On Friday, September 16, on the Cobb Vitality Performing Arts Centre, the Atlanta Ballet opened its first full season because the pandemic started with Balanchine Impressed, a two-hour program that took the viewers from the avant garde poetry of George Balanchine’s Serenade, via the canny post-modern homage of Kiyon Ross’ Sum Stravinsky, to the pure geometry of Justin Peck’s In Creases. It was a giant night of bold, technically difficult ballet that showcased a sturdy firm in prime kind and explored what has saved neoclassical vocabulary related within the quickly evolving panorama of Twenty first-century dance.
With its swirling, dynamic use of area, Serenade, choreographed in 1934, nonetheless felt completely trendy. The 5 lead dancers — Jacob Bush, Emily Carrico, Airi Igarashi, Jessica He and Patric Palkens — confidently led a very adept, cohesive corps de ballet via a fantastic sequence of dwelling tableaux that woke up the viewers’s collective creativeness. Serenade’s aesthetics have aged nicely, no less than partially as a result of Balanchine’s model and method proceed to exert a robust affect in American dance coaching.
Serenade additionally continues to be a quintessential expression of the assorted inventive forces at work when it premiered. For instance, although Balanchine intentionally eschewed linear narrative, his choreography activated a Surrealist proliferation of allusion and symbolism.
The dancers gliding, working and hovering throughout the stage, weaving into and out of advanced formations, at instances resembled swish figures from the Elgin Marbles come to life, nymphs and satyrs out of a Sixteenth-century tapestry, or elegant attendees at a moonlit backyard celebration.
The pictures within the haunting, evocative last part hinted at an archetypal plot of lovers’ jealousy and betrayal: the “Waltz Lady” mendacity on the bottom after a staged collapse, her unbound hair unfold round her; the “Darkish Angel” urgent her torso in opposition to the again of her male companion, protecting his eyes with one hand and pointing the way in which with the opposite as she guided him throughout the stage.
The ballet concluded with three males carrying the Waltz Lady from downstage proper to upstage left via two diagonal rows of dancers. Slowly, she shifted her weight into her hips and thighs, arching her again and thrusting her sternum ahead. In these last moments, the ensemble turned a ship crusing into the sundown, a soul ascending into the hereafter, or the effigy of an historic goddess carried on parade.
As quickly because the curtain got here down and the lights got here up for intermission, patrons seated close by started trying to find vocabulary to explain and talk about what that they had simply skilled.
The night closed with the Atlanta premiere of Justin Peck’s 14-minute In Creases, which was commissioned for New York Metropolis Ballet’s summer season residency on the Saratoga Performing Arts Middle in 2012. In that piece, the dancers’ supple higher our bodies, fluid ports de bras, clear pointe work and petit allegro (small, quick jumps), and exact spatial consciousness have been equally on show. Right here, although, the multivalent symbols and allusions from Serenade gave strategy to the fractal and kaleidoscopic symmetries of intricately engineered clockwork.
Set to a dwell efficiency of Philip Glass’ 4 Actions for Two Pianos, Actions I and III, carried out by Western-Li Summerton and Dr. Hyunjung Rachel Chung, In Creases featured an ensemble of eight soloists, the ladies wearing white camisole leotards with black piping, the lads wearing white tights and tight-fitting white shirts together with black ballet footwear and socks. The 2 pianists and their black grand pianos shared the stage with the dancers.
The tempo of In Creases continuously picked up velocity till the ultimate seconds, but moments like the complete blackout throughout the pause between actions punctuated its driving physicality with stillness and detrimental area. Equally, flowing transitions into and out of ruler-straight rows and razor sharp poses softened what would possibly in any other case have been jarring angularity into well-oiled movement.
The eight dancers — Carrico, He and Palkens, joined by Sujin Han, Fuki Takahashi, Sergio Masero, Miguel Angel Montoya and Ángel Ramírez, turned in attractive performances. Palkens was a standout in a sequence of allegro mixtures.
The ballet ended with the ensemble grouped heart stage, the dancers bent ahead on the waist with fingers touching the ground. Because it usually did all through the work, the dancing appeared to reflect the interior workings of the pianos. When the sparse notes of the ultimate measures sounded, one or two of the dancers rose, finishing an arabesque or extension earlier than returning to a folded relaxation place. This was repeated via the group till ultimately all was nonetheless.
Bookended by Serenade and In Creases, Kiyon Ross’ sensible, pleasant Sum Stravinsky actually and figuratively stuffed within the gaps. At creative director Peter Boal’s request, Ross created the work on the Pacific Northwest Ballet for a Stravinsky competition in 2012, and it had its Atlanta Ballet premiere in 2019.
Ross set the work to the three actions of Dumbarton Oaks, every part with distinct costuming and lighting. Ross’ vocabulary drew primarily from ballet, however constantly built-in recurring shapes and steps drawn from trendy dance, jazz and swing. Bent entrance legs en pointe, prancing runs with turned-in knees and hips, low step-ball-change transitions on excessive demi pointe in a deep parallel fourth place plié nodded to how neoclassical choreographers since Jerome Robbins have hybridized ballet with different traditions to revitalize the shape.
The streamlined “pancake”-style classical tutus, tender glances shared between adagio companions, and even an occasional triumphant smile and gaze directed to the viewers, relatively than into the center distance, supplied reminders that the neoclassical canon consists of extra than simply summary, plotless ballets. It additionally contains many works that, like Sum Stravinsky, draw consideration to ballet each as dance, emotionally expressive and social, and as theatrical efficiency.
The male dancers in Sum Stravinsky shone in Ross’ hovering allegro sections. Jessica Assef was sinuously beautiful within the second motion pas de deux, and Darian Kane’s polished energy sparkled within the finalé.
Balanchine Impressed provided a well-crafted introduction to the neoclassical ballet custom, together with detailed program notes and a pre-show video earlier than every bit that supplied historic and creative background. The movies, which have gotten a daily function of Atlanta Ballet performances, have been helpful and well-produced, however they interrupted the move of and deal with dwell efficiency and may be higher built-in as purely on-line content material that may very well be accessed through a QR code in this system.
Nonetheless, general Balanchine Impressed delivered a promising first take a look at the 2022-23 firm and a becoming opening to a season that features two extra combined payments (one in February, one other in Could) that includes new and canonical neoclassical works.
Robin Wharton studied dance on the College of American Ballet and the Pacific Northwest Ballet College. As an undergraduate at Tulane College in New Orleans, she was a member of the Newcomb Dance Firm. Along with a Bachelor of Arts in English from Tulane, Robin holds a regulation diploma and a Ph.D. in English, each from the College of Georgia.