Amy Winehouse, Big Ones, & BalletX at the Joyce Theater, Aug. 16-24, 2016….
I am a big fan of BalletX and I make sure to be front and center whenever they are performing the NYC area…It’s been exciting to watch this company grow and evolve into what I think, is one of the best small contemporary ballet companies in the United States.
I vividly remember the emotionally stirring performance of Alex Ketley’s 2009 work Silt, shown as part of the Joyce Theater’s 2013’s Ballet 6.0 festival. There was a dark edginess to the work. Mr. Ketley’s use of the body in space was innovative and possessed a haunting yet melodic structure. The piece was fresh, riveting and powerful… BalletX gave a very memhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtbDstFc5fMorable performance …I remember it as being one of the best performances I had seen that year….
In 2015 as part of the Joyce Theater’s Ballet Festival, the company performed the strange, but brilliant, Sunset, o369 Hours, a co-production by Matthew Neenan and Rosie Langabeeris. It was the telling of the tragic tale of the first airmail service flight between Now Zealand and United States that took place in 1938. Captain Edwin Musick and a crew of six were surprised to find that shortly after their departure from Pago Pago an oil leak was discovered. Deciding to dump the fuel and return to Pago Pago for repairs the plane unexpectedly exploded in mid-air, killing all.
So, with that said it saddens me to report that despite my love for everything BalletX…their recent performance at the Joyce Theater, August 16 – 24, 2016, was, to say it nicely, somewhat lackluster.
Matthew Neenan’s Show Me, with music from Padma Newsome, Aiofe O’Donnell and Christina Courtin (all of which are played instrumentally by the string quartet Brooklyn Rider) premiered at the Vail International Dance Festival in 2015. The work has a strange mix of the abstract merged with the classical vocabulary and is filled with quirky movements.
There is dialogue happening throughout the piece. It is in how the dancers interrelate to one another. But it is not a clear dialogue, it becomes muddled and then lost….There are too many breaks in the piece that interrupts both the flow of the work and the before mentioned dialogue between dancers. There were periods throughout where the music would stop and the dancers would move slowly.
The piece is at times silly and playful and then not…as if it could not make up its mind as to which of the three it should be, silly, playful or not. The women are en pointe and the work is filled with some dazzling pointe work and exquisite arabesques that hang suspended in time for the briefest of moments.
Christine Darch’s much be commended, for her costumes were exquisite. There are reminiscent of bathing suits circa 1920. A jewel-toned blue predominated and on some of the dancers would occasionally ombré into red. Now, combined with Drew Billau’s lighting design, the two made this work, despite a flaw or two, visually appealing.
Jorma Elo’s Gran Partita had its premiere in 2014 at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia. (BalletX is the Wilma Theater’s resident dance company.) Using taped music of Monteverdi, Bach, Mozart and Bach the piece has Mr. Elo’s signature style of blending contemporary movement with the classical vocabulary. His work is noted for being almost but not quite post-classical which is what gives him the freshness so noted in his work.
I have seen several of Mr. Elo’s work and sadly Gran Partita does not seem destined to be one of my favorites. I thought it paled in comparison to his Plan to B or ONE/end/ONE and then there is that wonderful performance given by Marcelo Gomes’ of Mr. Elo’s Still of Kings. Perhaps if I see Gran Partita again my perspective will change…
But it was Trey McIntyre Big Ones that saved the evening. Set to songs by late Amy Winehouse in combination with Reed Bartleme and Harriet Jung’s strange buy very sexy costumes…I set there fascinated from the moment the curtain went up till it came down.
There is genius to be found in this work, it’s not just in the originality of the concept but also in how Mr. McIntyre portrayed the production as a whole. I must admit, when I heard that BalletX and Trey McIntyre had plans to use Amy Winehouse’s music in a new work…I was skeptical to say the least….
The work was a little zany…but that’s what I found so fascinating, because nothing, absolutely nothing about the piece should have worked…but worked it did….The ten dancers come on stage and don these black headpieces with what looks like two foot tall rabbit ears…I was told they were an homage of sorts to Ms. Winehouse signature hair-do….
Mr. McIntyre’s choreography is capricious and a tad unorthodox. It is the dancers, who are totally engrossed in the piece, that sales the work. Chloe Felesina was wonderful and took us, the audience, with her as she danced. I have never seen Edgar Anido dancing better, during Jorma Elo’s Gran Partita his Cuban school of classical training was in strong evidence and great to see.
Trey McIntyre’s Big One was everything I had hoped it would be and more…
Now, please do not misunderstand me….it’s not that the performances given by BalletX during this year’s Joyce engagement were bad, just the opposite…Frankly, I do not think Ballet X could give a bad performance even if they tried. It’s just that BalletX has set such a high bar for itself that when I see them in performance I am prepared to be dazzled…the only piece that made me sit up and take notice was Trey McIntyre’s Big Ones…and for me….that piece alone was well worth the piece of a ticket….