New York Theatre Ballet: Legends & Visionaries at New York Live Arts
New York Theatre Ballet has plenty to celebrate. Their new home at St. Mark’s Church gives the 37-year-old company and school their first sense of permanence. Plus, this week’s performances mark New York Live Arts debut, the best dance venue in Manhattan with its intimate size and great all-around seating. NYTB’s program showed what makes them special, but proved too much of a good thing.
The program’s second half was given to Keith Michael’s The Alice in Wonderland Follies. This 2001 re-working of Alice set in a 1915 music hall is among NYTB’’s most popular works. While intended for children, it is also a sophisticated mix of dance styles (classical ballet, soft shoe, a sweet send-up of Isadora Duncan) and music (Elgar, Debussy, Sousa, a music box) that captures Carroll perfectly. A highlight of Alice is the company reciting Jabberwocky while reenacting it with very little movement. However, the 50-minute ballet – the perfect length for any age – was misplaced on a program that already was exciting with two premiers and a revival. Adding Alice came across as overreaching.
Another fairy tale inspired Nicolo Fonte’s There, and Back Again – but not the one in Middle Earth. Fonte has taken essential elements of Hansel and Gretel to explore facing fears and growing up. A modern ballet without pointe shoes for four dancers (Elena Zahlmann, Michael Wells, Steven Menendez, Amanda Treiber), it creates perilous enchantment without scenery. Kevin Keller’s original score for violin (Margarita Krein) and piano (Michale Scales) is appropriately atmospheric.
Pam Tanowitz’s Double Andante is her NYTB second ballet. The dance for all 12 company members is intentionally self-conscious, exaggerating ballet posing and positioning. The rather austere second movement of Beethoven’s Sonata in D Major Opus 28 is transformed into something extremely dance friendly and comical. The ballerinas’ costumes were shades of blue that matched their bright blue pointe shoes – a Degas painting come to life with great ballet technique.
NYTB is treasured for its revivals of lost or forgotten works. They are now caretakers of Merce Cunningham’s Cross Currents. The early 1954 work is danced not to John Cage but Conlon Nancarrow, who also altered piano sounds. The trio, performed by Alexis Branagan, and Amanda Treiber and Chooh Hoon Lee, is a primer on how to utilize and create space. The step combinations are incredible; the three propelled by energy. Cross Currents looks new but is timeless.
New York Theatre Ballet is on at New York Live Arts until February 21, 2015. For further information or to book visit here.