Review: At New York Theater Ballet, Safe Bets Become Bold

Review: At New York Theater Ballet, Safe Bets Become Bold

By Alastair Macaulay, The New York Times
Sunday April 29, 2018

New York Theater Ballet is a chamber troupe addicted to modernism, staging works by choreographers, past and present, who have extended and challenged the pure-dance aspects of dance theater. Because plenty of its works are by the dead — Vaslav Nijinsky, Frederick Ashton, Antony Tudor, Agnes de Mille, Merce Cunningham, Jerome Robbins, James Waring — it’s easy to think of it as a nostalgic troupe, picking up small-scale old pieces as an alternative to the ubiquitous Balanchine uptown.

Yet this isn’t nostalgia; it’s active curiosity. Theater Ballet likes its dances tough and lean, with very few wow endings or love stories. Its artistic director is a woman, and it has a good track record in commissioning new dances from other women choreographers. And it likes its music live.

The program it presented on Friday and Saturday, at Florence Gould Hall, exemplified this. On paper, three pieces by Jerome Robbins (usually Mr. Accessible) and a world premiere by Richard Alston (who, at 69, is Britain’s most senior acclaimed choreographer) may look undemanding. In performance, they proved dense, complex, uncompromising: dances about dance and dancing, laden with intricate choreographic detail with an emphasis on tight-knit musicality. 

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Photo by Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

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