14 September 2015 ~ 0 Comments

Something Old and Something New: Inside New York Theatre Ballet’s “Legends & Visionaries”

The Schimmel Center is proud to open our season on Saturday and Sunday, September 19th and 20th with the highly celebrated, New York Theatre Ballet’s “Legends & Visionaries.” This program both revives classic work by legendary choreographers Merce Cunningham and Agnes DeMille and debuts exciting new pieces by contemporary choreographers Pam Tanowitz and Nicolo Fonte.

Members of New York Theatre Ballet

Members of New York Theatre Ballet

In juxtaposition to their family matinee offering, Cinderella, on Sunday, September 20th, the “Legends and Visionaries” program will feature two fairy tales with grown up sensibilities. The company is ecstatic to be presenting a revival of Agnes de Mille’s “Three Virgins and a Devil,” which first premiered in 1941. The comic ballet tells the story of three virginal maids who end up running across the devil and is based on a folk tale by Giovanni Boccaccio. De Mille, perhaps most famous for her choreography of landmark musicals such as Oklahoma!, Carousel, and Brigadoon, began her career with American Ballet Theatre in 1939. “Three Virgins and a Devil” was one of many successful pieces that she would create for the company. Her love for acting and storytelling helped shape her choreography. Her subjects varied from the romance of the old west (Rodeo) to the scandalous life of Lizzie Borden (Fall River Legend.) Fun fact: Sallie Wilson, one of the original “virgins” in the 1941 premiere of the piece later became New York Theatre Ballet’s Ballet Mistress and coach for over 15 years, until her death.

Nicolo Fonte’s “There, And Back Again,” is an updated, adult take on the Grimm Brothers’ Hansel and Gretel. The piece has been well received by Alastair Macaulay of The New York Times, “Mr. Fonte’s ‘There, and Back Again’ is a dramatic dance quartet that confers distinct characters on its two men, Mr. Melendez and Michael Wells (a performer whose elegance has an appealing brutishness) and two women, Ms. Treiber and Elena Zahlmann. We’re immediately aware of mystery (one dancer is masked). Mr. Fonte doesn’t let the tension drop throughout the sustained duets, trios, quartets; and it’s heightened by occasional Expressionist, staccato gestures and turns of the head.” The piece continues the long relationship between Mr. Fonte and New York Theatre Ballet, which was the first company to commission Fonte’s work right after his graduation from SUNY Purchase.

The evening also sees a revival of Merce Cunningham’s Cross Currents first performed in 1964. The trio is re-staged by Jennifer Goggans and is performed to an arrangement of Conlon Nancarrow’s Rhythm Studies for Player Piano Nos. 1-6.  The title of the piece comes from the way the dancer’s paths frequently intersect, and from the original rhythmic qualities of the ballet, where each dancer has their own, distinct rhythms, but always meet at the end of the phrase.NYTB’s founder and Artistic Director, Diana Byer, calls the piece, “compelling and unpredictable but always satisfying.”

The program is rounded out by Pam Tanowitz’s Double Andante. Performed to a classic work by Ludwig van Beethoven, the piece is the perfect metaphor for the evening; the new juxtaposed by the classic.

See you at the Schimmel!

Schimmel Center Blogger

Michael Scott-Torbet

New York Theatre Ballet’s “Legends & Visionaries”; Saturday and Sunday, September 19th and 20th at 7:30pm; All Seats $29; Schimmel Center at Pace University; 3 Spruce St, New York, NY 10038;(212) 346-1715 ; https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/949159

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