Experimental feature

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Experimental feature

The inaugural season of City Center’s new resident company, Morphoses, started well. From a programming point of view, it looked much more coherent than the series of disparate pas de deux that made up its debut at Sadler’s Wells in London a month ago. An all-star cast, albeit with some different dancers, gave Wheeldon’s – and, for one ballet, William Forsythe’s – choreography their best.

This programme included a major piece, the beautiful There Where She Loved, with its couples, trios and quartets going through the agonies, ecstasies and sometimes playfulness of love, to Chopin piano pieces and songs by Kurt Weil sung on stage by soprano Kate Vetter Cain and mezzo Shelley Waite. The Bolshoi’s Anastasia Yatsenko was the welcome guest here, dancing exquisitely, partnered by New York City Ballet’s Craig Hall in the opening duet to Chopin’s “A Wish” (pianist Cameron Grant).

NYCB’s Gonzalo Garcia, a newcomer to the company, showed off his plush balon in big jumps and beautifully controlled turns with an unforced pliancy. His partnering was exemplary too. Sterling Hyltin shone with him in the light-hearted Chopin of the ballet’s title. Ashley Bouder, Teresa Reichlen and Ashley Laracey, all from NYCB, were the sweethearts left by Craig Hall in Weil’s plaintive “Nana’s Lied” and Maria Kowroski and one of the Ballet Boyz, Michael Nunn, were superb as seeking and rejected lovers in Weil’s “Je ne t’aime pas”.

Tryst followed, to a commissioned score by James MacMillan, with Darcey Bussell and Jonathan Cope, both retired from the Royal Ballet, dancing together again as if they’d never parted. It’s a piece full of unusual lifts (at one point she cartwheels over him supported by his legs as he lies on the floor), undulations and emphasis of line exploiting Bussell’s arrow-soaring arabesques. Cope is a quiet presence, equal, even if he only provides the handsome setting for Bussell to shine from. Between the ballets, short video projections – clips of backstage scenes – added a nice informal touch that helped to identify some of the dancers who followed.

William Forsythe’s suprisingly classical Slingerland, a 2002 work to music by Gavin Bryars, seems far from this choreographer’s usual style. Even Wendy Whelan, dancing superbly as usual, couldn’t overcome the absurd effect of the stiff little tutu that wavered around her hips like the brim of a hat in a stiff breeze. Edwaard Liang expertly partnered. When the RB’s Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg premiered Wheeldon’s Prokofiev pas de deux in London I was blown away by its romanticism. Tina Pereira and Nehemiah Kish of the National Ballet of Canada danced well, but they couldn’t quite project the swooning love infused by the RB’s couple; and Pereira’s short
white costume was less effective than the deep rose chiffon worn by Cojocaru.

Wheeldon hasn’t succumbed to camping up the eminently campable “Dance of the Hours” from Ponchielli’s La Gioconda, originally choreographed for the Met. Ashley Bouder was the pert and precise ballerina, the bounding Garcia her partner, and the corps, though occasionally ragged, danced stylishly. Holly Hyne’s lavish 19th-century costumes matched Wheeldon’s period style for this classical romp, so deft and such fun I never gave a thought to Disney’s hippos and ostriches.
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