Cultural Cocktail Hour

Review: Ballet NOW- A Kaleidoscope of styles at the Music Center

Review: Ballet NOW-

A Kaleidoscope of styles at the Music Center

By Leticia Marie Sanchez

With Ballet Now, the Los Angeles Music Center found itself as a global stage for the best that ballet has to offer. The performers included dancers from companies including: the New York City Ballet,  The Royal Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Dorrance Dance, Miami City Ballet, and the Paris Opera Ballet. The superlative choreography included the work of George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Frederick Ashton, Ulysses Dove and Justin Peck. International dance sensation Tiler Peck curated the innovative kaleidoscope of pieces which kept both the dancers and the audience on their toes.

The ballet was a dynamic tapestry that skillfully juxtaposed contrasting shades of music, choreography, and talent. The program opened with the thought-provoking Increases, choreographed by Justin Peck and performed to Philip Glass’ Four Movements by Two Pianos. The palette of pale blue like a meditative Rothko, set the stage for a whimsical performance in which the dancers showcased their talent individually and collectively.  Immediately following the witty performance came the serious dreamy Pas de Deux from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. In this piece the dancers movingly conveyed the sense of all-consuming love. In contrast to the introspective emotion evoked by Romeo and Juliet, Hershy Kay’s Stars and Stripes re-energized the audience with its exuberant, clipped beat and physical feats which roused the crowd to wild applause. Tiler Peck truly proved a standout with her flawless performance.

After the boisterous brass of Stars and Stripes, the Meditation from Thais by Jules Massenet was a welcome respite of introspection, a jewel of piece, choreographed by Frederick Ashton and danced by Lauren Cutbertson and Reece Clark. Next in the unique musical dialectic curated by Peck was Red Angels, choreographed by Ulysses Dove and performed to Maxwell’s Demon by Richard Einhorn. Red Angels was highlight of Ballet Now. Although first performed in 1994, it still felt innovative, pushing the boundaries of ballet into abstract expression. The effective lighting, and sparse, modernistic contrast between red and black, allowed the audience to focus their gaze on the dancers who alternated between harmony and discord, creating tension and anticipation through their movement.

The weakest link in the program was Fancy Free, which after the electrifying Red Angels, proved anti-climatic. The music of Leonard Bernstein was sensual and evocative and the cast of dancers charming, but unfortunately, Jerome Robbin’s choreography felt dated and at times veered into misogynistic territory. Sailors gaping at female pedestrians walking alone at night (and in one case, grabbing a lady’s purse) was intended to be light-hearted and humorous but made for uncomfortable viewing, as though one were gazing at Ruth Orkin’s iconic 1951 photo, “American Girl in Italy” in which a lone female walking alone hurries past a pack of leering men. However, the set design by Oliver Smith was stunning, a page of Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” come to life.

During intermission, I overheard many audiences members commenting on what a treat it was to be able to enjoy shorter pieces, thereby enjoying a variety of composition, choreography, and dancers in one program. The superb lighting and striking set design complemented the varying shades of the artistic palette. Hopefully, these artistic kaleidoscopes will continue at the Music Center, keeping Los Angeles on the forefront of the international dance scene.

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