It was a whole new look Wednesday night when the New York City Ballet presented three of their most recent ballets at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. And what fun they were.
What was most striking was that while the music was mostly in the current idioms, the moves were more like extensions on the company’s classical traditions. Not modern dance, but an evolved technique that all the dancers embraced with great skill and very supple backs.
Jean-Pierre Frohlich’s “Varied Trio” (2013) featured superb principal dancers Sterling Hyltin and Amar Ramasar in four different movements to Lou Harrison’s score for pianist Alan Moverman, violinist Kurt Nikkanen and percussionist/xylophone James Baker, who were at stage left in the back corner. The choreography was not difficult but smoothly phrased with tight spirals, shoulder or arm positions as in Hindu art, which matched the gamelan kind of music sounds. The dancers worked in unison or in mirror usually together and with a solo here and there.
The music went from moody and dark with the violin passionate and soaring to a jazzy, fast, buoyant segment; then a slow, long-lined with slow lifts movement and a carefree finish. Indigo lighting and blue costumes suggested coolness. The dancers were relaxed and seemed to have a good time. The large audience loved it
Justin Peck’s “Principia” (2019) involved 24 dancers working to Sufjan Stevens’ vibrant score. Humor and playfulness prevailed as clusters of dancers formed or evolved. Indiana Woodward did a contemplative solo and had a romantic pas de deux with Taylor Stanley. Everything ended quietly with all dancers strung out on a line across the stage. That was pretty cool, too.
The dance that got squeals of delight and roars of approval was Kyle Abraham’s “The Runaway” (2018) to music that included piano/violin classical; rap with Kanye West and funk. Giles Deacon’s sensational black/white costumes with black brush headdresses and Dan Scully’s brilliant lighting that went from spotlight, to orange, wine, or black transfixed. Eight dancers spun, jumped, leapt in solo or small groups. Taylor Stanley did unbelievable moves like an insect awakening; Ashley Bouder’s series of piquet turns thrilled. The curtain calls went on and on. A fantastic show.