On Wednesday night, New York City Ballet slashed ticket prices to $29 throughout the house, so two-thirds of the audience – in enough sneakers and tattoos to fill Brooklyn – was showing up for the first time. To lure the 20-somethings back, though, City Ballet would have to pick better dances.
The evening began with faux avant-gardism. Richard Tanner’s 1982 duet Sonatas and Interludes imagined its impish, open-hearted John Cage score as a straitened, shrunken thing; Ulysses Dove’s 1994 quartet Red Angels mistook the late Balanchine strain of ballet for posturing. For dessert we were served pseudo-populism – Peter Martins stripping Ray Charles of soul in his endless 1988 A Fool For You. But, for 15 blessed minutes mid-show, we got a break from the awfulness.
In Creases, 26-year-old Justin Peck’s third premiere of the year, proved inventive and resonant where the other works were meagre of means and empty of meaning, and propulsive and visually arresting where they were static and shapeless. Plus, the eight-person ensemble piece felt contemporary. Peck is not interested in deconstructing ballet. Like his nearest peers Ratmansky and Wheeldon – and any number of artists of his generation – he rings changes on his idiom by affectionately playing with its conventions.
The City Ballet soloist appreciates ballet’s zeal for architecture, but his huddles, hurdles, folk-dance lines and cross-hatched columns emerge from a group of peers, not from on high. Out of the middle of a spiky formation, a soloist might bloom and blow the figure open. Anyone could be that person, and at some point in In Creases nearly everyone was.
The contrast in the Philip Glass score for double piano between a straightforward run of notes and a bumpy figure-eight became, in the dance, a flurry or dash of motion set against a frozen tableau, or stretched torsos against blunt hieroglyphic arms. The effect was like reading each letter of a word and simultaneously grasping its meaning. Revealing its make-up as it unfolded, In Creases invested the moment with the force of the future, and its own modest self with a vision of the art form: enough for any audience, new and young included.
Until June 8; www.nycballet.com