AUDIENCE REVIEW: NYCB Performs Jerome Robbins's "Dances at a Gathering" (1969)
New York City Ballet
October 11, 2019
Once the lights dimmed and the hum of theatergoers settled, the curtain went up to reveal a blue-sky backdrop. The Chopin piano solo begins, and you are immediately transported to the edge of a field on a lovely spring day watching Gonzalo Garcia dance the first phrase of Jerome Robbins’s Dances at a Gathering. The practically perfectly choreographed collection of pas de deux, trios, and group sequences flowed on, around, and off stage with the grace and ease. However, the only thing that prevented this performance from realizing its fullest potential was the dancers themselves. Though New York City Ballet is usually impeccable with mix-ranked casting, I could very well distinguish the more seasoned artists from the greener ones. Emilie Gerrity’s performance was particularly lackluster for me. There was a wide range of emotions evoked by several of the dancers, and there were dynamics in their artistry. As the Girl in Mauve, Gerrity was stoic to the point of being cold, which could very well work for a Leotard Ballet but detracts from the openness and warmth of the piece. I can commend her on taking a risk by choosing to not be personable like everybody else. If properly executed, the contrast in sentiment could have potentially enhanced the work. However, Gerrity lacked the conviction to embody an aloof character fully, and she was one of the things that kept me from becoming utterly enthralled in the beautiful art at play.
Besides the Girl in Mauve, there were other unpleasant moments. At times, some of the dancers looked as though they were thinking about the steps rather than dancing them. I even caught quite a few apparent mishaps, which is atypical for the company that usually boasts some of the most consistent performers I have ever seen. Though mistakes are a part of live theater, the ones made appeared careless. Being just two days shy of the end of the season, I can imagine the fatigue was starting to get to the dancers, and the promise of rest was feeling more real with every passing second. However, as an audience member, I do not want to be made aware of the effort that goes into making something look effortless because the effort was not there in the first place.
The two things that still made the performance worthwhile were the ever fantastic and charismatic Indiana Woodward and Lauren Lovette. Woodward’s presence on stage makes me smile unknowingly; only when I feel my cheeks begin to ache do I even become aware of how much joy is radiating across my face. She appears unphased by athleticism required to execute the bountiful jumps and fancy footwork of the Girl in Apricot, all while exuding joy more genuine than you believed possible. And, then there is Lauren Lovette, who is everything you could ever want and more. I truly do not think I could give an account of her performance that would do her justice because, in order to understand, you would have had to have experienced it yourself.