How do you honor classical dance technique and make it relevant and fresh? This question is posed 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 her solo shree, see its blend of delicate hand movements and rhythmic footwork, the way it blends storytelling and abstraction. But it’s her version of The Spring Ritual for 12 dancers who form the heart of the program.
With the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra delivering an explosive live version of Stravinsky’s score, Patel shapes the intricacies of technique – usually a solo form – into waves and groups of movements. The dancers, in soft lilac, fawn and pink, charge forward, their heels beating the rhythm on the floor, their arms swinging into curved shapes, fingers grasping the notes.
In the flesh, Tiler Peck is a revelation, strong and fast, music flowing through her body like a visible thing
Against Warren Letton’s sumptuous lighting, in the brilliant hues of sunrise and sunset, they ebb and flow in perfect response to the surging score, sometimes wild, sometimes lyrical, sometimes spinning at a bubbly speed, sometimes leaping abruptly. Sometimes they line up like a frieze across the stage, evoking both Nijinksy’s original choreography and Patel’s new insights into it. A chosen virgin becomes a man who becomes a god and brings renewal. It’s beautiful, intelligent and exciting.
New York City Ballet star Peck has long been a phenomenon, an amazing dancer who hit megawatts in lockdown Turn it off With tiler Peck, her daily dance class. In the flesh she is a revelation, strong and swift, music flowing through her body like a visible thing. She is a generous dancer, a lover of tap and musicals as well as ballet and this is a generous bill – four works, live music and some wonderful dancers.
It is driven by a desire to communicate, to share the joy of ballet. It opens quietly with the elegant Thousandth Orangechoreographed by Peck, and Alonzo Kings Fast arrow, a prickly duet for Peck and Roman Mejia. It ends breezy with William Forsythe’s masterpiece The Barre Project (Blake Works II)to the music of James Blake.
Originally seen online and created for Peck and the equally sensational Lex Ishimoto, Brooklyn Mack and Mejia, the piece sizzles with energy and joy, marked by the contrasts between the casual stride in steps and her sharp execution, modulating movement from soft to powerful, fast to slow. Peck wows with off-center balances and twist stops so hard you can hear the screeching.
In time spellPeck and the classical dancers are joined by tap maestra 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 meld here with uplifting ingenuity.
Related: “It’s a Sorrow and a Healing”: Why Dance Creators Love The Rite of Spring
Dorrance’s intricate beats and soft-shoe swoosh set the soundtrack for variations in pointe shoes; Meyer’s easy-going down-to-earth attitude is the counterpoint to more balletic leaps. Skat steps and pirouettes unfold side by side. It’s happy proof that Peck — smiling broadly as she steps onto the tap in her pointe shoes for a duet with Dorrance — is on to something when she says ballet is about more than tutus and tiaras.
Star rating (out of five)
Seeta Patel Dance: The Rite of Spring ★★★★
Do it with Tiler Peck & Friends ★★★★★