Wednesday, May 18, 2022

L.A. Dance Project's Boldness Becomes the Norm

Solo at Dusk.
Photo: Josh S. Rose
“The ground was soft, and so were they. Flowers grew over their faces.”

      —Bobbi Jene Smith and Or Schraiber,
         Solo at Dusk

L.A. Dance Project, now a decade old, continues to be led by Benjamin Millepied, who returned after a brief stint at Paris Opera Ballet. Millepied was previously a principal at New York City Ballet, and several other alumni populate the LA staff, including the polymath Janie Taylor. At the Joyce recently, LADP presented two programs choreographed by women. I caught Program B; A included works by Bella Lewitsky and Madeline Hollander.

Bobbi Jene Smith’s Solo at Dusk (2020) captures the solitude and oppression of the pandemic, even while its seven performers cluster, interact, and dissipate on the Joyce stage. Each dancer wears a stunning baroque floral mask by Janie Taylor, who in addition to designing costumes, sets, and dancing, is also rehearsal director and choreographer for the company. As the lights go up, we see a table with a turntable and lamp, next to which sits a masked Taylor (unmistakable for her waist-length hair, a signature from her days with New York City Ballet). Dancers trickle in, performing a quirky, frenetic version of Gaga—hunched skipping, pelvis-first struts, bursting leaps between placid stances, big spins in attitude.

The movement is largely performed solo; in one scene, the other six dancers form columns to observe one another. Eventually, they form a circle, grunt, and chant, moving as an ensemble. Two “converse” through movements, and in a mock sparring match, a woman arches over a man’s back. Near the end, they each hold their heads and remain alone, distanced. The soundtrack, by Alex Somers, ranges from ambient sea sounds; a song delivered chanteuse-style; plangent, rhythmic vamping; to an instrumental reminiscent of Twin Peaks. The mood is consistently melancholic and the performers are committed, but it is an elegy to a time most of us would like to forget.

Daisy Jacobson, Nayomi Van Brunt in Night Bloom. Photo by Steven Pisano

Janie Taylor’s Night Bloom, in contrast, provides joy in vibrant, unfettered movement. The cast plays with her inventive set pieces—large geometric objects evoking ice cream sandwiches, moved around constantly like building blocks. Performed to Stravinsky’s Concerto For Two Solo Pianos (played live by Jessica Xylina Osborne and Adam Tendler), the dance mirrors the playful give and take of the music. Taylor’s costumes—short navy shifts for the women, light blue tees and shorts for the men—add to the youthful atmosphere, luminous with vanilla-hued lighting (Chu-Hsuan Chang). The choreography is a fresh mashup of balletic poses and structures with a sometimes relaxed attitude, dispensing with precise hands and arm positions, but also more technically demanding steps such as corkscrewing double tours en l’air, creating a tempestuous feel.

LADP is one of the few repertory companies in the US founded as such, and commissioning new work by a variety of choreographers. It sits alongside such titans as Martha Graham, Alvin Ailey, and Paul Taylor’s companies, which in order to remain relevant, now commission premieres to be shown alongside their founders’ wares. Kudos to LA’s Millepied for ceding the lion’s share of stage time to innovative and/or historic women choreographers, now proving their talent.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Spinning Webs and Seeing Art History in a New Light

Free the Air. Photo: Susan Yung
Years ago, I went to a wedding where I knew almost nobody. It took place in a beautiful setting next to a marina. I walked down a dock, and found a spider spinning a web. I watched as it toiled away, making a beautiful net out of gossamer silk. Perhaps it was the way the sunlight glistened on the water caught on the threads, or the extremely methodical process by the spider to make cross braces, or the fact that I was somewhat distant from the wedding party itself and found something on which to focus… in any case, it made a deep impression on me.

Clearly I wasn’t alone, as evidenced in Tomás Saraceno’s interactive installation Free the Air: how to hear the universe in a spider/web, part of his show, Particular Matter(s), at The Shed through April 17. Saraceno has suspended pseudowebs in the vast space—vibrating metal mesh platforms, embedded with sound amplifiers, imparting an eight-minute interpretation of what spiders experience. The performative element is enveloping—after entering an all-white, foggy space and lying down on the undulating platform, you’re enfolded in darkness, and begin to feel waves of energy and hear booms and hisses—"terrestrial and cosmic vibrations, including spiders playing their webs," per The Shed. At moments, the energy undulations threaten to develop into stomach-churning strength before waning. And then it’s over.

Tomás Saraceno,Webs of At-tent(s)-ion(detail), 2020.
Seven spider frames, spider sil
k,carbon fibers, lights.
Photo: Nicholas Knight. 
Courtesy the artist; spider/webs;
Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York/Los Angeles; and 
Neugerriemschneider, Berlin. Photo courtesy The Shed
The performance’s brevity, alas, is somewhat overshadowed by the procedures required to access it. It’s kind of like going to Disneyworld, where you have to park, trek, pay (tickets go from $35 for the experience, down to $12 for exhibition access for non-members), and wait on line before reaching "the experience", which lasts for only a few minutes. The day I went, I thought I’d hit the jackpot with the weather—in the 50s and not raining. But Hudson Yards is amenable only on the best of days, and despite the mild temps, the wind blew mercilessly. Navigating to the exhibition’s entrance is circuitous and a bit mysterious, after which you ascend on escalators for a few stories. After queuing outside the installation, you’re led into an antechamber/locker room and instructed on what not to do (run), and stow your stuff in a locker, then led into another antechamber and stairway to wait again before entering the space itself. I understand these are all necessary for safety and crowd control (though to be clear, the groups are very small), but it still overpowers the actual event.

Speaking of being overshadowed, there are two galleries with incredible installations to flesh out Saracen’s concepts. One gallery contains sculptures in plexi boxes—structures that have apparently been fashioned from filaments on which spiders have spun webs, and another room with an intense light beam which catches dust motes and floating junk to create an alarmingly solid-looking shaft of stuff we breathe. On the floor above sits Museo Aero Solar (made by a collective including Saracen), a gigantic inflated bubble, made of discarded plastic bags and detritus, which you walk into. There are a number of other works that reflect Saracen’s vivid sense of curiosity, devotion to nature and its preservation, and poetic touch. (That said, the signage and guards/docents posted could be more helpful.) 

Installation view at Frick Madison of Giovanni Bellini’s St. Francis in the Desert (ca. 1476–78).
Photo: Joseph Coscia Jr.

The Frick has relocated some of its trove to the Breuer Building on Madison Avenue, the old Whitney/Met space. What a trip to see the Rembrandts, Fragonards, Goyas, and Turners hung in the context of crisp modernity. While the pre-Meatpacking relocation bickering over the Whitney’s expansion lingers in memory, the Madison Avenue building always was just the right temperament and size for a museum visit. Take the elevator up, walk down while visiting each floor, and always check on the little stairway pueblo installation by Charles Simonds, which is still there! 

For many my generation, the Frick’s collection is like a real-life installation of Janson’s History of Art, the ubiquitous if flawed art history textbook, once considered a bible. The foundations of Western modern art, and the continued primacy of this legacy in the most popular museums, are seen on the Frick’s walls, and in part because of the rote drills I underwent to absorb this canon, many of the works evoke reflexive awe. Rembrandt’s Polish Rider! Bellini’s St. Francis in the Desert! The Fragonard suite! And the Frick has included some contemporary works in a somewhat pale effort to modernize the art collection, a highlight being Giuseppe Penone’s series of shield-sized porcelains embellished with his fingerprint whorls. 

But while the Frick's home at 1 East 70th St. continues to be renovated, the Madison Avenue space is a wonderful solution to keep some of the collection on view, while making use of a still sturdy museum shell. After the collection moves out, we'll see what happens with the Breuer.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

Notable Books of 2021

Some notable books I read in 2021, and one documentary:


Harlem Shuffle, Colson Whitehead
Engaging novel about aspiration, hard work, racial inequity, and the weight of family bonds, amid the three-ring circus that is New York.

O Beautiful, Jung Yun
A biting account of an Asian-American journalist who returns to her Plains roots to find a new gold rush, with all its mostly troubling implications.

The Sentence
, Louise Erdrich
The title has two wildly disparate meanings. Books become a haven, Erdrich has a cameo, and current events are woven throughout.

Intimacies, Katie Kitamura
I wish the title were less romance-novel sounding… about a war crimes trial translator at The Hague, and the complicated and haunting layers therein.

Razorblade Tears, S.A. Cosby
Just when you thought things couldn’t get any crazier for the protagonist, resisting being dragged back into crime, and then… what’s the word? Unputdownable.

Bewilderment, Richard Powers
A tender, heart-achingly poignant portrait of a dad and his special needs/gifted son, and the beauty and cruelty of nature.

Damnation Spring, Ash Davidson
Focusing on a family in a logging town, it addresses tough issues like rights to natural resources and corporate responsibility over profits, which communities everywhere are dealing with
The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, Dawnie Walton
A 70s pop duo’s unlikely and complicated history, leading up to a reunion, told in rich detail and characterization.

Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr
Skips across time and culture with borderline hubris, while framing a nail-biting, modern-day terrorist scenario.

The Morning Sun, Karl Ove Knausgaard
He captures daily life and human nature so poetically—both the lovely and ugly. With overlapping story lines and recurring threads of new stars, climate change, the tension between society and nature, and eternal existential questions (though the ending treatise is a bit heavy-handed).

Literary thrillers:

I read these nearly back to back, and could not believe how gripping plots could be which involve authorship and literary proprietariness, nor how “of the moment” they were. Describing plots might spoil things.

The Plot, Jean Hanff Korelitz

Palace of the Drowned, Christine Mangan

Who Is Maud Dixon?, Alexandra Andrews


Making Rumours: The Inside Story of the Classic Fleetwood Mac Album, 
Ken Caillat & Steven Stiefel
This was one of my first and most-played albums as a teen, and with Spotify at hand, you can listen to each track as its creation unfolds. Plus, the high drama of Fleetwood Mac.

The Storyteller, Dave Grohl
I guess Dave is as surprised as anyone that this is a best-seller, but an entertaining and (no surprise) friendly read about how a typical kid becomes part of rock legend—twice.

Swan Dive, Georgina Pazcoguin
Lots of surprisingly candid dish about the backstage workings of New York City Ballet, by a current company member who has seen it all.

Get Back, Peter Jackson (documentary on Disney+)
This nine-hour trilogy is so resonant and illuminating that it is impossible to stop thinking about. It brings The Beatles back down to earth from their saintly perches, but without casting villains, and captures some of the studio magic and plain old genius needed to craft a broad and foundational output.

Happy 2022!

Sunday, November 14, 2021

New York Notebook, Fall 2021

American Utopia. Photo: Matthew Murphy

There’s no better season than fall in New York. Upstate, the evolving, brilliant outdoor theater of the trees and mountains after the verdant lushness of summer. In the city, the torrent of culture that all seems to happen in October. This year, things in NYC have moved closer to normal, with regular capacities at theaters, restaurants, and museums. New Yorkers have gotten used to masking up inside, and showing proof of vax-plus-ID everywhere. Just more layers necessary to access the fruits the city has to offer.

Nothing better represents the joy of returning to near-normal life than David Byrne and his Broadway show, American Utopia (reviewed here in 2020). It celebrates Byrne’s music, framed by Annie-B Parson’s movement, in the purest form, featuring only the incredibly talented cast onstage with no props other than instruments and a metal beaded curtain. Byrne himself, in his late 60s, is seemingly ageless, showing no signs of fatigue or being winded, even after belting out one of his many timeless hits. He has put forth his ideals not only by speaking or singing them, but by example. How many rock stars ride their bikes everywhere, mixing with the public at large with a friendly demeanor? The show has moved to the St. James Theatre, and retains the hypnotic kinetic invention of Parson, with marching patterns and simple moves and gestures done by musicians and the two dancers alike dressed in dapper grey suits. And Byrne, of course, barefoot, bolstered by devoted audiences.

João Menegussi and Calvin Royal III in Touché

American Ballet Theater’s ABT Rise initiative shows its full-out commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Their program contains a “Land Acknowledgment” statement, stating that they perform on land stolen from Indigenous peoples. I attended the Oct 22 performance at the Koch, one dedicated to the LGBTQIA+ community. The mixed rep program contained many traditional-feeling works—Alex Ratmansky’s showcase of young technical virtuosity and exuberance, Bernstein in a Bubble; Clark Tippett’s Some Assembly Required, a largely quiet psychological drama danced by newly promoted Skylar Brandt (who dazzled in the Bernstein, at one point pirouetting what must have been six revolutions) and charismatic Gabe Stone Shayer in a toned-down role; and Indestructible Light by Darrell Grand Moultrie, an entertaining, jazzy crowd-pleaser full of maxed out moves and poses. It also showcased Touché by Christopher Rudd featuring Calvin Royal III and João Menegussi, who underwent a mutual coming-out told through increasingly intimate movement and garments shed. 

The company is undergoing a seismic leadership change with both the artistic director and executive director departing, in addition to the shift toward diversity which is so urgent at most organizations now. How it deals with its core programming—full-length ballets, many centuries old, with politically incorrect themes, motifs, and actions—will unfold in the coming seasons, beginning with next year’s presumably shorter-than-usual run at the Met Opera House. Its concurrent contemporary choreographic commissions have run the gamut (I missed the Jessica Lang suite to Tony Bennett) which, from its sheer breadth, will likely produce hits and misses. Will there be a larger shift in the spring/summer season from centuries-old chestnuts to contemporary work? We’ll see.

Charmion von Wiegand, Untitled, 1942

While I’m sure it wasn’t meant this way, the sheer physical relationship at the Whitney Museum between Mind/Mirror, the mega Jasper Johns half-retrospective on 5 (the balance is at the Philadelphia Museum) and the keen survey, Labyrinth of Forms: Women and Abstraction, 1930–1950, occupying the 3rd floor small gallery speaks volumes—iconic white male artist physically dominating the building while the women are exiled to a space adjacent to the restrooms. The latter exhibition comprises works from the Whitney’s collection, most of who are unfamiliar names. Work by Barbara Olmsted and Dorothy Dehner sits alongside those by Lee Krasner and Louise Nevelson. It’s a thrill to “discover” so many women who worked in abstraction during a time that preferred realism, at times organizing to support one another. The taut show was organized by Sarah Humphreville, Senior Curatorial Assistant.

Unsurprisingly, the Johns show contains many of his landmark works—flags, maps, coffee cans. The Whitney has many of Johns’ 1980s-90s pieces, which evoke stasis and marking time. Some of Johns’ works which struck me most strongly are actually his more recent ones, black & white ink on plastic (Matthew Marks Gallery had a show including many of these.) Perhaps because Johns, now in his 90s, has worked constantly for most of his life, producing an enormous body of work tracing so many subgenres, it is easy to take him for granted. But his influence is incalculable even if he and his male counterparts may have hoarded due attention to their female peers.

Shirazeh Houshiary, Pupa, 2014
The Asia Society’s Rebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet exhibition is an eye-opening survey of contemporary Persian (Iranian) art. It encompasses a breadth of styles and an impressive refinement of techniques and visions. Some names are familiar—Shirin Neshat, Abbas Kiarostami—but most are new to me, and many offer revelatory creations. Morteza Ahmadvand’s three-channel video installation plus sculpture traces three religious emblems as they morph into spheres. A spiraling stack of amethyst glass by Shirazeh Houshiary mesmerizes.

Several artists use traditional craft and techniques as a means to convey contemporary messaging infused with cultural legacy. Farhad Moshiri's carpets cut into the shapes of fighter jets; Afruz Amighi's scrim of polyethylene (a material used in refugee tents) contains intricate, lacelike imagery which, despite its poetically delicate appearance, turns out to be terrifying; Shiva Ahmadi paints oil barrels with lavish, rich scenes associated with traditional miniatures and ornate imagery. The works possess great craft in addition to powerful messaging, often simmering below the surface of traditions carried forward.

That an ancient culture, and culture in general, can be so vital and relevant offers some welcome hope in a time of flagging optimism.
Photos: American Utopia: Matthew Murphy; ABT: Rosalie O'Connor; Von Wiegand: courtesy Whitney Museum; Houshiary: Susan Yung

Friday, September 3, 2021

A Fine Sampler of Contemporary Ballet at the Pillow

 Karina González, Harper Watters, and Chandler Dalton of Houston Ballet in
Reflections. Photo by Christopher Duggan

From seeing Jacob’s Pillow’s Ballet Coast to Coast program in late August, contemporary ballet looks to be in good shape. Three accomplished companies brought chamber-sized works to the outdoor Leir Stage in the final offering of the Pillow’s robust summer festival, which had to cope not only with the pandemic, but the dodgy summer weather which caused many cancellations. The slate balanced humor, expressionism, and formalism in works by five choreographers.

Boston Ballet began the show with Helen Pickett’s Home Studies: Parlor Floor Life (2021), inspired by a film, in which Lia Cirio, Paul Craig, and My’Kal Stromile plopped on a sofa like restless kids, sticking their legs up and messing around. In a solo, Stromile used his long limbs and superb line to accentuate the expressive gestures and articulations to maximum effect. Cirio and Craig partnered in a duet, showing Pickett’s explorations in how two bodies can interact in new ways—a foot flicking between legs, or him pulling her in a circle by one of her feet extended high. After a year and a half spent on the sofa, the visual jokes involving boredom and antsiness hit home.

Houston Ballet’s two excerpt offerings, in contrast, showed ballet at its most fluid and lucid. Stanton Welch’s Sons de l’Ame (2013), with Karina González and Harper Watters, featured simple poses connected by flowing, elegant moves. Each line was continually elongated; there never seemed to be any excess movement or embellishment. Even the flesh-hued leotards served to focus attention on the purity of line, the essence of classical ballet. (This piece reprises at City Center's Fall for Dance this season.) Justin Peck choreographed Reflections

My'Kal Stromile of Boston Ballet
in Home Studies: Parlor Floor Life
 Photo by Jamie Kraus

(2019), and the trio is a prime example of his sheer fluency in the language of ballet. Small traveling steps included backward low jetés, a twist on a basic element that felt radical. The color block leotards with white belts might allude to Balanchine and Robbins’ frequent reliance on such simple costumes to better free the dancers (Chandler Dalton, González, and Watters); the seamed pink tights worn by González evoked the classroom staple of ballet students everywhere. The ending tableau—their three heads turned sideways and stacked, arms framing them—beautifully punctuated this work, which the dancers clearly enjoyed performing.

Ulysses Dove’s Red Angels (1994) was performed by Pacific Northwest Ballet. It actually felt less of its period this year than when I last saw it, several years ago, on NYCB. All graphic angles and hyper-articulated torsos and deep, squatty pliés, it has a torero-like feel, abetted by the general fierce attack and the red unitards with sternum lacing. It showcased the charismatic Christopher D’Ariano, Elle Macy, Amanda Morgan, and Dylan Wald. Some of the classical steps, like fouettés, were unpolished, but the catwalk attitude was spot on.

Dancers from all three companies performed in Second to Last (2013), the finale by Alejandro Cerrudo. A series of fluid duets, composed of elastic limbs and attenuated, expressionistic lines, were quite beautiful, but somewhat repetitious. Perhaps the choice of Arvo Pärt’s by-now overused music dictated the lack of dynamic. But the concept of uniting all three companies rang true in a divisive and isolating time.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Brian Brooks at Jacob's Pillow—Seeking the Human Touch


Evan Fisk, Zack Gonder, and Stephanie Terasaki of Brian Brooks / Moving Company in
Closing Distance at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival 2021. Photo by Jamie Kraus

Brian Brooks / Moving Company’s three works at Jacob’s Pillow recently could represent time stamps of periods over the last year and a half. The opening piece, Flight Study (2021) was created primarily during Covid. The eight dancers often moved in a cloud while remaining isolated. Their movements were small in amplitude, traveling little; a foot slid forward a few inches, seemingly propelled by a mere breath. The dancers lay on the stage, taking turns arising to varying heights, evoking waves rolling onto the shore (enhanced by their navy rompers, by Karen Young). Bryce Dessner’s score for strings evoked emotions from anger to contemplation, at times propelling the dancers forward and back. Alone, but together, manipulated by some force as great as the ocean, or perhaps, chillingly, a global pandemic.

Brooks took the stage to perform Quiet Music (2021), a solo to Nico Muhly’s music which provided a change of dynamic as well as time for his company to change costumes in the now de rigeur intermissionless, under-an-hour program. Brooks can often treat dancers—most notably himself—as machine-like vehicles with which to conduct kinetic experiments involving endurance or repetition. Hopping on one leg for minutes at a time, or running relentlessly, or walking on others’ body parts to avoid contact with the floor. Here, there is no such dogma, simply fluid movement traveling from an eeling hand through the torso and head, or a languid arabesque to stretch the body briefly. In a long-sleeve shirt and pants, Brooks assumed an everyman presence somewhat reluctant to explode beyond the confines of his body’s invisible bubble.

The final work, Closing Distance (2020), was made just before Covid hit, and that’s clear in the dancers’ physical interactions and unity in moving as one organism in close ensemble passages. Caroline Shaw’s intriguing score, Partita for 8 Voices, begins with spoken phrases: “To the side, left around…” Are these directions for the dancers? Because they are circling around one another, pushing another’s arm to cause a reaction, clustering around one dancer and clutching her arm, forming a caterpillar-like creature by linking hands with elbows. A performer lowers herself to the floor, which is echoed by each successive dancer like a time-stop photo. 

In a key duet, Carlye Eckert floats her hands over a man’s body, eliciting a reaction that resembles the effect of a magnetic field. Even six feet away, as she pushes the air between them, he reacts as if she has cast energy. A closely arranged trio moves essentially as one, with a slight lag between mimicked moves. In the final section, the performers lie parallel to one another, rising a bit, then higher and higher, like a chart of the evolution of homosapiens. They coalesce in a group before lying down to succumb to the invisible force field wielded by Eckert once more. The music, sung by Roomful of Teeth, enchants with closely spaced harmonies, ethereal at times. Young also designed the white-hued costumes of variously fitted and shaped separates.

This program’s breadth symbolized the roller coaster we’ve been through lately, from a pre- and post-pandemic state of normal physical interaction, to being together yet isolated. It departed from many of Brooks’ previous presentations in some ways—less systematic scientific experimentation, and no deliberate choice of signature set or color design typical of years past, perhaps because it was performed on the Leir stage, in front of Massachusetts' verdant Berkshires. But it displays a humanity that beats in the heart of dance, in its varying complexity and potential for expression.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

NYCB Shares Stories at SPAC

The Concert. Photo courtesy NYCB

The Concert. Photo courtesy NYCB

Another sign of cultural life reviving! New York City Ballet returned live to the stage on a mild evening in July with a brief stint at its upstate home, Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC). It presented two programs of excerpts with commentary—one of story ballets, which I saw on July 14, and another of Balanchine's abstract works. It was great to see the company in the vast, dramatic, tree-framed setting of the Amphitheater, with similar grand stage dimensions to the Koch, and the casual structure of the program allowed the company to ease back into preparations for a full season of performances.

The wide-ranging "Short Stories" program was moderated by principal dancer Maria Kowroski, who demonstrated a genial speaking presence to go with her in-depth, personal knowledge of the dances. The three sailors (Amar Ramasar, Spartak Hoxha, Lars Nelson) in Jerome Robbins' Fancy Free discussed the nature of their characters, and each shared a move from the dance that encapsulated a characteristic (although three rounds of questions seemed a bit much). Teresa Reichlen and Tyler Angle (with a shaved head!) performed the white swan pas de deux from Swan Lake. Reichlen's stage demeanor is consistently stoic and secretive, and in this case, served to provide some welcome gravitas to the performance, isolated from the context of the story.

Such context was also missed in the next segment, the Rose Adagio from The Sleeping Beauty. Meaghan Dutton-O'Hara debuted as Aurora, no small feat given the short amount of rehearsal time (weeks) in which to cram for being partnered by four men in one of the most difficult passages in classical ballet. The lack of rehearsal time showed in some off-balance partnered promenades, which no doubt will be smoothed out with more practice. Associate Artistic Director Wendy Whelan came onstage to give some notes, including the advice to take one section at a time so as not to be overwhelmed, and to "be the rose," firmly planted and growing tall and proud. Another segment from Beauty followed: the opening of the Bluebird pas (Sara Adams and Spartak Hoxha), which felt suitably antic and exuberant given the plein air setting. 

A duet from Midsummer Night's Dream also matched the al fresco ambience. Miriam Miller fell for the donkey-headed Lars Nelson, who only had eyes for his grass. And the "Mistake Waltz" from Robbins' The Concert elicited chuckles from the audience, and reminded us of the humor that he often deployed. The finale, a segment from The Firebird featuring Reichlen and Ramasar, once again revealed the sense of occasion that Reichlen brings to the stage to magically train our collective focus. Full costumes helped to signify some of the context of each story segment, which were accompanied by piano scores—whose arrangements at times were by nature sketchy—played by Alan Moverman and Nancy McDill.

While NYCB's 2021 run at SPAC can barely be called a season, it was a welcome return of live arts after such a horrendous year and a half. The company recently released its full schedule for the 2021-22 season at the Koch Theater, another welcome reminder that New York's cultural life is ramping up for, hopefully, a return to normal.