Roberta on the Arts
New York City Ballet: Liturgy, Polyphonia, Odessa, The Times Are Racing
Contact Roberta
Jazz and Cabaret Corner
On Location with Roberta
In the Galleries: Artists and Photographers
Backstage with the Playwrights and Filmmakers
Classical and Cultural Connections
New CDs
Arts and Education
Onstage with the Dancers
Offstage with the Dancers
Upcoming Events
Special Events
Culture from Chicago
Our Sponsors

New York City Ballet: Liturgy, Polyphonia, Odessa, The Times Are Racing

- Onstage with the Dancers

Frankie & Johnnie's Steakhouse

Established 1926
Located on Restaurant Row
The Dining Destination
of the Theater District!
Inviting Bar with Finest Wines!
Expansive & Elegant Seating!
Private Room & Balcony Dining!
Oysters Rockefeller!
Filet Mignon!
Broiled Lobster Tails!

320 West 46th Street
New York, NY 10036
32 West 37th Street
New York, NY 10018
77 Purchase Street
Rye, NY 10580

New York City Ballet
(New York City Ballet Website)

The Times Are Racing

Founders: George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein
Founding Choreographers: George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins
Ballet Master in Chief: Peter Martins
Ballet Mistress: Rosemary Dunleavy
Children’s Ballet Master: Dena Abergel
Orchestra, Music Director: Andrew Litton
Resident Choreographer: Justin Peck
Managing Dir. Communications & Special Projects: Robert Daniels
Associate Dir. Communications: Katharina Plumb
Communications Associate: Kina Poon
The David H. Koch Theater, Lincoln Center

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
October 3, 2017

(Read More NYC Ballet Reviews).

Liturgy (2003): Music by Arvo Pärt (Fratres, for Violin, Strings, and Percussion), Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrew Litton, Violin Soloist: Kurt Nikkanen, Performed by Maria Kowroski and Jared Angle. Part’s composition is “inspired by the vision of a solemn procession of medieval monks…by candlelight…”. (NYCB Notes).

Tonight’s performance of Wheeldon’s Liturgy, which I can never see often enough, featured the seasoned and refined partnership of Maria Kowroski and Jared Angle. In Liturgy, both Ms. Kowroski and Mr. Angle were intense, gripping, and muscular. They open in sheer stage darkness, before the spotlight expands to encompass the sinewy, severe arm motions and intertwining shapes that start-stop with percussive wood blocks. Arvo Pärt’s Fratres, similar to the Pärt score Mr. Wheeldon chose for After the Rain, has atonal, stark elements. But, where After the Rain employs an ensemble and creates seamless, soaring imagery, Liturgy creates repetitive, geometric shapes for two dancers with sharp, broken motion. Both ballets are exceptionally magnetic, and the audience always shows tremendous appreciation at the curtain. Tonight was no exception. What stuck with me was the contemporary, stark imagery, with fluid arm motion, as the duo gazes into the audience. Mr. Wheeldon’s ballets have been eclectic and fascinating, but Liturgy, like After the Rain, is altogether intoxicating. Its entrancing effect grows exponentially on every viewing.

Polyphonia (2001): Music by Gyorgy Ligeti, Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Costumes by Holly Hynes, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Piano: Stephen Gosling and Alan Moverman, Performed by Unity Phelan, Zachary Catazaro, Emilie Gerrity, Aaron Sanz, Ashley Hod, Joseph Gordon, Lauren Lovette, Russell Janzen.

Polyphonia, one of Christopher Wheeldon’s edgiest ballets, is imbued with quietude. It incorporates ten dances to Ligeti’s piano scores, creating “micropolyphony”, “…musical texture involving the use of sustained dissonant chords that shift slowly over time”. (NYCB Notes) Stephen Gosling and Alan Moverman were on duo pianos. A cast of eight appears and re-appears in solos, duos, trios, etc., and the effect is uncluttered and elegant. There’s a stark, barren quality, with the music at times dervish, angst-driven, surreal, or sinuous. The dancers take extra moments, turn heads to the audience, and stretch, all in Mark Stanley’s evocative, shifting lighting.

The featured lead dancers, in the ten segments, were Unity Phelan with Zachary Catazaro, Emilie Gerrity with Aaron Sanz, Ashley Hod with Joseph Gordon, and Lauren Lovette with Russell Janzen. One solo included fluttering feet and perfect poise. Mr. Janzen, in the sixth segment, accompanied Ms. Lovette, in a sequence Mr. Ligeti calls “Three Wedding Dances”. Ms. Phelan with Mr. Catazaro, in the second segment, created breathless lifts and exotic extensions. Ms. Gerrity and Mr. Sanz, in the third segment, danced to a waltz tempo. Ms. Hod and Mr. Gordon danced a spirited allegro in the eighth segment. This piece is dark, shadowy, and electric. It ends with the entire cast, in Holly Hynes’ purple costumes against a grey background, in a robust allegro.

Odessa (2017): Music by Leonid Desyatnikov (Sketches to Sunset), Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, Costumes by Keso Dekker, Lighting by Mark Stanley, Conductor: Andrew Litton, Violin Soloist, Kurt Nikkanen, Performed by Ashley Bouder, Sterling Hyltin, Sara Mearns, Tyler Angle, Joaquin De Luz, Taylor Stanley, and the Company.

This recently created (Spring 2017) and most exciting ballet by Alexei Ratmansky once again brought the house down. On second viewing, I was still riveted to the choreography and passion. And, as an echo of spring, the dramatic dance motifs still seemed right out of a tango milonga, Russian-styled. Mr. Desyatnikov’s score remains eerie and electric, with effervescent tones and repetitions. This is perhaps one of Mr. Ratmansky’s pièces de résistance. Men wear Keso Dekker’s vibrant, striped shirts, and women wear his stylized, short dresses, filled with flair and flash. Just as in the tango community, the three featured stage couples, Ashley Bouder and Tyler Angle, Sterling Hyltin and Joaquin De Luz, and Sara Mearns and Taylor Stanley, exude psychological conflict of emotion, overt, distracted thought, and vulnerable, physical chemistry. The Corps ensemble of twelve made this ballet seem even more like a Russian milonga, with the vibrant leg and pelvic turns, as well as the pulsating rhythms, led by Conductor Litton.

The Times Are Racing (2017): Music by Dan Deacon, Choreography by Justin Peck, Costumes by Humberto Leon, Costumes supervised by Marc Happel, Lighting by Brandon Stirling Baker, Sound by Abe Jacob, Performed by Tiler Peck, Amar Ramasar, Ashley Isaacs, Justin Peck, Brittany Pollack, Indiana Woodward, Savannah Lowery, Sean Suozzi, and the Company.

Evocative of Jerome Robbins’ N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz, Justin Peck’s recently choreographed ballet, noisy, youthful, dynamic, and “street dance” designed, The Times Are Racing, is anything but jazz. The feel is more West Side Story Sharks, in the moments before violent gang rumbles. Mr. Peck once again danced in his work, with seething, smoky intensity. Politics and race figure in the 1995 Bernstein-Robbins work, and social issues may figure in this 2017 work as well, as it followed an emotionally charged election process.

Dancers wear hoodies, short shorts, and street attire, designed by Humberto Leon. The score is acoustically electrified and recorded, composed by Dan Deacon. Amar Ramasar and Tiler Peck dance a pas de deux with no romance or intimacy here. Hip hop moves and sexy flirtation abound, also reminiscent but much more contemporary than the “America” dance in West Side Story Suite. The high point was a duet for Justin Peck (choreographer in the spotlight) and Ashly Isaacs, with fancy footwork, twirls, and speed, making this work so meaningful. They seemed like two jazzy friends, high on the music, letting off steam. The lead ensemble, Brittany Pollack, Savannah Lowery, Indiana Woodward, and Sean Suozzi, filled the stage with pizzazz. Kudos to Justin Peck.

Maria Kowroski and Jared Angle
in Wheeldon's "Liturgy"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Unity Phelan and Zachary Catazaro
in Wheeldon's "Polyphonia"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Sara Mearns and the Cast of Ratmansky's "Odessa"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

Tiler Peck and Amar Ramasar
in Peck's "The Times are Racing"
Courtesy of Paul Kolnik

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at