New York City- big, bold, classic, edgy, and a melting pot for countless cultures. So what better city to house Fugate/Bahiri Ballet NY, a company that specializes in adventure and fusion? The seven-year-old troupe, founded by former New York City Ballet dancer Judith Fugate and her husband Medhi Bahiri, an acclaimed international star, presented a program of world premieres at the Joyce Theatre from July 5-9. What they offered the audience were deeply satisfying pieces; lean, intelligent, and cutting edge. Their variety and style reflect the many faces of contemporary classicism.
“now and again” choreographed by Jodi Gates, a principal with William Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt, challenges the company’s experienced performers with off-balance, extreme movement. The choreography, with it’s gyrotonic, constantly moving torso positions, it’s carving and arcing of the entire body in different directions simultaneously, and it’s largeness and expansiveness, was extremely reminiscent of post-modern dance done with the added excitement of pointe work. The juxtaposition of very modern dance movement set at high speeds on pointe shoes resulted in beautiful lines and exciting choreography. The movements and the style were something we’ve seen before, but the combination of modern and classical gave the whole piece a unique and new perspective.
Live music performed by Pauline Kim and members of the Mendelssohn Quartet and Flux String Quartet accompanied Alan Hineline’s “Quartet 2”, a plotless ballet characterized by energetic, sensual movement. This piece adhered more strictly to recognizable classical vocabulary and staging, but not enough to be anything but contemporary.
“Hook-Up” choreographed by Helen Heineman was my least favorite course of the evening. While expertly and beautifully danced by Lindsay Purrington and Donald Williams, the ballet, which explores the coming together and separating of a man and a woman, did not hold my interest as the other pieces did this evening. Perhaps it was the fact that the movement itself seemed less innovative than the movement of its predecessors, or that the partnering seemed clunky and inorganic at times. It was by no means a bore, but it was not as strong as the other dances.
Wrapping up the night was Davis Robertson’s “Romeo and Juliet in Mantua” set to live music commissioned by David Homan. Like “now and again” which opened the evening, “Romeo and Juliet in Mantua” closed it with a witty and effortless combination of ballet and contemporary movement. Robertson’s version of the Shakespearean tragedy simultaneously condenses and expands the classic tale with a new twist to the story’s end. Rather than adhering to the written ending of the two lovers dying unnecessarily for love, in this version their clever ruse to fake their deaths succeeds, and they escape to Mantua. They struggle with their relationship as all couples do, and their families reconcile only to be undone again by their struggle to outdo each other in building a monument to their children. The piece ends in uncertainty as to whether Romeo and Juliet will be able to break the cycle of strife between them. Melissa Morrissey as Juliet was a tiny fireball; strong, passoinate and in control. Matthew Prescott as Romeo, with his elegantly long, graceful limbs and supple torso, was a perfect contrast to Morrissey’s petite frame and mastered both the classical precision of ballet and the angular distortions of modern movement with confidence and grace. Riley Watts as Mercutio was thrilling- his attack and physicality combined with the mischievousness of his personality made for a fully alive and exciting character that commanded the stage whenever he was on it. This ballet as a closer for a solid evening of evocative and forward-thinking dance solidifies this seven-year-old troupe as a strong and important New York City ballet company.
Devoted to the idea that ballet is a contemporary art, Ballet NY has the talent and energy to prove it. In a city that houses two mega-companies, there is a need and a challenge for smaller companies of extremely high caliber to not only attract new and younger audiences by making ballet more relevant to them, but also to give the city’s plethora of talented dancers and choreographers an opportunity to contribute to their art. The dancers of Ballet NY are exceptional, passionate and not afraid to show their personalities onstage as they carve out the cutting edge of the intersection of ballet and modern dance. This company is definitely an important spice in the melting pot of New York City’s dance scene.