Review: At City Ballet, Getting Back to Showing New Work, Live

New York City Ballet’s performance on Wednesday night wasn’t its first in its home theater at Lincoln Center after 18 months. That happened the night before, with confetti and tears. But excitement still ran high on the second evening. Even the welcome announcement and the reminder to wear masks got applause.

And on Wednesday, the company wasn’t only dusting off more of its unparalleled repertory. It was getting back in the habit of the other half of its mandate, debuting new work in front of a live audience. This, too, was exciting, even if the premiere, Mauro Bigonzetti’s “Amaria,” turned out to be slight and mediocre.

It is a short duet made for Maria Kowroski, who is retiring on Oct. 17 after more than 25 years with City Ballet. She was joined by Amar Ramasar, another of the six principal dancers with farewells on the calendar (his in May). The music is from two Scarlatti piano sonatas, delicately played onstage by Craig Baldwin.

Gonzalo Garcia and company in Jerome Robbins’s “Opus 19/The Dreamer.”Credit…Caitlin Ochs for The New York Times

The dancers begin balled up together in a two-person fist, a shape they return at the end. In between, there are suggestions of interpersonal drama — her escaping, him grasping or bowing in supplication — but they spend most of the second half stuck to each other. It’s one more woman-wrapped-around-a-man pas de deux.

“Amaria” is principally a display of Kowroski, especially of her famously long legs, repeatedly split in 12 o’clock poses with her wrists clasped around the high ankle. That’s a little vulgar, but the work’s more general flaw is that the drama feels tacked on. The choreography is synchronized to the music without having much else to do with it. Kowroski deserves better.

“Amaria” came in the middle of an intermission-less 90-minute program, a sandwich with the meat on the outside. The opener was Jerome Robbins’s “Opus 19/The Dreamer,” starring Gonzalo Garcia, who’s leaving in February. The work has long been a fine vehicle for his soft-edged strength, its dreamlike atmosphere misting his handsome blandness. Spinning in and out of his reverie with breathtaking speed and force was Tiler Peck, blazing back onstage as brightly as ever.

From left, Jovani Furlan (kneeling), Megan Fairchild, Kennard Henson and Christopher Grant. Credit…Caitlin Ochs for The New York Times

The cast of the closer, Alexei Ratmansky’s “Russian Seasons,” shared that happy-to-be-back, go-for-broke energy: the City Ballet spirit. Adrian Danchig-Waring, Megan Fairchild, Unity Phelan and the nearly possessed Georgina Pazcoguin drew out much of the color in this characterful work: its village-life verve and jaunty rhythms, its odd and silly humor, its sorrow next to springtime, and ritualistic mystery of death and renewal.

In both “Opus 19” and “Russian Seasons” are moments when the dancers sit in wonder to watch other dancers. Returning to this theater and this company, I felt like they looked grateful that this dream has not ended.

New York City Ballet

Through Oct. 17,

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