NYCB on Balanchine's Birthday

January 27, 2009

Though I’m the furthest thing from a bunhead without completely falling off the dance spectrum, I appreciate ballet and its importance in every dancer’s life, including my own. I may not love executing (or attempting to execute) a challenging adage in class, but that doesn’t mean I don’t worship a great ballet performance. I was lucky enough to see the New York City Ballet last week at Lincoln Center, the night of Balanchine’s birthday.

I’d never seen any of the pieces performed live, so I was super excited! Plus, I was sitting with Margaret, the newest editor at Dance Spirit, who happens to be a bona fide bunhead with great inside info about the amazing dancers. There was also a world premiere by Douglas Lee called Lifecasting. It was a cool experience to be present for the very first performance of a piece—it felt like I was part of history in the making. Alluding to the sculpture technique of making molds from human body parts, Lee’s creation called for the leggiest dancers—Maria Kowroski and Kaitlyn Gilliand—I’ve ever seen!

Angelin Preljocaj’s La Stravaganza was by far my favorite work of the night—probably because it strays far, far away from classical ballet in the style of the program’s closing work, Theme and Variations.

La Stravaganza
is danced to Vivaldi coupled with harsh electronic sounds that often made my skin crawl. There are two opposing groups. The first is neutral and gentle. The second group is violent and looks like they walked off the canvas of a painting from the 1600s. Though these are supposed to represent two worlds and time periods clashing, I can’t help but see the first group as natives being threatened by a group of pilgrims, entering their sacred terrain and introducing violence into their vocabulary. Interpretations aside, the piece was certainly mysterious and fascinating to me.

It was definitely a great night and only heightened my admiration of the average professional bunhead!