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. 

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