PETER MARTINS' NEW "MIRAGE"

Photos by Paul Kolnik. Top: Robert Fairchild and Kathryn Morgan under Santiago Calatrava’s magnificent set; bottom: Erica Pereira and Anthony Huxley.

Earlier this week NYCB put on its last premiere of the season, artistic director Peter Martins’s Mirage. The ballet is set to music by Finnish composer Esa-Pekka Salonen, which was commissioned especially for this ballet, as was another set by architect Santiago Calatrava. Before the performance Mr. Martins and Mr. Salonen were awarded Letters of Distinction from the American Music Center for this ballet.

To be honest, I was kind of preoccupied with something and will need to see the ballet again to focus my attention more fully, but at first glimpse I found the music to be rich (Salonen actually conducted the orchestra for this ballet only)- particularly the violin parts (the violin soloist, Leila Josefowicz took a bow with the dancers at the end and received huge, well-deserved applause) and the Calatrava set to be awesome. Choreographically, I was particularly struck with an image that kept recurring where a man partnering a woman would hold her out to his side, and she’d begin facing the audience with her back leg up in arabesque, her arms outstretched like a plane, then would slowly rotate underneath her partner’s arm and end up facing the ceiling. The theme seemed to be aviation, flight, birds maybe, and I found that particular movement pattern to be original and compelling, and, judging by the “ooohs!” in the audience whenever it happened, I’m thinking I’m not alone.

There were three main pairs: Robert Fairchild (filling in for an injured Chase Finlay) and Kathryn Morgan, Jennie Somogyi and Jared Angle, and Erica Pereira and Anthony Huxley, and an ensemble. Everyone danced really well. I’m always particularly struck by Robert Fairchild and his brilliant, full-out lines.

The set, though, kind of stole the show in my opinion. It began as a bird-like structure with outstretched wings at the back of the stage behind the dancers. Throughout the ballet it slowly changed form, rising and moving above them, then lowering its “wings” until it resembled a crab’s claw, then closing into a circle, then opening back up again and rotating so that now its front piece, resembling a beak, looked out at the audience, as if the giant bird was preparing to fly out at us. I found myself entranced by that huge, ever-changing structure. And its movement seemed to coordinate well with the music, which was at times eerie, at times more mellifluous, and then would soar into a climax. I’m just not as sure that the choreography was as accordant, and that’s why I need to see this ballet again.

Also on the program were Balanchine’s moving Prodigal Son, starring Joaquin De Luz as the prodigal and Maria Kowroski as the siren, and the fun and flashy Western Symphony in which Rebecca Krohn, Craig Hall, Robert Fairchild, and Sara Mearns stood out. Such a fun ballet with those crazy cowboys and saloon girls, and the Tombstone-like set made me homesick for Arizona. I had to make myself Mexican food for a late-night snack.

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