New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and Alvin Ailey Dancers Defy Being Pinned Down

How do you like your ballerinas? Whole or disjointed? Plain fried or all sauced up? Whichever turns choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti on this year, he clearly finds the women of the New York City Ballet delicious and wants to tickle our palates.

In Luce Nascosta, his fourth ballet for the company, which is premiering on NYCB’s “Architecture of Dance” season, he redefines the Balanchine-bred bodies of both male and female. The chicken analogy is not unconsidered. Marc Happel has imaginatively costumed the women in tight-fitting, long-sleeved black bodices that end just under their breasts and a black tutu of sorts, longer in back and with graduated tiers of ruffles that start at the hips (the men, bare-chested, wear full black pants). Bigonzetti’s favored stance for the women is wide-legged and sway-backed, one hip thrust out. And, partly because of the plumage effect of the skirts and the expanse of bare midriff, the dancers’ extravagantly arching, stretching, undulating torsos and spiky pointework suggest not only birds but ballet-trained burlesque queens pretending to be birds, preening before equally flexible mates. Or an entirely different race of humanoids.

Bigonzetti creates a distinct style for each ballet he makes. The initial pas de deux for Tiler Peck and Gonzalo Garcia introduces this one. Every move is controlled and—except for the snaky bodies—angular and jabbing. The dancers flex their feet, crook their elbows, cock their wrists, and splay their fingers. Gonzalo and Peck strain against each other even as he supports her, as if they were individually posed statues that someone—rather too late—felt might make an attractive whole. At the back, just beginning to be visible, the other 16 dancers try out different jutting, hippy moves.

The New York City Ballet in Mauro Bigonzetti's "Luce Nascosta"
Paul Kolnik
The New York City Ballet in Mauro Bigonzetti's "Luce Nascosta"
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater men in Ronald K. Brown's "Dancing Spirit"
Paul Kolnik
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater men in Ronald K. Brown's "Dancing Spirit"


New York City Ballet
David H. Koch Theater
Lincoln Center
April 27 through June 27

American Ballet Theatre
Metropolitan Opera House
Lincoln Center
May 17 through July 3

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
BAM Howard Gilman Opera House
30 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn
June 10 through 20

Wanting to show off individual dancers (even though they all move alike), Bigonzetti focused on pulling solos, duets, and small ensembles from the group’s entrances and exits. Oh those exits! Sometimes a cluster just walks offstage, as if those in it had better things to do; sometimes the performers back off, angled arms held up in front of them, one hand higher than the other—a recurring gesture suggesting an appeal to a higher power. Perhaps he intended to present a vision of an unsettling future world, or a dark, underworld colony going about its rites (the title translates as Unseen Light). There is effective illumination, of course (by Mark Stanley), but it often has the glow of lamplight, and the set by the much-admired architect Santiago Calatrava consists of a large suspended golden disk, which, over the course of the ballet, births several smaller ones from either side and then sucks them back in.

The choreography, while strangely fascinating, maintains a sameness of tone throughout the ballet. After a while, it becomes almost monotonous to see one woman after another take a run toward a man and skid the last few feet, at which he grabs her and gives her quick 180-degree turn; here’s a motif in love with itself. The score by Bigonzetti’s longtime collaborator, Bruno Moretti, is full of almost melodramatic shifts, but only occasionally does a whiff of narrative scent the ballet (Terese Reichlen walks in from a downstage corner, and those onstage take a look at her, raise their hands, and back away). However, this ballet is about the physical, not the emotional. Reichlen twists her long limbs and hyper-mobile torso around as if she’s test-driving this new body. Later, Jared Angle seems to have a similar mission, investigating how many off-balance positions he can jerk Peck into and out of. He positions her—bent over on pointe, with both knees hinged, and one foot well ahead of the other—and thinks about leaving her there; later, Amar Ramasar tries the same strategy with Maria Kowroski.

You can share Bigonzetti’s admiration of these superbly accomplished, up-for-anything dancers: Craig Hall and Sean Suozzi in one side-by-side male display; Christian Tworzyanski and Adrian Danchig-Waring in another; Danchig-Waring in an oozy solo; and Ashley Bouder in a similarly rippling one—looking as if she’s oiled her joints, and behaving extra-racily, with her hair in its (usually disguised) everyday coiffure of a short bob with bangs.

The program on which Luce Nascosta premiered attested to the versatility of some of these dancers: Craig Hall as a sensitive, gentle partner for Wendy Whelan in the ravishing duet in Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain; Peck as the sweetly flirty mistress of spins in Balanchine’s Gershwin work, Who Cares?; Danchig-Waring, coolly neo-classical in Wheeldon’s ballet and, with Suozzi and others, a cocky young man-about-town in Who Cares? A choreographer can bend these dancers into just about any shape, and all it takes is an intermission for them to recalibrate themselves: Sexy poultry on a dark planet? Give me a second. . .Okay, I’m ready.

Luce Nascosta will be performed again June 18 and on the June 19 matinee.


Across the plaza at the Met, American Ballet Theatre wisely breaks its season of multi-act narrative classics by inserting occasional mixed bills. One matinee featured a revival of Twyla Tharp’s The Brahms-Haydn Variations, Paul Taylor’s Company B, and Jerome Robbins’s Fancy Free—a nice contrast to the well-loved tutu-and-tiara works.

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