First of all, I thought Janie’s costumes were gorgeous! She has a gift for taking staid ballet silhouettes and tweaking them so that they seem radically new, and her designs for this ballet are no different. In this case she took a typical skirted bodice and gave it a bump at the hip—not exactly a peplum—but a little exaggerated shelf. Thus the dancers’ waists appeared flatteringly nipped. The pale pink skirts were bias-cut with a darker tomato red underneath which was also cool. The men had a refreshing, asymmetrical twist on a vest and tie. Her colors were strikingly unconventional, with deep blue playing off pink, tomato, and teal. Unity Phelan and Amar Ramasar were stunning in the solid tomato color. And the ballet’s leads, Robbie Fairchild and Tiler Peck, stood out in a deep mallard. The backdrop by Cuban painter Leslie Sardinias was also stunning. It had a lot of energy and it seemed to almost move with Mark Stanley's different lighting changes. I liked the twilit effect it produced during the central pas de deux.
This ballet marks a post-Broadway reunion for Chris and Robbie (and Gershwin!) after An American in Paris, and I thought it served as a nice transition back to the realm of ballet. It is plotless but it evokes an atmosphere of playful jazziness. Tiler Peck has to be one of the silkiest movers ever, and from her first entrance of smooth chaîné turns straight down the center line, to her sultry wallowing on the floor, she nailed the Gershwin vibe. Robbie seemed equally at ease in the vocabulary, and their fluid partnering was a pleasure.
Amar and Unity jetted in and out of the proceedings with happy poise. I liked when Amar was temporarily distracted by a twirling Kristin Segin while he rested against the wing in the front corner. Chris made the sea of blue corps dancers into many sculptural tableaux—something I feel he hasn’t done as frequently before. It was a lovely effect. I also liked a superman lift motif—in which the men lay on their backs and floated the women horizontally over them like in a child’s game. A lot of the vocabulary was more pedestrian than I’m used to with Chris—in a good way. He had the dancers slouch over, sit on the ground, and strut around.
The ballet climaxed with a rousing group marching step to the score’s bass-heavy musical peak, which always reminds me a bit of Prokofiev’s ball music in Romeo and Juliet. It was fun and rousing before the ensemble settled into one final chained tableau to Gershwin’s dying strains. I will be curious to see the piece in performance, and to see how it is formally reviewed. But from my early glimpse I thought it succeeded at what it aimed to be: a pleasant romp through a famous score.