New York City Ballet Moves In The Right Direction

Hallelujah Junction/Paul Kolnik

To be completely honest, I’m a hip-hop dancer who considers herself pretty narrow-minded when it comes to other styles.

Sure, my parents took me to The Nutcracker when I was a kid, and I have seen several performances by American Ballet Theatre. But overall, my assessment of ballet was pretty bleak.

I am, however, on a quest to broaden my horizons and appreciate all that the world has to offer. To this end, I took a drive to CSUN this past Sunday to attend New York City Ballet Moves at Valley Performing Arts Center. To say that I was pleasantly surprised is an understatement.

For somebody who is usually lulled to sleep by strings and shutters when she thinks of the strict practice and eating regime the dancers have to abide by, I left this performance gleefully leaping through the air.

Never before I have I seen ballet dancers having such fun, or eliciting in me any feeling close to fun. Like a first date, the duets sparkled with young, playful love. It was not that refined romance I’m used to seeing on stage, but one of kids chasing each other, thrilled when they are caught. The group performances resembled party-like atmospheres. In “Hallelujah Junction,” Daniel Ulbricht was the stud at the center of everyone’s attention. When he circled the stage in twirling leaps, it was a no-brainer that he was leaving the scene with a pocketful of numbers.

In “Polyphonia,” the show’s opener, four couples gracefully yet speedily formed shapes with their limbs, striking a distant resemblance to the Village People’s “YMCA.” Without a narrative, the piece made me think harder about where to look. With four couples to follow, it wasn’t as easy as focusing on Sleeping Beauty. Another fresh factor in many of the pieces, this one included, was the emphasis on the piano. As mentioned above, strings seemed to be my downfall; piano was now my caffeine.

Being new to ballet reviews, I understand there is discussion over the meaning of “contemporary ballet”. On Flavorwire, Michelle Vellucci asks, “Is it a blend of modern and ballet? Could it be hip-hop performed in pointe shoes? Does cross-breeding ballet with other genres necessarily dilute the form, or read as a critique of it?”

I am now of the opinion that laying on the floor and performing movements that border on chunky blips and hand rolls up the side of the body enhance the form. The youthful energy of the Moves stars may have been the ticket to my newfound appreciation of ballet, but I also believe it was the feisty, festive attitude that shot through the movements.

With pep in their steps and smiles across their faces, this traveling cast of New York City Ballet made me think those New Yorkers are on to something.

Article on USC’s Neon Tommy

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