Friday, May 04, 2018

New York Evening Hours by Lieba Nesis

New York City Ballet "Springs" Into Gala Season With Jerome Robbins 100-Year Celebration

The audience
All photos Lieba Nesis
Click images for full size views

On Thursday, May 3, 2018, the New York City Ballet held its annual Spring Gala with cocktails beginning at 6:00 PM at the David H. Koch Theater. Anticipation was high for the celebration of 100 years of the magnificent Jerome Robbins, a founding choreographer of New York City Ballet along with George Balanchine. Robbins’ epic career started from when he was a dancer at the Theatre in the 1940's and began a collaboration with Leonard Bernstein on the ballet "Fancy Free"; peaking with his return as ballet master in 1969 where he was hungry to focus exclusively on ballets after having produced Broadway masterpieces "The King and I" (1951), "West Side Story," (1961), and "Fiddler on the Roof" (1964).

The Justin Peck Ballet “Easy”

Robbins was born Jerome Wilson Rabinowitz in the Jewish Maternity Hospital on Manhattan's Lower East Side. He died in 1998 after winning five Tony Awards, two Academy Awards and the National Medal of Arts. Robbins approached each project he undertook with a noteworthy voraciousness researching his ideas by reading, listening to music and viewing artworks. When directing and choreographing "Fiddler on the Roof", in 1964, he took various cast members to a Jewish wedding as well as sampling from his own Russian heritage.

Choreographer Justin Peck and Actress Phillipa Soo

I was curious if the New York City Ballet would do justice to his impressive and wide-ranging career with its opening gala. They hit it out of the park with the fun, a lighthearted ode to Robbins which was technically and visually exciting, while still providing enough substance for the ballet purists in the audience.

Sarah Jessica Parker with daughters Marion and Tabitha

And yes the crowd was replete with ballet lovers including: Sarah Jessica Parker and her two beautiful daughters Marion and Tabitha, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Leslie Stahl, Deborah Norville, Ansel Elgort, Carlos Souza; and philanthropists: Jean and Martin Shafiroff, Fe and Alessandro Fendi, Michele Herbert, Emily Blavatnik, Patricia Shah, and Lucia Hwong Gordon.

Jean Shafiroff, Lucia Hwong Gordon, Patricia Shah and Victor De Souza

The dominant color of the evening was mint green with Sarah Jessica in a green dress she purchased at a thrift shop and Jean Shafiroff in a stunning mint Victor De Souza gown with crystals on the bodice and matching gloves. Ulla Parker always hits a home-run with her fashion choices and tonight she shone in a striking Steffane Rolland jacket-dress combination.

Ulla Parker and Fe Fendi

The ballet began at 7:15 PM with a rendition of Jerome Robbins' "The Four Seasons" an ode to Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall with dancers in corresponding costumes of white, green, yellow and orange with a sun and leaf backdrop. This 37-minute piece with dancers Tiler Peck, Sara Mearns, and Teresa Reichlen was playful and light with musical accompaniment by Giuseppe Verdi.After a brief intermission, we were regaled with Robbins' "Circus Polka," with music by Igor Stravinsky.

Christian Zimmermann, Principal Dancer Ashley Bouder and Richard Kielar

The only movement not choreographed by Robbins was the third act "Easy" which was produced by Justin Peck and was an ode to Robbins with its colorful costumes and Broadway staging. "A Suite of Dances" which was originally choreographed by Robbins for an older Baryshnikov and was danced by star Joaquin De Luz was my least favorite even though cellist Ann Kim was perfect-the dancing was good and I was expecting great.

Left to Right: Nicolette Robinson, Actor Leslie Odom, Jr. and Actress Charlotte d'Amboise

The last Act entitled "Something to Dance About," was Broadway at the Ballet with snippets of nine of Robbins' musicals including "Peter Pan," "On the Town," "Gypsy," "West Side Story," "The King and I" and "Fiddler on the Roof"-paying homage to the genius of the prolific Robbins.

Karl Wellner & wife Deborah Norville

The direction and musical staging were expertly executed by Warren Carlyle who had been approached by former ballet master in chief Peter Martins to produce this exciting piece. Guest Vocalist Jessica Vosk was an absolute smash hit with her searingly pure voice. Dancers Ashley Bouder, Lauren Lovette, Sara Mearns, Tiler Peck, and Indiana Woodward moved seamlessly to the Broadway tunes - everything is easy compared to Ballet.

Lisa Rinehart and Mikhail Baryshnikov

At the conclusion of the evening, a large picture of Robbins was displayed on stage as the dancers took their bows to enthusiastic applause. However, the fun had just started with guests heading to the second floor for dinner and dancing where it was announced that more than $2.4 million had been raised.

Violetta Komyshan and Actor Ansel Elgort

The absence of Peter Martins who was a close colleague of Robbin's left an undoubted emptiness in the room. Martins joined Balanchine, Robbins and John Taras as ballet master in 1981 and his perspective on the evening would have been invaluable. The participation of Martins in the choreography would have lent an undeniable credibility to the pieces since he had participated in so many of these groundbreaking moments-and yet his name wasn't even mentioned. There was a certain gravitas Martins gave to each "ballet happening" as he stood on the side watching the fruits of his labor in his sequined bow tie.

DJ Chelsea Leyland and Marie Ramos

Yet, this night was all about the dancers and Robbins with centerpieces of dancers and plates with Robbin's likeness adorning the table. Guests fraternized enthusiastically as few galas of this magnitude have occurred within the last few months. DJ Chelsea Leyland, clad in a sexy white dress spun tunes as the dancers displayed some fancy moves. When 12:45 AM arrived, the music stopped but the crowd was begging for more.

Left to Right Models Rachel Fox, Daphne Velge, Puck Loomans, Charlott Cordes, Zuzanna Bijoch and Maja Brodin

As I headed out into the balmy evening, I wondered if we will ever see a celebration of this kind when it is time for Peter Martins 100th year - and whether history will be kinder to him then the current environment.




- Lieba Nesis

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