Home / Arts & Life / Ballet Festival: Skill (Check), Class (Yep), Vision (More, Please)

Ballet Festival: Skill (Check), Class (Yep), Vision (More, Please)

The Ballet Festival at the Joyce Theater this July is a classy affair. The first two (of five) programs — by Emery LeCrone Dance and Claudia Schreier & Company — abounded in live music, played and sung well. The lighting, by Brandon Stirling Baker, was artful without drawing attention to itself. And the dancers! There are so many moonlighting members of New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theater that it’s practically summer camp for Lincoln Center dance royalty.

But what about the choreography that all this serves? New and newish works by Ms. LeCrone and Ms. Schreier established both these young artists as skilled and sophisticated choreographers who are attentive to music and musical form. Mostly abstaining from easy sensationalism, they are laudably committed to the harder task of making dance work as dance, almost solely through abstraction rather than narrative.

That’s all sufficiently rare to deserve admiration, so why wasn’t I thrilled? There wasn’t much emotion or invention in these works, yet the most crucial thing missing, or not yet developed, was the rarest and most important quality — call it voice or vision, the distinctive magic that compels you to see a dance again and hunger for whatever that choreographer makes next.

The Art of the Soft Stop

Which isn’t to say that these two choreographers have no distinguishing features. Ms. LeCrone’s divergences from classical ballet are all in the direction of increasing a ribbonlike flow — blending in the rolling floor contact of contemporary dance and braiding sections with adroit overlapping. Her phrases tend to taper, as if plush slowing were the only way to stop, and this softening effect, beginning as finesse, ends up becoming a damper. The choreography seems to restrain itself from making too strong an impression.


Megan LeCrone in Emery LeCrone’s “In Memory.”

Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

In the case of “In Memory,” a new solo for the City Ballet soloist Megan LeCrone (the choreographer’s sister), the result was as pretty and wafting as the dancer’s gossamer skirt, and as insubstantial. In the ensemble piece “Beloved,” words that riff on the Song of Songs, ringingly harmonized in a David Lang score, raised expectations of feeling and meaning but the choreography matched only the music’s measured tone.

The higher caliber Ballet Theater dancers Cory Stearns and Stephanie Williams, in the duet “Time Slowing, Ending,” brought a grander scale to Ms. LeCrone’s dynamics without greater consequence. But the score that Ms. LeCrone commissioned from Nathan Prillaman for “Radiant Field” was a risk that really helped. Its variety of tempo and texture, perhaps going against Ms. LeCrone’s proclivities, prompted her to build up a larger force despite her customary attenuations. Rather than time slowing, tension and drama rose.


Wendy Whelan and Da’Von Doane in “Vigil.”

Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Models and Muses

Ms. Schreier’s program was more dramatic from the start. “Wordplay” was performed by Unity Phelan and Jared Angle of City Ballet, and it closely resembled something you might see them dance with their home company: a sleek duet to a spiky, rhythmic modernist score (a quintet by Ellen Taaffe Zwilich) in which the man manipulates the woman into strange shapes. A playful, on-the-nose musicality grazed genuine wit.

Continue reading the main story

About admin

Check Also

Hear the Best Albums and Songs of 2023

Dear listeners, In the spirit of holiday excess and end-of-the-year summation, we’re about to make …