A joy­ous leap into the fab­u­lous

In Tiler Peck’s gifted hands, ‘Bal­letNow’ is leaps above the usual gala-style pro­gram.

Los Angeles Times - - CALENDAR - By Laura Bleiberg cal­en­dar@la­times.com

New York City Bal­let’s Tiler Peck cu­rates a de­light­ful pro­gram for the Mu­sic Cen­ter’s “Bal­letNow.” Re­view,

For its three-day “Bal­letNow” ex­trav­a­ganza that ended Sun­day, the Mu­sic Cen­ter of Los An­ge­les not only im­ported ex­cep­tional per­form­ers from Lon­don, Mi­ami and New York but it also — hal­lelu­jah! — pro­vided a live orches­tra, which for dance pro­duc­tions isn’t a given.

But the best thing about “Bal­letNow” was the home­com­ing for one woman: Tiler Peck. The 28-year-old from Bak­ers­field, whose grand­mother drove her to and from Downey mul­ti­ple times a week so that she could get bet­ter dance train­ing, is now a star with the New York City Bal­let. She can turn the small­est doo­dle into a mem­o­rable mo­ment, and what she does with ev­ery­thing else is a gift to be­hold.

We can’t know what’s re­ally go­ing on in her head, but she can con­vince an au­di­ence that she lives to per­form for us. She wrings emo­tion from the very art and act of mov­ing, her face be­com­ing a pa­rade of feel­ings and moods that res­onate with truth and pu­rity. She can be el­e­gant or play­ful, goofy or de­ter­mined, shapeshift­ing with ease. Her tech­nique is flaw­less, but that’s only the means to the end point; her mu­si­cal­ity and phys­i­cal breadth fuse into a sin­gle, joy­ous pack­age, the way danc­ing is sup­posed to be.

Rachel Moore, the Mu­sic Cen­ter’s pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive, in­vited Peck to cu­rate three dif­fer­ent but over­lap­ping pro­grams, just as Roberto Bolle and Her­man Cornejo did two years ago when they in­au­gu­rated “Bal­letNow.” Th­ese kinds of gala-style per­for­mances (re­mem­ber those “Nureyev and Friends” tours?) have been staged for at least a cen­tury and can feel that tired.

But Peck sur­prised. Her taste and dance-world con­nec­tions brought wel­come re­fresh­ment, with gen­er­ous ren­di­tions of works we don’t see of­ten enough, such as Jerome Rob­bins’ “Fancy Free” and Ge­orge Balan­chine’s “Who Cares?”

Among the in­vited and dis­tin­guished cast, a dozen or so were stand­outs: Royal Bal­let prin­ci­pal Lau­ren Cuth­bert­son, as ra­di­ant as Peck, and soloist Reece Clarke; the de­light­ful Jeanette Del­gado and Kle­ber Re­bello, both of Mi­ami City Bal­let; Amer­i­can Bal­let Theatre’s Marcelo Gomes and Cory Stearns; and a hard-charg­ing group from the New York City Bal­let.

Fri­day and Sat­ur­day nights at the Dorothy Chan­dler Pav­il­ion be­gan with pieces that re­flected Peck’s open-hearted dis­po­si­tion, both of them com­mis­sioned from the Vail Dance Fes­ti­val and its di­rec­tor, Damian Woet­zel. The Fri­day opener was “1-2-3-4-5-6,” fea­tur­ing Peck, hip-hop artist Vir­gil “Lil O” Gad­son and tap vir­tu­osos Michelle Dor­rance and By­ron Tit­tle. Dor­rance clapped and stamped out a steady rhythm, while the oth­ers scam­pered about her, out­lin­ing the rec­tan­gu­lar plat­form on which Dor­rance and Tit­tle were cen­tered. Peck clacked the stage with her toe shoes; “Lil O” popped and waved his limbs to the beat. It was both en­ter­tain­ing ditty and al­le­gory for some­thing as pro­found as peace and har­mony.

On Sat­ur­day, Peck paired with Bill Ir­win, beloved Amer­i­can clown, Tony­win­ning ac­tor and Mr. Noo­dle of “Se­same Street.” (Who has such a re­sume?) This was for an­other light­hearted romp, “Time It Was/116.” In bow tie and over­size suits and shoes, Ir­win was the shy suitor whose way­ward grapevine step kept drag­ging him off­stage. Peck was ob­ject of af­fec­tion and equal part­ner, a fig­ure of self-as­sur­ance and strength.

Cuth­bert­son and Clarke com­bined for a rare and mes­mer­iz­ing per­for­mance of Christo­pher Wheel­don’s pop­u­lar “Af­ter the Rain” pas de deux (to mourn­ful mu­si­cal se­lec­tions by Arvo Pärt) in the Fri­day pro­gram. Th­ese Bri­tish dancers brought a fuller ar­tic­u­la­tion and quiet en­ergy to this lovely piece, and they raised it to a higher level. The same night saw a thrilling per­for­mance of Balan­chine’s “Al­le­gro Bril­lante,” thanks to fine-tuned fleet­ness of the New York City Bal­let per­form­ers, led by Peck and Gomes. Balan­chine is not Gomes’ bread and but­ter, but he was ac­com­plished if not as­sured. Peck spun fast, then faster, at­tack­ing this piece’s tri­als with ease.

Other high­lights: Peck and New York City Bal­let soloist Zachary Catazaro in Wheel­don’s pas de deux from the mu­si­cal “Carousel”; and Cuth­bert­son and Gomes in a heart-pal­pi­tat­ing pas de deux from the first act of Ken­neth MacMil­lan’s “Manon.”

Two early bal­lets by Justin Peck (no re­la­tion to Tiler) ex­panded L.A.’s ex­po­sure to this young chore­og­ra­pher-in-res­i­dence at the New York City Bal­let, a com­pany too rarely seen here. “Chutes and Lad­ders” (star­ring Del­gado and Re­bello) and “In Creases” (for eight dancers) demon­strated a so­phis­ti­ca­tion that has cat­a­pulted him into the “it” chore­og­ra­pher cat­e­gory. He crafts hard-edged pic­tures of ever-chang­ing shapes and geo­met­ric forms while ply­ing a play­ful and deeply felt love of the bal­let aes­thetic.

Not ev­ery­thing was a hit, how­ever. The two nights I at­tended had a dud or two, in­clud­ing the bal­cony scene from MacMil­lan’s “Romeo and Juliet.”

The orches­tra was some­times wan but at other points gor­geously full. As Peck was fin­ish­ing a solo from “Who Cares?,” con­duc­tor Grant Ger­shon seemed to speed up, but Peck just ac­cel­er­ated faster, leap­ing a frac­tion ahead of him — to oohs and aahs from the au­di­ence. Touché.

Pho­to­graphs by Lawrence K. Ho

HAP­PI­NESS abounds as dancers de­liver a thrilling per­for­mance of Ge­orge Balan­chine’s “Al­le­gro Bril­lante” as part of “Bal­letNow” at the Dorothy Chan­dler on Fri­day.

FOOTLOOSE and “Fancy Free.” Per­form­ing Jerome Rob­bins’ work are Marcelo Gomes, left, Cory Stearns, Jeanette Del­gado, Tiler Peck and Daniel Ul­bricht.

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