New York City Ballet -- American Music

The first element I noticed was that her feet were bare. Barber Violin Concerto (Peter Martins 1988) is choreographed for two couples, one more modern in style (hence bare feet) and one dancing classical ballet.  It was a stunning contrast, to have the two mirror each other, in white costumes that resembled silk floating across a sky, accompanied by Barber’s sometimes tense yet mostly lilting, ethereal visions.  

If the kids from West Side Story took a train to the suburbs they would end up in N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz, Jerome Robbin’s 1958 piece that was first performed in Italy at the Spoleto Festival of Two Worlds. The dancers all wear candy colored t-shirts with Keds-style sneakers to match. Creating a kaleidoscope of colors they circle each other warily, like dogs approaching each other on the street. There are street scenes and a dark, club-like number with some very Audrey Hepburn-in-Funny Face moves. The backdrops, by Ben Shahn, are stunning, giving the work an abstract setting that only the 1950s could produce.

Less is definitely more in The Most Incredible Thing (Justin Peck 2016) based on a fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen. The story, of a contest to win a king’s daughter, is on a grand scale that employs a large cast. I felt the costumes, while impressive on their own, were a distraction bordering on camp, as was the scrim that opened the piece. There were too many patterns, colors and words that were not discernible. The work would have been much more powerful if it had put the City Ballet stamp of minimalism on it. I would have loved to see this work with simple colors and no patterns to showcase the dancing. The story would certainly fall into place if this had been the case.