In this political and economic climate, how does a New York City–based chamber ballet company continue to attract audiences and keep itself afloat? Though New York City is a global dance capital, for quite a few decades it has not been kind to small dance companies.
In past decades, New York City housed such varied dance companies and collectives as U.S. Terpsichore, Ballet NY, formerly the Feld Ballet, New York Chamber Ballet, Dennis Wayne Dancers, and more recently Complexions, which has since relocated to Atlanta. The list goes on and on. Even Joffrey Ballet moved to Chicago two decades ago.
Higher rents, fewer resources, and surprisingly a decreased number of high-quality dancers with a strong technique have made maintaining small dance troupes presence in New York City almost a herculean task. Still, after 35 years New York Theatre ballet has soldiered on, managing to do almost the impossible.
For their season at New York City Live Arts, New York Theatre Ballet presented six works. New York Theatre Ballet has been a reservoir of presenting iconic ballets and not often-performed works from some of the most beloved choreographers. Three decades in their reconstruction/conservation efforts, New Theatre has presented rarely seen and/or iconic works by Frederick Ashton, Bronislava Nijinksa, Vaslav Nijinsky, Anthony Tudor, Merce Cunningham, Agnes de Mille, Jose Limon, and many others.
The most anticipated ballet of the evening was Vaslav Nijinsky’s seminal work, L’Apres midi d’un faune. L’Apres midi d’un faune was Nijinsky’s first choreographic work for the Ballets Russe and this extraordinary work rest almost entirely on the performance of the faune, portrayed in its debut by Nijinsky himself. Great male dancers have performed this role—Serge Lifar, Nureyev, and Faruhk Ruzimatov—and following in that tradition the male dancer must have a sensual, animalistic, otherworldly quality. Unfortunately, New York Theatre Ballet’s faune, Joshua Andino-Nieto, didn’t have the necessary qualities to render a memorable faune. Andino-Nieto struggled with the exotic, otherworldliness that Nijinsky and Ruzimatov brought to the role. And the wild, animalistic quality that Nureyev brought to the role was far beyond Andino-Nieto’s abilities.
Elena Zahlmann adequately danced Frederick Ashton’s La Chatte Metamorphosee en Femme. As showpiece for the great British ballerina Meryl Park, Ashton in this solo work choreographed in all the nuances and idiosyncrasies that made Meryl Park had a great ballerina. Zahlmann was able to pull off with some aplomb Meryl Park’s bouree flutterings, and fast allegro footwork. Though this solo was quite charming with its feline characterizations, it is one of Ashton’s minor works.
Richard Alston’s pas de deux from Such Longing was well performed by Amanda Treiber and Steven Menendez. The beautiful music by Chopin added to the ebb and flow longings of a mature couple. Alston’s whose background was from London Contemporary Dance Theatre was ever present in this lovely pas de deux. Typical of the movement style of London Contemporary Dance Theatre of the early 1970s, there were lots of posed movement and modern dance couple work interspersed with modern ballet partnering, all well dance by Treiber and Menendez.
Antonia Franceschi’s She Holds Out Her Hand was a very good ensemble work for the company. The work was fresh and contemporary with a slight nod to Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering. The ensemble work was well done with some intricate and innovative partnering for the main couples.
Works of this nature should be more a part of New York Theatre Ballet’s repertoire in that these types of work stretch their dances and gives them to opportunity to dance choreography that is more accessible to younger audiences. Standout dancers in this work were Amanda Smith, Amanda Treiber and Joshua Andino-Nieto.
New York Theatre Ballet appears to be prepared to weather the storms of upcoming national cuts to the arts. Though they been through this cycle before, it would be nice if concert dance companies of this caliber didn’t have deal with the kind of ignorance and misunderstanding of what they bring to the world at large.
—William S. Gooch