Ballet 422 , ballet documentary, rated PG, Center for Contemporary Arts, 3 chiles
The title of the documentary directed by Jody Lee Lipes, Ballet 422 , refers to the 422nd work choreographed for New York City Ballet. The movie follows the creation of Paz de La Jolla, by Justin Peck, a twenty-five-yearold corps de ballet dancer in the company, who first achieved success through the NYCB-affiliated New York Choreographic Institute. He was anointed by The New York Times as “the rare real thing,” after the premiere in 2012 of his first main-stage piece for City Ballet, Year of the Rabbit . Paz
de La Jolla , Peck’s third work for the company, had its first performance in 2013. Since then, Peck has been promoted to soloist, and in 2014 was appointed resident choreographer of the company.
As a behind-the-scenes look at New York City Ballet in action, Ballet 422 offers rehearsal footage, scenes showing costume and lighting development, orchestra rehearsals, and shots of Peck alone in a studio, developing steps and videotaping himself with a phone-camera propped up on a piano. The documentary exists primarily in a visual mode — a reminder that dance is a nonverbal art form. There are no talking heads, and there’s no narration — just a few titles (“One Week to Premiere,” for example) and snippets of conversations.
If there is any drama in the film, it is theoretical — the choreographer’s youth versus the level of responsibility before him. One scene features rehearsal and performance pianist Cameron Grant telling Peck that the excitement surrounding his new piece isn’t being shared by the orchestra, whose members apparently weren’t crazy about the score ( Sinfonietta
“La Jolla ,” by Bohuslav Martinu˚). He urged Peck to appeal directly to the players before dress rehearsal, which Peck does, though rather awkwardly.
The three principal dancers in the piece, Tiler Peck, Sterling Hyltin, and Amar Ramasar, offer stunning technique, even in rehearsal. There is no holding back. They also share a similarly positive, no-nonsense demeanor, clearly comfortable with the young artist in charge. From the choreographer’s side, the harshest criticism he offers during rehearsal is a comment that the movement isn’t “crispy” enough.
Paz de La Jolla is shown only for a handful of moments in performance, as if the director were avoiding any obvious payoff. On the evening of the ballet’s premiere, the choreographer is shown rushing from the audience, where he has been watching the performance in a suit and tie, to the stage, where he takes a bow with the dancers, and then to his dressing room, where he gets back into his tights, quickly preparing to dance in someone else’s ballet.
Elevation: choreographer Justin Peck