Got to see the New York Theatre Ballet recently… for free! Couldn’t pass that up!
The first half of the show was the Alice in Wonderland Follies. To be honest, I’ve never been a big AiW fan… I forced myself to read the book as a kid, but I don’t remember much about the story and I don’t remember particularly enjoying it! But… reread the first sentence of this post about ballet and free! Haha. In general, I really did enjoy a lot of this act. There were a few dances in particular that stood out. Pig and Pepper (The Duchess, The Cook, and The Baby) was amazing. The baby was a most adorable little girl (found out during the Q&A that she is “five and a half”) who was spot on the entire time, even after being swung by one arm and one leg for quite a large portion of the dance. Tweedledum and Tweedledee (the same men who played the duchess and the cook) had an equally entertaining dance. The entire cast did a great rendition of the Jabberwocky poem. One of the things I enjoyed most about this piece was how they used the set. The opening when Alice pops up out of the dollhouse was truly magical. Then throughout the piece the cast was continually moving the trees and various large blocks around stage to reflect the story they were portraying. Very inventive.
After intermission the dancers performed a variety of modern works. The first was Septet by Merce Cunningham. I was really excited to hear that they would be performing something of his since he’s known as a major player in modern dance choreography. Unfortunately it left me feeling as though my tastes are horribly unrefined. I struggle a bit with avant garde works and this definitely fell into my definition of avant garde. But… still glad I got to see it and expand my horizons. The second work they performed was Othello by John Butler. Truly impressive, though again left me feeling as though I need some refinement (never was a big Shakespeare fan, couldn’t begin to tell you what Othello was about… might’ve helped to have known that before watching it). But this piece was incredibly engaging. The dancers showed so much passion and there were amazing lifts with the two men. It’s impressive to see a man lift a small woman in the air, but even moreso to see men of equal size lift each other in the air! The final piece was entitled Game Two and was choreographed by Matthew Neenan. I loved the costuming in this piece. The opening was my favorite part. The backs of all the costumes were black (the fronts had different colors) and the dancers were all facing the back of the stage dancing and then, swoop!, they all ran off. I don’t know why, but that impressed me.
Perhaps the best part of the show was the Q&A afterwards. The entire company, the pianists, and the founder of the company came out to take audience questions. We got to hear how old the dancers were when they started (largely in the 3-7 age range, though one dancer didn’t get his start until the age of 16), what other types of dance they enjoyed, and what they thought they may want to do when they leave performing. It was truly a privilege to have this sort of interaction and I was so glad that the theatre made a free show of this calibre available to the community. It was great to have a show in a beautiful theater that was available to everyone and I loved that they took a popular story to show children (and adults) that ballet doesn’t have to be stuffy and boring and pristine. It can be hilarious and colorful and magical!