We are still reveling over our lovely Nutcracker weekend! The truth is, we have been going to see the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center for more years than we can count and New York City Ballet never disappoints with their nearly 60-year-old production, first performed on February 2, 1954. It is always glorious. All agreed that this year’s highlight was Megan Fairchild’s performance as Dewdrop — absolute sublimity. However, the afternoon was really made perfect by a very thrilling and generous post-performance backstage tour — thank you James! — a dream come true for a certain teenage ballerina in our tribe.
The weekend culminated with our favorite three-year-old dancing the part of an angel in a toddler production of the Nutcracker on the Upper West Side. Despite the magnificence of the ballet the day before, this was, without a doubt, the most divine and unforgettable moment of the weekend. So sweet.
The new series city.ballet. premiered yesterday on AOL On Originals. I must admit I watched all 12 episodes straight through, each less than 10 minutes long. For the New York City Ballet enthusiast or any fan of dance for that matter, this is certainly a series worth watching. Produced and narrated by Sarah Jessica Parker, it offers a fascinating behind the scenes look at NYCB with each episode focusing on a different aspect of the company or the life of a ballet dancer. The series feels rather intimate in fact, with quite a lot revealed.
city.ballet. is just one of a number of series from AOL On Originals. Another we like very much is Inspiration Point with Jonathan Adler, who, based on this series, is as fun and fantastic as we always imagined, perhaps even more!
|Photograph by Erin Baiano/New York City Ballet
When we first wrote here in anticipation of Angelin Preljocaj’s new work for New York City Ballet, we never could have predicted what it would be. Now that we have seen Spectral Evidence, we can tell you it was magnificent. The choreography, set to vocal music by John Cage, was primal and powerful and quite unfamiliar for that stage. The costumes by Olivier Theyskens were a perfect compliment to the movement and to Preljocaj’s starting point for the creation of this ballet, the Salem witch trials. Spectral Evidence is by far one of the most exciting, impactful and important contemporary pieces I have seen NYCB perform, included on this list are Red Angels and DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse. The great news is it will be performed again this winter!
|Angelin Preljocaj photographed by Lucas Marquand-Perrier
We just purchased our fall New York City Ballet tickets! The one ballet I am most looking forward to is the new work by French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj that will premiere on September 19. This, his second commission for NYCB, is a collaboration with Belgian designer Olivier Theyskens who has created the costumes, no doubt extraordinary. And it is set to music by the great American composer John Cage. The use of Cage’s music is brilliant and I expect a sort of American coming home. Before founding his own company, Ballet Preljocaj located in Aix-en-Provence, Preljocaj traveled to New York in 1980 to work with Merce Cunningham. Cage and Cunningham were of course partners in both life and art for over forty years, and very much like them, Preljocaj is one of the most avant-garde artists working in his medium today. I cannot wait.
|Photograph by Paul Kolnik
Last night, during New York City Ballet’s annual summer residency at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, we enjoyed a quite wonderful program of five ballets including Justin Peck’s Year of the Rabbit. We first saw Year of the Rabbit when it premiered at Lincoln Center last fall and I must say I loved it even more the second time around and even more on that hallowed, outdoor stage. After all, SPAC was built in 1964 expressly for the New York City Ballet and The Philadelphia Orchestra, with tremendous input from George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein regarding the physical space and overall vision for the venue. Year of the Rabbit is no doubt a major work. It is complex, youthful, joyful and completely refreshing. And the music, arranged for string orchestra from Sufjan Stevens’ electronica album Enjoy Your Rabbit, is rather fantastic too. An immensely talented choreographer, Justin Peck is definitely one to watch.
I have recently had the great privilege of seeing Five Dances, the beautiful new film by Alan Brown. It is visually stunning with simply the studio and the city as the backdrop. The music is perfectly chosen, including an exquisite original score by Nicholas Wright, and very much becomes the sixth element or dance in this film. Cast entirely with professional dancers, the acting is quiet and intimate. It is almost impossible not to feel close to the characters and quite drawn in to the film. And of course the movement and dance are mesmerizing, created by internationally renowned choreographer Jonah Bokaer. Five Dances, in keeping with Brown’s previous films, is indeed a work of art.
I had a very nice occasion to visit the Joffrey Ballet School over the weekend — still located in the hallowed landmark Greenwich Village building at 6th Avenue and 10th Street where it was founded in 1953 by Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino. It was a great pleasure to be in the studios where some of the most relevant ballets of the mid to late 20th century were conceived and created and where some of the most legendary figures in dance collaborated. The history of the Joffrey Ballet is so fascinating and distinctly parallels that of New York City and this country both politically and culturally. It is also a story of perseverance, survival and rebirth. Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance, a 2012 documentary and the opening night film at last year’s Dance on Camera Film Festival at Lincoln Center quite wonderfully tells this story. It is definitely worth a look.
I have just picked up Dancing Around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg, and Duchamp — the catalog for an exhibition I very regrettably just missed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Described in December 2012 by The New York Times as a “favorite museum show of the year,” it examined the intersections and collaborations among the composer John Cage, choreographer Merce Cunningham, and visual artists Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg with the great Marcel Duchamp at the center of it all. We are talking about, arguably, some of the most exciting, profound and pivotal years in New York and in American art. Conceived and presented by curator Carlos Basualdo and contemporary artist Philippe Parreno, the exhibition contained over 100 works in addition to live performances. The catalog is full of seriously interesting essays by and about these artists and features a truly masterful chronology. While it certainly doesn’t replace the experience of the exhibition, I have to say, I am completely enthralled.
Dancing Around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg, and Duchamp. (Philadelphia Museum of Art/Yale University Press, 2012)
I went back to ballet class a few years ago after an exceptionally long hiatus — I estimate I was 13 years old and in the 7th grade when I had last pirouetted. Physically, it is one of the hardest things I have ever done. It demands and thus creates a tremendous awareness of myself and all of my parts, all at once. But what I think I value most is the inestimable amount of focus and thought ballet requires. It is exercise for the brain absolutely as much as it is exercise for the body. Coupled with the fact that it incorporates lovely music, sculpts muscles like nothing else, and is really quite a lot of fun — ballet, in my world, is now essential.
We just noticed that at the end of this month the New York City Ballet will once again be performing Bal de Couture — last fall’s much anticipated ballet choreographed by Peter Martins to music by Tschaikovsky and costumes by Valentino. Perhaps most interesting about this work is the fact that Martins indeed choreographed this piece AFTER Valentino’s costumes.
The idea of fashion houses designing for the ballet is certainly not new, but remains as romantic and intriguing as ever. Coco Chanel designed ballet costumes as early as the 1920s and Karl Lagerfeld continued this Chanel tradition in 2009 with his Dying Swan costume for the English National Ballet. New York City Ballet commissioned Stella McCartney to create costumes for Ocean’s Kingdom, a ballet also choreographed by Martins to a beautiful score by her father Sir Paul. But our favorite intersection of fashion and ballet is without question Rodarte’s costumes for Benjamin Millepied’s 2012 ballet Two Hearts, hauntingly scored by Nico Muhly — simply sublime.
We love this photograph of Valentino from VOGUE last year and this video about his collaboration with NYCB.