Tomorrow night, Wednesday, March 24th, at 8:00, the new film made by New York City Ballet dancers Ellen Bar and Sean Suozzi, along with directors Henry Joost and Jody Lee Lipes, will air nationally on PBS.
I was sent a preview tape but I’d rather wait until everyone has a chance to see it to discuss. It’s about an hour long. The first 45 minutes is a movie of current New York City Ballet dancers dancing the original choreography of Jerome Robbins’s 1958 dance New York Export: Opus Jazz. The dance is really like an abstract version of Robbins’ more popular West Side Story suite — same jazzy rhythms, same jazzy movement, but without a clear linear narrative. The dance made its first televised appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show to popular acclaim. But it’s since kind of fallen out of the repertoire, with Robbins’ other ballets being more often performed. Critics have said this piece doesn’t really have the timelessness or genius of his other work, like West Side Story.
Anyway, the NYCB dancers have done something very cool: instead of just filming the dance in a studio, as it originally appeared on Ed Sullivan, they’ve filmed the same dance sequences at various locations around New York City – and not touristy ones, but “real” locales. It’s fun!
I’m interested to know what people think not just of the filming (which I find very clever) but of the choreography itself and the extent to which it’s dated. I think it’s interesting how you can kind of see the origins of hip hop. And I love the music, by Robert Prince. My favorite scene is still the balletic pas de deux between Craig Hall and Rachel Rutherford on the pre-redeveloped Highline. But yours may be different.
The second part of the program is a series of interviews with some of the people involved in this production as well as those who knew Robbins, and there are some clips of the original Ed Sullivan Show performance. Definitely worth watching. Go here for more info on the movie, and go here for your local schedule.