We are here to encourage the development of gifted young singers and to stimulate the growth of New York City's invaluable chamber opera companies. But we will not neglect the Metropolitan Opera either. Get ready for bouquets and brickbats.

Monday, February 19, 2024


 "The Relentless Nature of Dreaming"
(Photo by Kyle Froman)

Our introduction to ballet came by means of The Joffrey Ballet which performed regularly at The New York City Center Theater on 55th Street. We loved their style and we loved the dancers. We particularly remember a ballet about ruthless capitalists called "The Green Table" and "The Moor's Pavane", a terpsichorean representation of Shakespeare's Otello. We wept crocodile tears when this esteemed company left New York City. We have always wished that they would return and hoped that the recent visit of The Joffrey Concert Group might give us a sense of the past.

That was not to be the case. Art moves forward and new American choreographers seem far more interested in the abstract than in telling a story. Our jam is story-telling and we rarely attend the ballet unless we are going to see one of the classics such as Swan Lake, Giselle, or Romeo and Juliet. And so, Dear Reader, please take our lukewarm words with a sense of where we are coming from. The audience at the Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater (also coincidentally on 55th St.) were vociferous in their applause and the seats were literally shaking.

We found a number of appealing moments, one of which we have chosen for the photo above from a ballet entitled, for no apparent reason, "The Relentless Nature of Dreaming". Bradley Shelver, Artistic Director of The Joffrey Concert Group, clearly states the mission of this project, entitled "In My Art"  which is the culmination of the 2024 Creative Movers Choreographic Initiative designed to explore creative experimentation and promote the work of new American choreographers. The evening provided a "voice" for two of them.

The entire evening seemed to represent classical ballet dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, whether willing or not. We witnessed much crossover with modern dance, which we have seen at the annual Fall for Dance, with an interesting variation. Dancers here were wearing soft ballet slippers, not bare feet. And point shoes made a welcome appearance for certain sections without our understanding the rhyme or reason.

The opening work entitled "Dawn of Love" was choreographed by Vernard J. Gilmore. Although some moves were reminiscent of classical ballet, arms were wildly windmilled with splayed fingers. The work began with dancers wearing floaty pale costumes designed by Jon Taylor and Erica Johnston. Later in the work, costuming was more colorful. There was a nice solo by Mari Murata and a duet performed by Annika Davis and Sydney Williams and another by Breeanna Palmer and Faahkir Bestman.

The second work on the program was "Random People With Beautiful Parts", choreographed by Mr. Shelver himself who also created the costumes-- simple dark leotards The percussive score included some Bach who appeared to be favored over the course of the evening.  There seem to be only 3 or 4 men in the company so we got to see Mr. Bestman again, this time partnering Akari Kata.

The third work on the program, choreographed by Eryn Renee Young, "The Relentless Nature of Dreaming", appealed to us more. The dancers were costumed by Erica Johnston in simple leotards in varying shades of pink. Bach's music appeared again-- the Allegro movement of "Piano Concerto #1 in D Minor" almost unrecognizable because of the poor sound system. Bach was uneasily partnered with an original commissioned score by Heather Cook. The work was more appealing to us because of an interesting duet performed by a male couple that was unfortunately interrupted before it had a chance to develop. Somehow, dancers held aloft seemed more appealing than dancers somersaulting on the floor which made us question the flow of the work. The work desperately needed an Adagio movement.

The final work,"Oof", also choreographed by Mr. Shelver gave Ms. Johnston an opportunity to counterbalance her classic pink leotards in the prior ballet with some outrageous motley costuming. The music seemed to be Latin jazz. The movements themselves were foreign to us and seemed to be a parody of something like break dancing. Body positions were deliberately awkward and exaggerated. Clearly it was meant to be humorous. The woman next to us was screaming in joy so we came to the conclusion that we were missing the point. What popped into our mind was "Ballet slippers do not ballet make".

© meche kroop

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