Above: New York City Ballet principal ballerina Sterling Hyltin appearing with Tom Gold Dance; photo by Henry Leutwyler
Friday March 7th, 2014 - Tom Gold Dance performing two world premiere ballets choreographed by Tom Gold, along with a revival of Tom's La Plage, at the Gerald Lynch Theater, John Jay College.
The first new work, Urban Angels is, I think, one of Tom Gold's best to date. It's great that Tom has discovered the music of Karl Jenkins; ever since Matthew Westerby used Jenkins' music for his ballet COURT, I have been hoping other choreographers would turn to works of this composer. Jenkins' style, structuring and emotional readiness hark back to the classical era, yet sound very much au courant. The music that Tom has chosen particulary suits his theme for Urban Angels; having an almost operatic theatricality about it, this score also has an underlying ominous quality. The ballet's inspiration draws upon the Weeping Angels, an ancient race of aliens from the long running sci-fi series Doctor Who. The notion is that every statue of an angel is secretly a Weeping Angel and capable of becoming animated (and dangerous) when they are not being observed.
At curtain-rise we see a huge black-and-white photo of an angel-statue poised against an urban wall-scape; the ballet's first movement is a brisk allegro. The dancers - with the girls in Janie Taylor-designed leotards - come and go in fleeting combinations, almost faster than the eye can see: such trickery is part of the Weeping Angels' armory. Any ballet which opens with Likolani Brown in a solo passage is bound to get a favorable reaction from me. She is soon joined by Marika Anderson, Meaghan Dutton-O'Hara, and Nancy Richer. Tom's trio of boys this season is led by Stephen Hanna, with NYCB corpsmen Daniel Applebaum and Andrew Scordato: they show us that tall men can move fast, and their elongated jumps give the piece a feral energy.
In the central adagio, the enormous moon drifts slowly across the horizon. Likolani and Stephen are beautifully paired, and the ensemble move in mysterious ways as if performing some forgotten rite. The ballet ends with another allegro section as a pair of angel wings slowly appear on the backdrop. Along the way, every dancer has had ample opportunity to shine; the choreography, while thoroughly invested in the classic ballet vocabulary, has a distinct contemporary quality.
Among the many benefits to be derived from Tom Gold's performances is the opportunity to see dancers we love from the City Ballet corps stepping forward in prominence: Likolani, Marika and Meaghan (the last-named rather new to me) and Andrew and Daniel all looked wonderful. Nancy Richer is on the roster of Craig Salstein's Intermezzo Dance Company; it was really good seeing her onstage this evening with Tom's troupe.
For the second premiere, The Ladies Room, pianist Joseph Mohan (above) plays solo works by Claude Debussy live from the pit. Before a rosy wall in some fanciful 1920's powder room, three large mirrors framed by coiling serpents mark out the place where three ladies - in rather flapper-style frocks - come to refresh themselves during a soiree. When I read about this ballet in advance, I was expecting something light-hearted, with gossip, back-stabbing, maybe even a cat-fight; the fanged snakes on the mirrors implied that some venom might be injected into the proceedings.
But The Ladies Room is actually very different from what I'd imagined. The three women have internalized monologues - each dances an expressive solo while the other two, seated, avert their gaze; these solos evoke each girl's real emotions which are at odds with their external facade of cordiality and a superficial sense of decorum. Those dark-haired lovelies Luciana Paris and Nicole Graniero - both from ABT - join NYCB's elegant blonde principal Sterling Hyltin in this stylish vignette; at the end Marika Anderson wanders in to powder her nose and realizes she has stumbled into a little soul-baring session. This is the ballet's only touch of fun.
Sterling Hyltin returns as a tribal goddess in the revival of Tom's La Plage, with music by John Zorn. As the calls of indigenous birds echo thru this mythical rainforest, the dancers appear like sleek creatures celebrating in their natural habitat. Abbreviated costumes show off the demi-god physiques of the three men while the women, in soft garments, drift thru the forest clearings to the seductive rhythms of nature.
Against a backdrop of flowers floating down from the heavens, Sterling and Stephen dance an exotic pas de deux; they look superb together. A sun-drenched finale again provides everyone with individual opportunities: Ms. Paris makes a particularly fine impression here, and indeed everyone danced with commitment and an extra-nice touch of sexy...reminding us that this prolonged Winter can't last forever.