Premiere of Alexei Ratmansky's "Concerto DSCH"I made my way down to New York this afternoon. The 160-mile drive took five hours because traffic was only crawling for about ten miles as the Cross Bronx Expressway ("Expressway" being a cruel joke) approached the George Washington Bridge. I was due to attend the evening performance of the New York City Ballet, and was only about ten minutes late because I found a free parking space right behind the Lincoln Center on Amesterdam Avenue. (I had been counting on parking in the Lincoln Center garage, but it was full by the time I finally arrived.)
Once I was in the theater, I was treated to a program that, all in all, was quite enjoyable. The first piece was Christopher Wheeldon's "Rococo Variations" to music of Tschaikovsky, premiered in February. This is an engaging classical piece, my only qualm being that some of the choreography seemed unduly repetitive.
After the first intermission, we saw Mauro Bigonzetti's "Oltremare," set to a wonderful commissioned score of the same name by Bruno Moretti. ("Oltremare" means "overseas" in Italian.) This piece, an amalgam of modern expressive movement and old-fashioned dance forms, premiered in January. In terms of costumes, which have an unfussy nineteenth century look; props immigrants' suitcases; and lighting, this is a beautiful stage work. The mix of choreogrphic styles struck me as awkward, but the overall impression the ballet made was appealing.
After the second intermission came one of the ballets by Peter Martins that are routinely criticized for being "cold." To my eye, "River of Light," set to commissioned music of Charles Wuorinen and first performed ten years ago, is an elegant study in symmetry and pure contemporary ballet movement. I like it, which I think puts me in a rather small group of City Ballet watchers.
Source: New York City Ballet
The final piece was the reason I was attending this particular program. Alexei Ratmansky presented the world premiere of "Concerto DSCH," which he has set to the second piano concerto of Dmitri Shostakovich (1957). As explained in the program notes, "The ballet's title refers to a musical motif used by Shostakovich to represent himself; the motif consists of four notes that, when written in German notation, stand in for his initials in the German spelling (D. Sch.)"
I can't say that the costumes (described here) helped the ballet, but aside from that, I enjoyed the way in which Ratmansky responded to Shostakovich's upbeat score. He honored classical movement while making use of contemporary departures from the pure classical vocabulary. His frequent use of asymmetric stage patterns is something I want to reflect on when I get a chance for a second look at the dance. I especially liked Ratmansky's decision to have one couple (Wendy Whelan and Benjamin Millepied) and, instead of a second couple, a threesome (Ashley Bouder, Joaquin De Luz, and Gonzalo Garcia).