Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Ephemeral Chat with James Samson of Paul Taylor Dance Company

In a dozen years with Paul Taylor Dance Company, James Samson has steadily gained a serene confidence in roles that command authority, or that are paternal or magisterial. He has a knack for being completely unselfconscious yet very present. He also has a playful side (Johnny in Company B) and a quicksilver grace that's somewhat unexpected from one of the company's largest dancers. (I was probably not alone when I was surprised to see him do a perfect handstand in Taylor's highly athletic Three Dubious Memories of 2010.) In a company of remarkable dancers, Samson has become a standout. I recently spoke with the Jefferson City, Missouri native. Look for him in 17 of the company's 21-dance repertory in its annual New York season from March 5—24 at the Koch Theater at Lincoln Center. 

Ephemeralist: What roles are you looking forward to dancing this season?

James Samson: There are a few roles I’m looking forward to this season. One of them is Last Look. It hasn’t been done for a few years, and we’re bringing it back. It’s a role that I can really sink my teeth into, and it’s always different every night, depending on the way I approach it, feel about it... it’s really down and dirty and it brings out a different side of myself, and a different character than what a lot of other pieces of Paul’s require. It’s really fantastic.

Another one is Speaking in Tongues, which we did a couple years ago, and I have a wonderful duet with Laura Halzack, that I really enjoy. it’s another piece that is definitely character-based, and it’s so deep... it’s something you have to look at and view a few times to really get everything. I feel like you could watch it over and over and you could always find something new. But it’s a great role. I’ve always had a lot of fun doing this new part. I’m considered the younger self of Michael Trusnovec, who’s the Preacher. So I get to do this duet as Michael’s younger self with Laura, which is beautiful and fun. I have a great time working with her.

E: I have a list of the dances you’re in, and it’s pretty extensive. 

JS: There are a few.

E: Seems like Last Look is really a favorite among the dancers.

JS: Yeah, it really is. I think everybody has a great role. It’s so different than anything else, and that we can indulge ourselves in in a different way... bring out the mean and the ugly in ourselves, throw our bodies around. It’s such a physical piece and that’s why we love to be dancers in Paul’s work. A lot of his pieces get really physical like this, and it’s so demanding, and at the same time, when you’re done, it’s such a huge reward. The audience usually loves it. The set is quite amazing—I think there are about six mirrors set up—and we see ourselves onstage. We see kind of the ugly parts of ourselves—something that’s more vulnerable, something we don’t really like about ourselves—and that is what kind of creates our movement and our motivation for becoming the characters that we are.

E: Maybe I’m generalizing, but it does seem like you do get cast in a lot of “good guy” roles.

JS: Well, I have that all-American look, so I guess it kind of goes hand in hand! [laughs]

Heather McGinley, James Samson, Rob Kleinendorst, Jamie Rae Walker, and Francisco Graziano
in To Make Crops Grow. Photo: Jamie Young
E: Obviously you’re very graceful, but you do share a kind of groundedness, a muscularity, with, for example, Paul himself... have you ever talked about this with Paul?

JS: He hasn’t really discussed it with me on a one-on-one basis... he does generalize that kind of feeling and emotion to the company in general when we’re not really doing it the way he wants in certain dances. But being grounded is a huge staple in Paul’s work; being down on the beat instead of being up, so many times in his choreography. And I guess it’s kind of the natural way I move as well, and just seeing Paul himself dance in videos earlier in his career, where you can really see how grounded... he’s the most fluid dancer I’ve ever seen on video. His style of moving is something that I try to encapsulate, but of course no one will ever live up to it, or be like Paul Taylor. That’s very far fetched. But he’s such an inspiration. But being a bigger person, it’s easier to be grounded.

I just see how he moves, and make it my own. I definitely try to be fluid; it’s something I’ve always worked on. It’ll never be something that I stop trying to approach; it's a style of moving that I really love. Being the size that I am, it’s kind of that juxtaposition of muscularity, but also trying to find the smoothness in everything. That’s an aspect I like to bring out onstage—something that people don’t quite expect. It is a natural thing. People move their own natural way, and that’s kind of the way I do it and approach it.

E: You’re now one of the company elders!

JS: Yes! I just celebrated my 12th year! Happy Valentine’s day!

E: How has your role and approach within the company shifted with time?

JS: The more senior you get, Paul likes to challenge you a bit more and put you in those bigger roles. He really has that respect for his elder dancers; he keeps them in mind, keeps challenging them. And putting them in roles that feature them because that’s his loyalty. He has a huge loyalty to his dancers, and treating them well that way.

My approach does continue to manifest every year. I always try to approach the same dance in a different way every time I do it. Over the years... when you first get into Paul Taylor, you’re so excited, and you have so much energy... it’s full out, like 150% all the time. So over the years I’ve learned to take that down; I still do everything to its full potential, but you have to find the finesse in things, and just let your body speak and kind of take over the movement. You don’t have to really push as hard, but you still have to do everything to its full potential. 

Francisco Graziano and James Samson in Changes. Photo: Tom Caravaglia
I just try to find what tries to go with the fluidity, that we mentioned earlier; I try to find the ease in Paul’s movement. Each dance is so different from one another, so I try and find a different personality and a different way of doing each piece. As I get older in the company, I have to find new ways of taking care of my body. I’m quite into yoga these days; everything gets stretched out and I try not to get too tight, because the season is very aerobic and hard and challenging... so I try and find some peace outside of all of that and bring it all together and let my body relax. So the approach kind of changes a little every year.

E: I’ve been watching you since you joined the company, and it’s been really neat to see how you’ve evolved within the rep, and each year you get bigger, more prominent roles. It’s been really great to see you seize on them and make them your own.

JS: Thank you so much, I appreciate that.

James in Company B, surrounded by a bevy... Photo: Paul B. Goode
E: Are there any roles in the rep that you haven’t dance but would like to?

JS: There’s quite a few [laughs]. They’re all roles that I really admire that are done by, like, Michael Trusnovec and senior dancers in the company. I’m not sure I’ll ever be given that chance; we’ll see what happens in the future. We’ll see who’s around, and what roles are exchanged and given up to other dancers later on.

But there’s a lot of things I’d love to do, just to do something new. I’ve always loved the opening of The Word that was created by Andrew Lebeau. I think that would be an amazing task to take on and try. Esplanade is one of my favorite dances, and I did Michael's and Rob Kleinendorst’s role that they share right now. When I was in my second year, I did that for about a year, and that was always a great role to do, and it might be fun to try that role again, now that I’’m more experienced.

E: Have you done Aureole, the solo?

JS: Oh Aureole, thanks for bringing that up. I’d love to try Paul’s part in Aureole. I think that would be really great because you become very vulnerable onstage; you’re by yourself. I don’t really have a lot of roles in the company where I’m onstage by myself for a long period of time. And I think that part would be a challenge for me because of that vulnerability; you have to have a lot of confidence going into that role, and it’s not a lot of fast movement, it’s very slow and articulate, and I think it would be a really nice challenge, and something to work on and strive for. So we’ll see what happens with that.

James Samson in Orbs. Photo: Paul B. Goode
Probably one of the biggest parts I’ve had is Paul’s part in Orbs, which I did last year. There’s a huge solo in that piece where I’m onstage quite a bit and I dance my butt off. It’s probably one of the hardest roles I’ve every done. That was a great challenge. Paul’s roles in general; everything that he’s done in the past, they're something that people kind of strive to do. When you take it on, it’s something that you want to make him proud of, and kind of approach in your own way, but fulfill it in a way that he expects it to be fulfilled.

E: How do you feel about moving to Lincoln Center?

JS: I’m so excited. We were there for the first time last year, and I was so hoping we’d go back, and we are there again this year. I love the area, I really love the theater... for a few reasons. All the dancers are on the same floor, whereas at City Center, we were all divided amongst four floors. So we’re all united on one floor; it’s very easy to get to the stage. And it’s such a high profile area. 

There are big posters on the side of the building, and it’s like being in Paul’s company is like the top of the top in modern dance, and being at Lincoln Center is the top of the world for us, as far as a performance venue. It’s just a great feeling. You feel like you’re a huge star being there! I’m so glad that we get a chance to show Paul’s work in a space that’s accessible to so many more people, and can bring in an audience that hasn’t seen Paul Taylor before, and keep them coming, and bring friends and family. I hope we continue to stay there. It’s a really great feeling and I feel very safe there. The staff is really fantastic. I just really love it.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Alexandre Singh—Content, Sublimated

Alexandre Singh, Assembly Instructions (The Pledge- Marc-Olivier Wahler), 2011. 
Framed inkjet ultrachrome archival prints and dotted pencil lines, 21" x 30", 
#21 from a set of 43. Courtesy Sprueth Magers: Berlin and
London; Art: Concept: Paris; Metro Pictures: New York; Monitor Gallery: Rome.
Alexandre Singh's The Pledge, at the Drawing Center through March 13, is a sprawling octopus of a show that includes "Assembly Instructions" (or "proxy portraits") of seven "pledges" from different fields. Singh interviewed his subjects on various esoteric topics, fictionalized the interviews, created associative drawings or appropriated imagery, xeroxed them and framed them in Ikea's finest, and hung them, connected by dots.

Don't follow? Well, therein lies a significant problem with this elegant looking show. It's so mediated and multi-layered that by the time the viewer's eyes meet the art, the content is so far removed that it's essentially out of reach. Conceptual art can be rewarding, but if it's this distant from whatever it's trying to say, it's frustrating. Additionally, he uses jargon to explain the project (see all those words in quotes above), which only obfuscates things more. The pledges include people like filmmaker Michel Gondry and neurobiologist Leah Kelly; laminated excerpts of their interviews with Singh are available for reference, but as each subject's material is separate, it's not convenient. There are no wall labels (a laminated map is also available) which makes for a clean look, but it's an acknowledgment that the message is secondary to Singh's overall aesthetic.

The dream-like imagery evokes the Surrealists—birds, the tower of Babel, Picasso, ballet dancers, Bill Murray, and a deconstructed Greek key motif, to name a few. Surely many of the references are explicated in the interviews and in the exhibition catalogue, which has several essays (including one by curator Claire Gilman), but it's impractical to expect the typical viewer to access and focus on these materials. It might even be preferable to walk through knowing absolutely nothing about the backstory, and let the myriad images knit their own associations in your brain. 

Ignacio Uriarte, BIC Transitions, 2010, BIC pen on paper, 16 drawings, each: 11-13/16" x 16-9/16"
Courtesy of the artist and Nogueras Blanchard, Barcelona. Photograph by Simon Vogel.
In contrast, Ignacio Uriarte's Line of Work, consisting of primarily formal ideas, is on view in the back gallery. This compact selection of mostly ball-point pen drawings purportedly riffs on the banality of office life, but his deftness with line and density is breathtaking. Who knew that Bic made inks that could create such subtly differing hues? This should no doubt breathe life into tasks that might still involve ballpoint pens. 

Now what about computers?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Patience, My Beauty

Erica Pereira and Anthony Huxley in The Sleeping Beauty. Photo: Paul Kolnik
I sometimes wonder why certain story ballets continue to have a strong attraction to audiences. For example, New York City Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty, choreographed by Peter Martins including sections from Petipa and Balanchine... of course it's a age-old staple fantasy for children (mostly girls) that has been rendered in film and tv, in addition to dance. But it's also a densely layered ballet that requires a lot of patience from the viewer. Despite the accrued rewards, this very slow approach would probably not be taken by a contemporary choreographer.

Some of the elements that at once require patience but also add detail and depth:
  • The seemingly endless series of solos by the six multi-hued fairies, plus the head Lilac Fairy, who each represent a facet of a complete character
  • The fabled "Rose Adagio," performed by Princess Aurora, in which she is courted by four suitors. Meaning she does steps—including balances and promenades without changing legs—not once, not twice, but four times.
  • The Garland Dance (by Balanchine), when every child from a five-mile radius appears with flowers to waltz for a very long time
  • The "Vision" scene, when Prince Désiré "sees" Aurora courtesy the Lilac Fairy. She and a bunch of her fairy minions basically prevent the couple from uniting, so they run across the stage to opposite sides and keep missing one another for quite awhile, before eventually meeting up to dance.
  • A pretty long series of boat rides, when Lilac Fairy transports Désiré to Aurora's castle. Also helps indicate the passage of a century, when we last saw the real Aurora.
  • After a quick kiss, awakening, and proposal, the wedding celebration is marked by a series of guest appearances by your favorite fairy tale characters: Pusses in Boots, Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, Princess Florine and Bluebird, Court Jesters, and in this version, a nod to Balanchine's Jewels with variations by Gold, Diamond, Emerald, and Ruby. Oh, plus more dancing by the fairies, who reprise their themes.
It's a lot to absorb, but by the end, after the couple has wed and the music turns abruptly from major to minor to signify the onset of responsibility, we feel like we've been through a lot with these guys.

Notebook review of the February 17 matinee:
Tyler A & Tiler P. Photo: Paul Kolnik

  • Tiler Peck as Aurora: flawless as usual, but she's so confident and capable that she's almost becoming superhuman at this point. Is that a liability?
  • Tyler Angle as Désiré: I honestly don't know how he makes partnering look so easy. Strength, delicacy, and an brilliant sense of épaulement, which frames his partner. Plus, he resembles Nureyev just a little bit.
  • Teresa Reichlen as Lilac Fairy: a perfect role to show they way she commands space and always draws the eye, no matter who else is onstage.
  • Anthony Huxley as Bluebird: he's had an excellent season, and here's another tailor-made role for him to demonstrate his picture-perfect line, exactitude, and flitting speed.

Promotions were announced to close the season, and three men advanced to principals, where they are sorely needed: Adrian Danchig-Waring (hopefully, he'll continue to relax and trust his inherent skills), Chase Finlay (wow, such a fast track to the top; if it's not a record, it's close. Let's hope he sustains his energy and luminosity), and Ask la Cour (a bit lacking in personality and polish; has been languishing as a soloist for eight years). Additionally, eight who've been prominently featured throughout the winter season were promoted to soloists, in time for the spring season that starts in late April.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

1993—So Near, So Far

 Daniel Joseph Martinez, Museum Tags: Second Movement (Overture) or Overture con Claque – Overture with Hired Audience Members 1993 Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, 1993. Metal and enamel on paint, 12 x 15 in (30.5 x 38.1 cm). Courtesy the artist and Simon Preston, New York 
How can 1993 be 20 years ago? Doesn't it seem like the stylistic differences between decades has slowed down, or is it just a side effect of getting old? Think about the difference between 1950 and 1970; 1960 and 1980; 1970 and 1990.... and then around the millennium, it seems to hit the brakes. Maybe it's because the electronic revolution had a one-generation "blast" effect; maybe because 9/11 just arrested everything... maybe there just isn't enough distance yet. 

In any case, the New Museum's NYC 1993: Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star (through May 26, 2013) focuses on that year, and on a number of artists who were included in that Whitney Biennial, which was among the most controversial in memory. (Remember Daniel Joseph Martinez's I Can't Ever Imagine Wanting To Be White buttons?) Activism was still extremely strong, riding on the previous decades' successive waves of civil, women's, and gay rights, and in reaction to the AIDS plague. But the early 90s also seemed to be a segue into a slicker, more commercial period: factory or guild-style production and large-scale photography gained prevalence, plus a move away from issue art. 

Curators Massimiliano Gioni, Gary Carrion-Murayari, Jenny Moore, and Margot Norton have chosen a multitude of artworks with a message. On a personal note, I worked at Ronald Feldman Gallery then, and was moved to see works by Ida Applebroog, Suzanne McClelland, Hannah Wilke, and Pepon Osorio included in 1993. They all have had a connection with Feldman, which generally speaking shows conceptual or thoughtful issue-oriented work, or art that's based on scientific research or experimentation.
 Ida Applebroog, Kathy W, 1992. Oil on canvas, 110 x 90".
 Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth, New York. 
Photo: Dennis Cowley 

Included is one of Applebroog's Marginalia series, comprising small panels in shades of dried blood that form fractured portraits of odd characters, and Kathy W, one of the artist's tamer paintings, of a Santa surrounded by figures. McClelland's painting, Alright, Alright, Alright, is a fine example of how she works on many levels, playing with language, swooping abstract forms, and variegated surfaces. And Wilke's two photo self-portraits—one taken when healthy, the other after undergoing treatment for cancer—show the same indominitable spirit that powered her work til her early death, only in vastly differing states.

There are major installations by Felix Gonzales-Torres, Cady Noland, Jason Rhoades, and Pepon Osorio, the latter two with a predeliction for apparent chaos. The work of Gonzales-Torres, who died in 1996, elegantly bridges the wonkiness of 80s' conceptual work and the slickness of the late 20th century, often using mundane items to raise questions of consumerism, capitalism, ownership, and originality. Rhoades, who also died relatively young, made primarily abstract 3D works using found materials; these items had the added bonus of imbuing associated meaning to be accepted or discarded. Osorio is known for his elaborate installations, and here, The Scene of the Crime (Whose Crime?), is wedged into a corner, forcing the viewer closer to inspect the elaborate interior and police detritus. 

Janine Antoni shows a large installation of busts made of soap and chocolate. Like Gonzales-Torres, her work managed to encapsulate both issues and slickness in a way that very much represented the time. Robert Gober, Charles Ray, and Mike Kelley, conceptual pranksters with a slick side, could fall into this group. And Nari Ward's installation of abandoned strollers is at the annex on the Bowery.

Art will always be of its time and contain issues and statements. 1993 gives one pause for reflection on the swift passing of time, the compression of generations, and provides a quick stroll down Memory Lane. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Evidence—Constant Conversation

Annique Roberts (left, in Torch) wants YOU. Photo: Ayodele Casel.
Ronald K. Brown has created his own mesmerizing dance language, blending African with modern, ballet, and a bunch of other stuff. It hits me most powerfully when it's driven by the wide-ranging music, the movement emanating from each dancer's core that acts like a gyroscope, tethering windmilling arms and bouncing feet and legs. But it can have its own interesting life apart from the music, as it did in Order My Steps (2005) at the Joyce recently, which included a pensive, spacy composition by Kronos Quartet in addition to Bob Marley. It's read less with the heart and more with the brain.

In Brown's choreography, the dancers always seem to be feeding us information, whether it's one of the gestures that have become a sort of shorthand (fingers pointing up or at us, or the "what can I say" shrug), telling a storyline more directly, or simply needing to move, with the same spontaneity and power as a horse bucking. Even the funny stiff-legged shuffle to move on and offstage, or the subtle shoulder shrugging and air patting that convey "going" or "thinking" or "staying" to me... it's a constant conversation.

Brown's company, Evidence, premiered his new work, Torch, on February 12th. Annique Roberts, in all white, represents the piece's inspiration, a company patron who succumbed from cancer. She takes a literal fall from a shoulder stand, and is shadowed by Brown in his sole appearance of the evening. The tone is reverential, but the pace quickens as music shifts gears. Roberts is remarkable in this dance, and throughout the program—muscular, plush, quick, angelic, and serene. Torch suffers somewhat from the unflattering kelly green and white costumes by Keiko Voltaire, although the women change from choir robes (as some fevered gospel music plays) to sportier mint and butter hued clothes as the work progresses. 

Roberts is also featured in Incidents (1998), a work danced by five women based on stories from the life of a slave. Here, the voluminous muslin costumes by Omotayo Olaiya are used to good effect as the dancers gather their skirts vigorously or spin, letting them balloon out. A woman with a bare back is tended to by the other three, immediately creating an evocative, dramatic setting, and an example of Brown's more literal style. Matthew Rushing danced a section of Ife/My Heart (2005) done by Brown for the Ailey company. One of the most concise dancers around, Rushing's precision and speed are unfailing, and his somewhat remote affect actually intensifies the emotions produced by the movement. He's always a thrill to watch.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Delving Deeply into Dance

Robert Fairchild kickin' it old school style in Western Symphony. Photo: Paul Kolnik
I don't think any other company in the world does what New York City Ballet does, in terms of breadth and depth (but correct me if I'm wrong). In the 2012—13 season, over the course of 21 non-contiguous weeks of performance, it will have danced 65 different ballets, 39 by Balanchine alone. Even so, most of these Balanchine ballets will be repeats for many viewers. For someone who doesn't follow the company regularly, it might seem strange to want see the same ballets over and over. Is there another art form that's programmed this way? Or that rewards as much?

But when I see a performance of it like yesterday's, of three Balanchine ballets to symphonies, I am reminded of all the reasons I'm a fan. First, Symphony in C (1947) is among my favorite by Balanchine, the iconic ballet of his classical style, like Taylor's Esplanade or Ailey's Revelations. The very different pacing and tone of the four sections as set by Bizet's eminently danceable music. The scale of it, which goes from absolutely epic to intimate. The revelation of the form's royal roots. Balanchine's sheer innovation and poetry—for example, the finale of the second movement, when the man lowers his partner in a slow, reverse death spiral over his knee. The way it proves a company's mettle by its breakneck pace and technical demands. And to showcase a number of talented dancers, many of them young, others the company's standard bearers.

Notebook review of NYCB, Feb 9, 2pm:

Symphony in C
  • First Movement: Ana Sophia Scheller—crisp, radiant, and at home in a tiara; Chase Finlay—sound if slightly tentative
  • Second Movement: Maria and Tyler—gracious, monumental, romantic. They performed the reverse death spiral perfectly
  • Third: Erica Pereira—her small stature is difficult to read from afar; outshone by partner Anthony Huxley—elegant and complete
  • Fourth: Lauren King—radiant; Taylor Stanley—looking princely
Symphony in Three Movements, to Stravinsky
  • A great Balanchine "leotard ballet" from the 1972 Stravinsky festival 
  • Tiler Peck—lively, her usual superlative self
  • Savannah Lowery—radiating warmth and confidence
  • Sterling Hyltin—having a season of epiphanies, at least for me
  • Amar Ramasar—working well with Hyltin this season
  • Daniel Ulbricht—good to see him not trying to push too hard and let an ease guide his natural charm 
  • Andrew Scordato—subbing; showed off his lovely line and precise feet
Western Symphony
  • Choreographed by Balanchine in 1954; music by Hershy Kay. Western Americana Frrrrenchified, with an unforgettable finale featuring the ensemble pirouetting as the curtain falls
  • Rebecca Krohn & Taylor Stanley—she's a tad too tall for him, but they both exude confidence and glamour
  • Megan Fairchild & Jared Angle—nice pairing; Jared always shows off his partner well, and Megan is superb
  • Ashley Bouder & Robert Fairchild—wow, they really played off one another, almost like a competition (which is how Bouder often seems to treat performances), but he looked really charged up, relishing every move and heel kick
Sleeping Beauty begins this week. I'm looking forward to seeing Tiler Peck, Tyler Angle, and Teresa Reichlin in the leads. Five lead casts are planned for the run's two weeks.

Speaking of protean efforts by companies which perform repertory...

As March approaches, so does Paul Taylor Dance Company's season at Lincoln Center. In terms of epic feats of programming and repertory, its annual run is right up there with what NYCB does. It will present 21 (!!!) dances over  three weeks, but its resources are far smaller, with 16 dancers and one very imaginative choreographer. It's mind-boggling to think of the complexity of the logistics necessary to simply put together a schedule, weighing the dancers' requirements and the aesthetic balance of each program. I'll be writing about some of the upcoming season's highlights shortly, and covering the season as it progresses.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Backstage drama and bravery at NYCB

Paz de la Jolla, with Tiler Peck (kneeling) and Sterling Hyltin/Amar Ramasar (the lift). Photo: Paul Kolnik
Justin Peck's Paz de la Jolla premiered at New York City Ballet on Jan 31, another satisfying success for the young choreographer and dancer. (I reviewed it for Dance Magazine.) But it wasn't even the most dramatic part of the evening. That honor belonged to corps member (and choreographer as well) Troy Schumacher, who stepped into one of the lead roles in Concerto DSCH (2008), the program's finale choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky. Sean Suozzi was scheduled to dance the allegro male duet with Joaquin de Luz, but had to cancel because of a last minute backstage injury. 

Schumacher happened to be watching the performance in the audience. He had understudied de Luz's part before, but not Suozzi's, so he knew the basic phrases and was coached through the staging as best as possible. One of the emphases of this pairing is the synchronicity of rapid fire grand allegro phrases. It should appear as if a mirror is held up to one of them. And although Schumacher seemed slightly off at times, there wasn't anything egregious or terribly wrong about his performance. Just goes to show how smart and resourceful dancers can be.

Maria Kowroski and Daniel Ulbricht in Porte et Soupir.
Photo: Paul Kolnik
Concerto DSCH remains one of my favorite Ratmansky works, with its contrasting quick and lively lead woman (Ashley Bouder) and her male counterparts (de Luz and Schumacher), and a romantic couple, here danced touchingly and superbly by Tyler Angle and Janie Taylor. Ratmansky lets his corps dancers be human, with the foibles of boredom, sleepiness, and peer pressure seeping into their onstage actions. In fact, the casting structure of Peck's Paz somewhat parallels DSCH, as does some of the playful and irreverent tone and group passages. He has learned from an accomplished mind, in any case.  

The middle work was a folly by Balanchine, Variations Pour Une Porte et Un Soupir, from 1974. It takes inspiration from the score by Pierre Henry, an amalgam of the pseudonymous door creaks and sighs. Maria Kowroski manifested the door, more of an abstraction into a passageway of sorts, with an enormous parachute-sized, shimmering lame skirt whose corners flew up and down from the rafters. Daniel Ulbricht was the sigh, a lizard-like creature fond of the ground. This is a rare surrealist vision from Balanchine, an experiment that should be seen at most every few years.