There was a red carpet at the Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater for the New York City Ballet Spring Gala. There were photographers. There were men and women in crisp tuxedos and glittering ball gowns, and I’m pretty sure I walked by James Lipton…twice. As I waited in the sea of passive-aggressive displays of wealth, I felt gawky and cheap. I purchased my $32 nosebleed seat tickets to see the world premiere of NYCB Soloist/Choreographer Justin Peck’s Everywhere We Go. I did not realize that there would be people paying from $1500 to $150,000 so they could hob-knob with other rich people, but what should I have expected from an event with the word “gala” in it?
All class resentment aside, the Koch Theater is an undeniably beautiful building, and this Spring Gala celebrated the 50th anniversary of the theater’s opening as well as the NYCB’s tenure at Lincoln Center. I entered the so-called Grand Promenade on a set of marble staircases. Then I had to walk up four flights of stairs to get to my seat on the right fifth-ring of the auditorium. Fifth ring seats are side-only seats in little terraces above everyone else in the auditorium, and although the stage is a bit small from that high up, the little terraces only have a handful of seats so I found it quite cozy.
The Spring Gala performance began with a short film on the building of the theater and an honoring of former NYCB principal dancers from the theater’s inaugural season. Considering the theme of the gala, these were obviously appropriate choices. Next, Kristen Bell and Aaron Lazar sang “If I Loved You” from the musical Carousel. Although this part of the performance was technically not egregiously bad, it just wasn’t compelling enough to induce any kind of feelings in me. After a brief pause, the ballet Allegro Brilliante was performed. The thing about fifth-ring side seats is that it makes everything that happens on stage look a bit lopsided, and frankly, you can only see the generalities of the choreography. (Details are for those in the good seats.) Nonetheless, I enjoyed what I could see of Allegro Brilliante
Finally, after the intermission, the part that I came for began. My enthusiasm was warranted because Everywhere We Go was a stunning piece. As soon as an array of stringed instruments resonated through the auditorium, anyone who has listened to Sufjan Stevens would have said that the composition was definitely his. The score evoked two diametrically opposed moods; it was either cheery and frenzied or slow and wistful, and Peck’s choreography matches the shifting moods so perfectly. Though the fifth-ring lopsided viewing was still an issue, the sheer size of Peck’s cast (25 dancers) made the choreography appear quite spectacular even from afar. The uniformity of the performance’s color scheme helped add to the visual elegance and punch of the performance. The simple costumes designed by Janie Taylor worked well. Male dancers wore black leotards with thin white strips and female dancers wore white with thin black stripes. Karl Jensen designed the ballet’s two backdrops that consisted of monochromatic polygons. Jensen and Taylor’s touches added depth to the set without overwhelming the choreography.
There were so many instances in this ballet where I was awestruck by how seamlessly Peck’s choreography dovetailed with Stevens’ music. My absolute favorite part of Everywhere We Go is a routine set to a gloomy musical movement where one by one, dancers slowly (and gracefully) fall to the floor as if dying, and other dancers run towards the falling dancers until they also succumb to the falling disease. The anguish in the music amplified the pathos of the physical movements like a dream, making it evident that the collaboration between Peck and Stevens was successful. Of course the ballet would not exist without its dancers. Naturally, all 25 members of the cast delivered world-class performances.
As the performance went on, I remembered why I came to the theater that night in the first place. I wasn’t there for a cocktail reception or a supper ball. I wasn’t there to be seen. I was there because I wanted to be moved by the poetry of ballet and in that regard, Everywhere We Go certainly met my need.
Everywhere We Go will be performed on occasion until October 17. Check the New York City Ballet website for specific dates.