I felt like the movement really matched the music, and was a fun way to depart from the conventional balletic movement from New York City Ballet. I loved the ending, with all the dancers turning in alternate ways (pirouettes, chaine turns), and then one of the dancers lies down on the floor in complete submission to her love for New York. I interpreted it as the dancer completely giving everything she/he has to dance, emotionally and physically, and devoting everything to the art form. Overall, I found the piece incredibly moving, shining a light on the overwhelmingly immense existence of arts in New York City, regardless of the pandemic, and each dancer's devotion to that art, even during a time where it can’t be conventionally enjoyed in a theater. I would have enjoyed there to be some slower moves, to provide a juxtaposition in dynamics to all the fast, short movements, but I still appreciate the choreography matching the music so well, and I understand why it was choreographed the way it was, enjoying it nonetheless.
The second piece I viewed was titled “Water Rite,” choreographed by Jamar Roberts (first work for NYCB), as a solo created for Corps de Ballet member Victor Abreu, and set to music by Ambrose Akinmusire (“Inflated by Spinning,”), which was performed by NYCB Orchestra musicians and directed by Ezra Hurwitz. It was filmed right in Lincoln Center, in the water/pool area, which I found as an interesting obstacle to dance in. The cinematography was fascinating, being recorded through the large water statue by Jon Chema. The twirling fast movements allowed the dancer, Victor Abreu, to interact in an interesting duet-like fashion with the water, splashing it with the vigor of his spins and kicks. The music was building and dynamic, and matched the movement quite well. I was quite impressed at the scope of the movement, and the ability for the dancer to execute each step, given that the water acted as a force against it. I liked the circular port-de-bras, deep lounges, and isolations, as well as the articulations throughout the spine. The water wasn’t a gimmick, but rather a beautiful addition, which made the movement even more expressive and dynamic. The ending featured all of the orchestra standing in the water as well, which gave me chills, as it produced a haunting effect.
The final piece I watched was titled “New Song,” choreographed by Andrea Miller, and set to music by Victor Jara. NYCB soloists Harrison Coll, Unity Phelan, Indiana Woodward, and Sebastian Villarini-Velez were featured, and the video was directed by Ezra Hurwitz, with Jon Chema serving as director of photography. The beginning starts in the Avant-Garde landscape of Lincoln Center, with a female dancing on the balls of her feet, with many attitudes, floorwork, jumps, and traveling runs. The first soloist joins three others in the nature/tree area in Lincoln Center, with a duet/partnering section following. I loved the partnering, which involved intricate lifts above the head. The dancers were passionate, and flirtatious, and ended up submerged in the water, twirling around, with some footwork, as well as splashing the water on themselves in a cathartic manner. They appeared to be taking out their passion/pain on the water, which was quite visually stimulating, and amazing to watch. The end of the piece was one female soloist back-bending into the water, and I felt it was the perfect finishing tone to wrap the choreography up.
Overall, I greatly enjoyed all three pieces, and found them to be incredibly beautiful in terms of cinematography, with dynamic, interesting choreography, as well as a stunning setting (New York City locations, street corners, parks, and Lincoln Center’s pond/tree area/statues). I loved the more common, street-wear costumes, which took ballet out of the studio and into the world, making it a little less codified, stiff, and formal. I felt like all three pieces were incredibly passionate, and demonstrated a detour from traditional ballet, with more playful, modern-like movements. I liked the integration of the water in the second two pieces as well, and think New York City Ballet did an amazing job!