February 15, 2015
“A World Premiere of Pure Dance to a Familiar Score”
by Alastair Macaulay
“What’s evident in all Mr. Peck’s work, even in his less persuasive dances, is that he keeps setting himself new challenges. The outer movements of “Rodeo” have such ebullience (15 men and one woman) that they ensure its success — but it’s the second and third sections that most impressed me. In the second, Mr. Peck gives himself the task of a single-sex adagio ensemble — five men — with partnering but without sexual implications; in the third, he gives himself the test of a male-female pas de deux of extensive give-and-take, with the woman and man (Sara Mearns and Amar Ramasar) taking turns partnering each other and complementing each other’s dance virtues. Mr. Peck meets these new assignments with compositional flair and winning musical grace.
The five men of the second movement, “Corral Nocturne,” are junior City Ballet dancers, soloists or corps members: Daniel Applebaum, Craig Hall, Allen Peiffer, Andrew Scordato, Taylor Stanley. After the premiere, they took no bows in front of the curtain, unlike Ms. Mearns, Mr. Ramasar and the other men who led the outer movement’s bravura.
But it’s this male quintet that brings Mr. Peck’s most haunting poetry. The way in which its five men lyrically — in overlapping melodic lines — share one mood, partner one another, give complex dance voice to one unbroken, slow, expansive feeling strikes me as something unprecedented in choreography. Its nearest parallels lie in the work of Frederick Ashton and Mark Morris; for City Ballet, it’s a breakthrough in style. The rich texture ofMr. Stanley’s dancing, free-flowing and ardent, is outstanding.
It’s very happily followed by the reciprocity of the male-female duet, beautifully poised between friendship and romance, and affecting in its response to the music’s melody. You see Ms. Mearns supporting Mr. Ramasar as he takes jumps or holds arabesques, just as he supports her; the mutual appreciation that shines through is affecting. Ms. Mearns here is seen with little of her usual glamour; her makeup is minimal, her legs bare, and her outgoing warmth at its most quietly cheery. Mr. Ramasar, who in the last two years has become an endearing and central artist at City Ballet, seems to carry whole sections on the tide of his immense good humor and large-scaled prowess.
There will be much more to say of this piece; Mr. Peck is one of those rare dance-makers whose detailed planning rewards multiple viewings. Gonzalo Garcia and Daniel Ulbricht, alongside Mr. Peck or Mr. Suozzi in the Veyette role, lead the other men in outer movements; Mr. Ulbricht, with his allegro skill, inelegant physique and marvelous timing, is given a hilariously decelerating grand pirouette, perfectly fitted to the music. Discussion is already rife about the costumes (by Reid Bartelme, Harriet Jung, and Mr. Peck): the male quintet, wearing shorts, socks and striped tops, look like soccer players, and the exposed bareness of Ms. Mearns’s thighs draws our attention to sinews rather than line.”