Note from dimanche: Choreographer Jerome Robbins took an irreverent approach to ballet, taking on its staid traditionalism by incorporating modern movement and music, outlandish costumes and sets, and humor. With his friend and co-founder of The New York City Ballet George Balanchine, Robbins revolutionized ballet by highlighting its inherent quirk.
IN THE MOOD FOR:
The New York City Ballet celebrates the 100 year anniversary of choreographer Jerome Robbins’ birth with a special program of his works. Most famous for the jazzy choreography in the film West Side Story, Robbins was an illustrious contributor to the ballet world who focused on removing artifice and celebrating modernity and humor. Attending one of the Robbins programs, the dimanche girl would find pleasure in the dancers’ uninhibited movements, musicality, and irresistable quirkiness.
The program provides an overview of Robbins’ work, with most performances presenting up to 5 pieces spanning several decades of the choreographer’s work. This overview approach allows audiences to appreciate Robbins’ experimentation. From the simplified abstraction of Glass Pieces to the broadway inspired Fancy Free to the classicism of the Chopin-scored Other Dances, Robbins was a master of many styles.
In a month celebrating quirk, we have to look to The Concert for inspiration and laughter. With dancers trying on many hats (literally!), turning into butterflies, and joyfully embracing the piano, Robbins disrupts and pokes fun at classical ballet in this a comedic piece. In a section titled the Mistake Waltz, dancers perform a simple routine but continually make glaring errors that highlight the inherent humor in the intricate structure of a dance. This piece shows both a complete understanding of the tropes that make up classical ballet, and the ways they can be used to create humor. In short, The Concert shows Robbins’ genius in balletic comedy.
The program also includes more mature, but still original, classical pieces. Antique Epigraphs has dancers portraying regal Greek statues, the high energy Interplay shows young dancers athletically showing off difficult steps, and the reflective In the Night depicts three couples of distinct personalities dancing to Chopin waltzes.
And of course, you can see Robbins in his broadway element with performances of the West Side Story Suite and Fancy Free. These ballets, both originally created for film, incorporate jazzy movements that were the height of modernity in the 1950s and 60s. In a ballet world consisting of mostly classical story ballets, these fun and high energy pieces are a breath of fresh air on the New York City Ballet’s stage.
Tip from dimanche: The New York City Ballet has a program called 30 for 30, in which anyone under 30 years old can buy up to two $30 tickets on the same day of the performance. These highly discounted tickets can be anywhere in the theater, and you may find yourself sitting in the orchestra for only $30! Make sure to buy your tickets early in the day, they may sell out right before the show.
I M P O R T A N T T I D B I T S
b.1918 - d.1988 | 20th Century | Choreographer
Words by Elena Scott