life in and around NYC is insane

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The New York City Ballet

One of the joys of living on Long Island is its proximity to New York City, and the availability of so many cultural opportunities.

A friend of mine has a subscription to the NYC Ballet.She sees 8-10 performances every year, all from her seat in the second ring.  Occasionally I get to go with her.  I do not pretend to be an expert in the art of dance, but I really enjoy the performances.

Last week we saw an evening built around the music of Richard Rodgers.  Yes, that Richard Rodgers, who worked so famously with Oscar Hammerstein and also with Lorenz Hart.  As a "Broadway baby", I know so much of his music.

There were three dances presented that evening. I'd seen two of them before -- in 2002 the Ballet built its gala around Rodgers' music, and I was lucky enough to attend.  (That gala was an incredible evening, topped off by a surprise performance by Bernadette Peters!)  

The first dance was  Carousel (A Dance).  

From the website:

In 2002, New York City Ballet devoted its Opening Night performance to the music of Richard Rodgers, to honor the composer’s centennial. For his contribution to the program, Christopher Wheeldon used an arrangement of Rodgers’ “The Carousel Waltz” and “If I Loved You” from the 1945 musical Carousel; the ballet is a distillation of Carousel’s central romance, and it is evocative of the “dream ballets” found in many musicals of that era.

The costuming is kept simple, the men dressed in black, the women in basic dance dresses.

Photos are from the company's website -- you are not permitted to take photos inside the theater.

My favorite moment from the dance was when the male dancers became carousel ponies, lifting the female dancers to simulate riding a carousel.  

The second dance was Thou Swell.

From the website:

Four elegant couples dance the night away in an art deco ballroom in Peter Martins’ tribute to composer Richard Rodgers.  Created in honor of the 100th anniversary of Rodgers’ birth, Thou Swell was first performed as part of an All Rodgers gala performance that also included Christopher Wheeldon’s Carousel (A Dance), and Robert La Fosse’s Land of Nod.

So very different from the first dance.  There was a jazz trio (piano, drums, bass) on the stage, and two guest singers, as well as the dancers.

The final dance, the only one I had never seen, was Slaughter on Tenth Avenue.

From the website:

The original Slaughter on Tenth Avenue was created for the 1936 Rodgers and Hart musical On Your Toes, and featured Ray Bolger as "The Hoofer" and Tamara Geva as "The Stripper." The first full-scale ballet within a musical, and the first to advance the action of the show, it also introduced the word "choreography" to Broadway, at Balanchine's request. On Your Toes was also the first of four Rodgers and Hart musicals choreographed by Balanchine during the 1930s, the others being Babes in ArmsI Married an Angel, and The Boys from Syracuse.

A story-within-a-story, it tells the tale of a jealous premier danseur, who hires a thug to kill a rival during the premiere of a new ballet. The ballet — Slaughter on Tenth Avenue — concerns the seedy denizens who patronize a strip joint near the New York waterfront where brawls frequently occur. Within the context of this shabby setting, a Hoofer falls in love with a Stripper and is discovered with her after closing time by the club's owner, the Big Boss, who accidentally shoots her. The "corpse" of the Stripper manages to pass a note to the Hoofer warning him of the real murder plot, and once aware that the thug, who is sitting in one of the theater's boxes, is planning to shoot him when he stops dancing, the Hoofer keeps repeating his closing phrase until the police arrive.

I think this one was my favorite.  I guess it's because the dance has its roots on Broadway, and has that Broadway vibe.   A ballet that begins with performers delivering dialogue....

Yes, definitely an interesting evening of dance.  

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