New York City Ballet’s Moves infuses group with more flash, more fun

The New York City Ballet, founded by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein, debuted its elegant style more than 60 years ago. Its offspring, the Moves group, is now in its sixth year and performed at The Smith Center Tuesday.

With about 20 dancers at any one time (they vary according to schedules, among other things), this group’s work is in rotating repertoire. Shorter pieces come and go with just as much grace and technique as one would expect from the New York City Ballet, but with a little more flash and sometimes, more fun. The program Tuesday differed from the one planned for Wednesday.

All but one of the five selections was danced to live music by the New York City Ballet orchestra.

The closing “A Fool for You” used music recorded for the company in the 1980s by the late rhythm and blues singer Ray Charles and mixed contempory dance with popular dances of the time. The company revisited this strong-tempo work with charming joie de vivre, jazz oxfords and almost offhanded costuming.

True believers say it’s not really a New York City Ballet performance without some Balanchine. They were not disappointed. Balanchine’s “Duo Concertant,” danced to Stravinsky, was created in 1972 for a festival in honor of the composer. Sterling Hyltin and Robert Fairchild reinforced the richness of the piece with their luxe moves.

Jerome Robbins choreographed “In the Night” to four of Chopin’s “Nocturnes” in 1970. Robbins on Broadway (you’ve heard of “West Side Story” or “Fiddler on the Roof”?) and Robbins at the ballet came together for a gauzy, classically inspired mix of ankle-length tulle and glamorous cavaliers, with three couples dancing separate selections.

Snippets could fit into ballets centuries old with barely a pause, while some extraordinary moves were only of the more recent world. Should a ballerina be held exactly upside-down before a dramatic lift? Was it flash or passionate fantasy?

Whatever the motivation, the look was dreamy and dynamic. If the Disney princes and princesses knew how to leap, lift and create romantic pas de deux, the result could look much like this.

“In Creases,” choreographed by Justin Peck (a member of the corps de ballet for the main company), had its premiere last year and was danced to uber-contemporary composer Philip Glass. Eight dancers in leotards and tights showed their captivating best in front of “dueling” (well, really, complementary) grand pianos at the back of the stage, with fine moves and motions that might suggest influence by choreographer Twyla Tharp. Now they were here; now there, but only after an adamant walk; now upright; now flat onstage; now posing as if ready for the across-the-stage trademark tableau of “A Chorus Line.” The athleticism and agility were appropriate and engaging.

Probably best-known for his choreography for the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre, the late Ulysses Dove created “Red Angels” in 1994, danced to Richard Einhorn’s score for electric violin. Here, Hyltin, Jennie Somogyi , Taylor Stanley and Jared Angle strolled, strutted and powered their ways through a rhythmic, contemporary work that demanded resolute and powerful sequences from each dancer. Though the moves are echoed in more recent works, the dancers provided the real tempo and power demanded here.

The ballet troupe deserves additional kudos for offering so much live music. An unexpected but fun fillip came at the beginning of “Red Angels.” It’s not that unusual for someone to wave from the pit at the beginning or end of a musical performance, but guest artist Mary Rowell made the gesture her own as she waved her right hand — and her left, clutching her spotlighted electric violin — while the rest of her remained unseen.

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