WHERE: Jacob’s Pillow, Becket, Mass.
WHEN: 8 tonight; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $75, $65, $45
MORE INFO: 413-243-0745 or www.jacobspillow.org
BECKET, Mass. — If you didn’t get enough of New York City Ballet during its all-too-brief week at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, then hightail it to Jacob’s Pillow.
That’s where a handful of City Ballet dancers, performing under the title Ballet 2014, are presenting a lively program of duets created by City Ballet’s favored choreographers and topped off by Jerome Robbins’ feisty “Fancy Free.”
The bill, directed by City Ballet principal Daniel Ulbricht, is marvelous on several levels. Ulbricht and his ensemble — Emily Kikta, Rebecca Krohn, Georgina Pazcoguin, Tiler Peck, Teresa Reichlen, Tyler Angle, Robert Fairchild, Craig Hall and Russell Janzen — are all top-notch dancers and always a pleasure to watch. With the exception of a shaky world premiere by Emery LeCrone, “Opus 19. Andante,” the duets were from tried-and-true choreographers Christopher Wheeldon, Benjamin Millepied and Justin Peck. They were finished off by an absorbing solo for the athletic and charismatic Ulbricht by Larry Keigwin.
Better still, it’s the Pillow, where you can get an intimate look at both the dancers and choreography. In the small Ted Shawn Theater, details pop. Little things that might be missed in a big theater, like the flick of Krohn and Hall’s hands in “Liturgy” or Fairchild’s raised eyebrow in “Fancy Free,” were delivered clearly.
The evening begins with Justin Peck’s spirited “Furiant” with Reichlen and Fairchild. This spritely pas de deux, set to Dvorak’s Piano Quintet 2, Scherzo, is pleasant, but rather conventional compared to his more imaginative dances.
Better were the stagings of Millepied’s pas de deux from “Two Hearts” and Wheeldon’s “Liturgy.” Both wash the audience with emotion. “Two Hearts,” danced by Tiler Peck and Angle with music by Nico Muhly, oozes tender yearning. Angle, a most giving and smooth partner, yields to every one of Tiler Peck’s nuanced movements. He is seamless in his support, thus inspiring confidence and honesty.
Also effective were Krohn and Hall in “Liturgy.” Their port de bras, both angular and snaky, instantly hypnotizes. But what lures the audience in, and keeps it there, is the dancers’ connection. When Krohn runs off stage, Hall, standing there with his hand extended in her direction, wills her return. When she does, it is no surprise.
Ulbricht’s solo, “Sunshine,” to the Bill Withers song of the same name, is a highlight. It shows the principal at the height of his technical and theatrical powers. He expresses the somber lyrics of the song in a rush to find peace with straight-up jumps, swatting gestures to his head and spins that swim in the mind’s eye long after the curtain descends. This is one piece that begs to be longer — Ulbricht is just warming up.
Sadly, the one glitch in the program is the new ballet. Kikta is too much for Janzen to handle as he struggles and stumbles to partner her.
Finally, “Fancy Free,” another great Robbins and Leonard Bernstein collaboration, this one depicting sailors on the town, is pure delight. Angle, Fairchild and Ulbricht play the lusty trio looking for girls. In their fever for them, they send the fairer sex, Tiler Peck and Pazcoquin, fleeing.