Clearly, choreographer Jamar Roberts had a sense of what the world needed now: a lift, a boost, a glimmer of hope. Who wouldn’t agree? It’s February now, and the pandemic is still out there, fading but always looming. At the New York City Ballet, Roberts translates his need for joy into a dance in it jazz composer Wayne Shorter’s The music pushes the cast of eight – first solo and duet, then a trio and finally, as a collective – to a state of abandonment.
George Balanchine once said of dance and music: “If you see music as simply accompaniment, you don’t hear it. I occupied myself so as not to interfere with the music.”
In “Emanon – in Two Movements”, set to “Pegasus” and “Prometheus Unbound” by Shorter, Roberts doesn’t precisely interfere with the music, though he doesn’t actually reveal the other dancer side of it either. Much of his new ballet marks musical notes on their surface. Part of that has to do with the nimble tunes – the delight of ballet – in which the dancers, often confined to enclosed areas of the stage, make quick, clear footwork. .
Roberts, resident choreographer at the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – where he recently retired as a dancer – spoke about how Balanchine is an influencer. But in “Emanon” he seems to pay homage to Ailey, for whom ballet is a force despite being known as a modern choreographer. You see it in Ailey’s dances, especially in his playful petit allegro, small steps that make it seem like their own feet are knitting an invisible sweater. That’s the best part of the ballet.
In “Emanon,” the part of a show where all of the choreographers have roots in modern or contemporary dance rather than ballet, the stage can feel eerily empty. Even as the dancers spin and soar, they sometimes strain to appear carefree. But while the music is moody, the dance – aside from Jonathan Fahoury’s standout solo – takes on an air of euphoria.
It begins with a solo for Unity Phelan, where she extends her long legs and swings one foot decisively as her arched arms – flowing like never before – frame her adorable face. her love. It’s a pretty cool but predictable intro: Emily Kikta and Peter Walker run in and meet in the center. Next, Indiana Woodward takes over, her fleet swarming through the air. (Lighting and setting, by Brandon Stirling Baker, makes the back of the stage look like a letterbox, with the bottom part illuminated.)
Gradually, with a latent steadfastness, Roberts’ ballet begins to evolve with you. The compact, elegant Jovani Furlan is the courtesy partner of Emma Von Enck. He’s the best partner in general, as his recent debut in Balanchine’s “La Valse” made it clear: He look with the person he’s dancing with, and that connection, in “Emanon,” gives the steps of another world a sweep as if the pair were gliding on ice.
The atmosphere changed as Fahoury, with low intensity, darted across the stage decisively, turning sharply right to land at center stage, where he moved in and out of sinewy shapes that flexed his shoulders. His toughness melted as his torso bent and bent. With his whips changing direction, his arms form strict geometrical shapes in contrast to the rest of his body that, somehow, seems to want to vaporize.
In this ballet, Fahoury is something from the real world: a mournful, pitiful hero, and the partner of another dancer, Anthony Huxley, whose dance is raw, pristine, inclined. in the joy of taking the atmosphere and changing it, once again, into a place of balletic joy. His universe is ballet.
“Emanon” is uneven; Men’s dance is more difficult, more open than women’s. That makes sense – dancing or choreographing for the pointy shoe is not of Roberts’ lineage. But the work also lacks structural diversity: The image shows a diagonal line with two women dotting the ends, performing a basic spear maneuver, and a man dancing a heart in the middle. The ballet will seem less bony with more body, especially at the end – a group chorus that starts out as a choreographic sprint but quickly begins, in a good way, like like a marathon.
Here, the cast wears Jermaine Terry’s outfits in lavender tones – knee-high pleated skirts and men’s fusion suits that remind me of tuxedo t-shirts – make them look like a wedding party. Bringing their bodies past the threshold of exhaustion, they suddenly turned to face us, penetratingly still. Roberts may have more experience in modern dance than ballet, but what he does understand is dance, and that’s what “Emanon” – “no name” spelled backwards – is about. Those are not words, but feelings.
What’s unusual about the City Ballet show is that both Roberts’ work and Kyle Abraham’s “The Runaway” (2018) were performed for music. Just average, Pam Tanowitz’s “Bartók Ballet” (2019) features live music, performed by FLUX Quartet. Returning to the stage, “Bartók” was different in big and subtle ways.
One musical movement, Bartók’s Fifth String Quartet, has been cut out, helping to move the dance to a faster tempo. Part of me feels it’s still too long. But the 10-man cast, glittering in bronze and gold by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung, feels more comfortable in Tanowitz’s sometimes uncomfortable movement. It’s now a community where dancers – with their backs turned, stomping on the floor in pointy shoes, even slapping their thighs – roam the stage like floating fairy dust. But wander, they have. Tanowitz’s moves are the most unusual of the night, full of creativity and intelligence, but in “Bartók,” it’s hard to see where they lead.
Kyle Abraham’s “The Runaway,” set to music by Nico Muhly, Kanye West, Jay-Z and James Blake, has always struck me as more of an event than a cohesive dance – with, for sure, a pairing Notable solo for Taylor Stanley and an overlooked gem for Roman Mejia. It’s still what it used to be: A runway show of sound and costumes, courtesy of designer Giles Deacon.
Abraham, Roberts and Tanowitz are serious dancers, but here, for different reasons, they have no depth. However, being able to see their experiments in one night, even when they failed and failed, was a definite improvement – for the choreographers, for the dancers, for the workers. company. In the past, City Ballet based on the foundation of contemporary ballet to make new choreography. We can’t go back to that; Here, at least no dance is like the others. But how do you make ballet modern with choreographers that, no matter how talented, are not used to the scale and history of the Balanchine stage?
And, by bringing them to the screen, something at City Ballet Yes changed: Has there ever been a show with the choreography of one black woman and two black men? And when does that seem normal? Feel good.
https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/04/arts/dance/review-city-ballet-jamar-roberts.html Review: City Ballet repaired for modern dance