Taylor Stanley is a standout in "The Runaway," a new work by Kyle Abraham.
“The Runaway” signals a new era for New York City Ballet.
The ballet, choreographed by Kyle Abraham, the first he has ever created for a ballet company, means that the company is catching up to world. And, with the departure of the disgraced Peter Martins, the company will no longer bristle from the territory that ballet now treads – hard and edgy, dark and relevant.
The years of fairy tales of poetic dreamers pursuing the idealized feminine beauty, though popular with audiences, no longer inspires choreographers. Today’s dance makers are living today and reflecting today. And to see it finally seep into the hallowed halls of New York City Ballet is refreshing.
Everything about “Runaway,” which made its Saratoga Performing Arts Center premiere on Wednesday night, surprised. The black and white costumes, designed by Giles Deacon, were outlandish: Peter Walker’s collar obscured his face and Sara Mearns and Georgina Pazcoguin, nearly unrecognizable in black spikey wigs.
Yet what was most surprising was the music – mainly from the Kanye West song book. The ballet started with “Quiet Music from Three Etudes” by Nico Muhly for piano and violin. Then the lights went dark in the orchestra pit and West along with voices of Jay-Z and James Blake reverberated, showing ballet is not just about beauty.
The star of the piece was the prodigious Taylor Stanley. His opening solo, in which he appears more avian than human, was riveting. Stanley has a supernatural ability to pour so much more into every movement. When Stanley dances, the audience doesn’t just see a body; it sees a soul.
“The Runaway” is made up of some extraordinary and funky solos, duets and trios. The bouncing and spinning Spartak Hoxha in “I Love Kanye” was eye-popping. Ashley Bouder was ideal for the whole affair as she personifies today’s dancer – able, strong and unstoppable.
There was a lot to see in the ballet that it requires several viewings to take it all in. The same can be said for Justin Peck’s “Principia,” which also had its premiere at SPAC. The work, set to a commissioned score by Sufjan Stevens, a favorite composer of Peck’s, was rich with imagery that could be happily experienced again and again.
Among them was the opening with the dancers clustered with individuals bursting from the huddle and then melting back down. The section where the dancers gather like haystacks, that when tapped, reveal another who flares freely to release another from a cluster was lovely.
The incredible evening opened with yet another SPAC premiere, Jean-Pierre Frohlich’s “Varied Trio (in Four).” Set to music by Lou Harrison, the ballet is a duet with the trio, pianist Alan Moverman, violinist Kurt Nikkanen and percussionist James Baker, onstage.
Sterling Hyltin danced the pas de deux with Amar Ramasar, who recently returned to the company after City Ballet was order to reinstate him after he was fired for sending explicit texts of a fellow dancer.
Hyltin and Ramasar performed this cool and robotic pas de deux with calm and precision. Sadly, as it was the first time seeing Ramasar, all I could think of was what he was accused of doing.
He has always been a favorite of mine – mainly because he elicits so much joy in dancing. He often can’t hold breaking into his well-known jaunty smile. I’m not sure that the dancer he allegedly harmed can move on. But I hope I can and take pleasure in Ramasar’s gifts once again.