How do you honor classical dance technique while making it seem relevant and fresh? That’s the question being asked in different ways by British Asian choreographer Seeta Patel and American dancer Tiler Peck, both dazzling performers looking to expand their range.
Patel’s dance language is the South Indian tradition of bharatanatyam. in his alone Shree, you see his mix of delicate hand movements and rhythmic footwork, the way he mixes storytelling and abstraction. But it’s his version of the ritual of spring for 12 dancers that constitutes the heart of the program.
With the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra providing an explosive live version of Stravinsky’s score, Patel shapes the intricacies of technique, usually a solo form, into waves and movement groups. The dancers, dressed in soft lilacs, beiges and pinks, move forward, their heels tapping the rhythm on the floor, their arms raised in curved shapes, their fingers striking the notes.
In the flesh, Tiler Peck is a revelation, loud and fast, music flowing through his body like a visible thing.
Against sumptuous Warren Letton lighting, in the brilliant colors of sunrise and sunset, they ebb and flow in perfect response to the soaring score, sometimes fierce, sometimes lyrical, sometimes whirling with bubbling speed, sometimes leaping abruptly. At times, they form a line across the stage like a frieze, conjuring both Nijinksy’s original choreography and Patel’s new ideas about it. A chosen maiden becomes a man who becomes a god, bringing renewal. He is beautiful, smart and exciting.
New York City ballet star Peck has long been a phenomenon, a prodigious dancer who reached megawatts in lockdown with turn it off with tile peck, his daily dance class. In the flesh she is a revelation, strong and swift, the music flowing through her body as a visible thing. She is a generous dancer, lover of tap dancing and musicals as well as ballet, and this is a generous lineup: four plays, live music, and some wonderful dancers.
He is driven by the desire to communicate, to share the joy of ballet. He opens quietly with the elegant thousandth orangechoreographed by Peck, and Alonzo King’s Fast arrow, a spiky duo of Peck and Román Mejía. He ends forcefully with the masterful William Forsythe The Barre Project (Blake Works II)with music by James Blake.
Originally seen online and created for Peck and the equally sensational Lex Ishimoto, Brooklyn Mack and Mejia, the piece crackles with energy and delight, shaped by the contrasts between the casual stepping movement and its sharp execution, the modulation of movement from smooth to powerful, fast to slow. Peck tempts with off-center balances and spin stops so strong you can hear the screeching.
In time spellPeck and ballet dancers join tap teacher Michelle Dorrance, choreographer Jillian Meyers, and improv singers Aaron Marcellus and Penelope Wendtlandt in a glorious collision of tap and ballet, two forms that don’t speak easily but blend here. with uplifting inventiveness.
Related: ‘It’s a Pain and a Healing’: Why Dancers Love The Rite of Spring
Dorrance’s complex rhythms and the soft crunch of sneakers form the soundtrack for the pointe shoe variations; Meyer’s easy grounding is the counterpoint for more ballet leaps. Skating steps and pirouettes take place side by side. It’s happy proof that Peck, grinning broadly as she steps on the splint in her pointe shoes for a duet with Dorrance, is right when he says there’s more to ballet than tutus and tiaras.
Star Ratings (out of five)
Seeta Patel Dance: The Rite of Spring ★★★★
Turn it off with Tiler Peck & Friends ★★★★★