The New York City Ballet Art Series is back for its second year to host French artist JR. For those of you unfamiliar with the series, it includes three performances by NYCB with seating priced at $29 and the opportunity to view a specially commissioned work by a contemporary artist. The series aims to unite the performing arts with the visual and to encourage people to come to the ballet that might not normally be interested. Each of the three nights in the series consists of short ballet works that are linked to one another in either theme or creation. No night is the same. This year the nights are entitled, “Quintessential NYCB,” “Contemporary Choreographers,” and “20th Century Violin Concertos.”
A particular fan of contemporary ballet, I attended the February 7 performance of “Contemporary Choreographers.” While the dancing was beautiful, two of the pieces that were chosen for this performance missed the mark. The works included Angelin Preljocaj’s La Stravanganza, Christopher Wheeldon’s A Place for Us, and Peter Martins’ Todo Buenos Aires. Certain elements (costumes, sounds, choreography) in La Stravanganza were not cohesive. While Joaquin de Luz was excellently cast as the lead in Todo Buenos Aires, the bravura of the rest of the dancers seemed put-on. The ballet highlight for me was Tiler Peck’s performance in A Place For Us—she and her husband and partner, Robert Fairchild were absolutely stunning.
The real performance was watching the audience “dance” around the David H. Koch promenade on a massive installation by JR. The piece incorporates the photographs of 75 NYCB dancers in elegant poses, sheltered by sheets of white. The effect is something of the divine. To put it in perspective—only a truly fabulous work would be able to bring well-dressed New Yorkers to their knees for that perfect Instagram moment. The best view, however, is from the highest balcony, or “ring,” of the theater. From up there, the dancers’ figures merge to reveal an enormous eye with its sights set on beauty.
At the end of the night, every audience member received a takeaway piece from JR in the form of a pop-up card of the David H. Koch Theatre with a miniature JR installation in its tiny promenade. The special thing about the Art Series is that there is something in it for everyone—art, ballet, celebrity sightings, and if all else fails…free beer.