Jerome Robbins' gorgeous "Antique Epigraphs"
Jerome Robbins is seared into the spirit of New York City Ballet. Yes, George Balanchine is the company’s founder – its heart and soul. But choreographer Robbins balanced out its aesthetic – elevating the company superlative status from one of the most innovative companies in the world to one of the most beloved.
It’s only fitting then that City Ballet would spend two weeks honoring Robbins at the centennial of his birth. On Saturday, in the Koch Theater at Lincoln Center, I had the opportunity to see four of his ballets that demonstrated his mastery of storytelling and musicality.
The program, “See the Music…..” began with a gushing deconstruction of Ravel’s “In G Major,” by company Music Director Andrew Litton. Perhaps the score needed a little love as Robbins’ realization of “In G Major” is not among his best nor a favorite work.
Robbins imagined Ravel’s piano concerto as beach party where dancers romp through the sands on a sunny day. It was pleasant, but doesn’t strike an emotional chord until the pas de deux. Danced by Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle, Kowroski acted as a shoreline wave. She rushed forward and back from Angle who remained steady as a Maine boulder affixed along he coast. In this way, “In G Major” blossomed into a homage to the those who remain true during erratic and unpredictable days.
“In G Major” was followed by the dancemaker’s rendering of Debussy’s “Afternoon of a Faun.” He refashioned the classic Nijinsky ballet, an erotic fantasy, into a cautionary tale for young ballet dancers. Sterling Hyltin and Chase Finlay danced the young couple in a studio whose encounter is numbed by their obsession with their own reflections in the mirror. Here, Robbins underscored the tragedy of narcissism and superficial relationships.
Both Finlay and Hyltin were exceptional in their roles of dancers enchanted with themselves and inspiring the audience’s enchantment too.
“Antique Epigraphs,” another Debussy ballet, strolled out the choreographer’s ability to envision the beautiful in the simple. Eight female dancers, wearing sheer tunics in muted autumn hues, transformed into ancient bas-relief sculpture. Moving, sometimes just walking, and then stopping to pose, the octet transported the audience to Greek and Roman ages when art idealized the body. “Antique Epigraphs” was gorgeous.
The curtain closed on a favorite, “The Concert (Or the Perils of Everybody).” In it, Robbins trained his critical eye on the foibles of humanity for a silly and funny ballet. Lauren Lovette was perfectly cast as the dreamy ingenue. And Andrew Veyette was equally wonderful as the grouchy, hounded husband who tries to have his way with her.
No matter how many times I see “The Concert,” the gags make me laugh. Sure, the characters were cardboard cutouts, but it was a hoot. Just ask the children who sat behind me who giggled throughout. They gave me hope that ballet can endure in the hearts of another generation.