Program 2 of Morphoses showcased a variety of choreographers, with works by Wheeldon opening and closing the performance. The highlight for me was Morphoses, one of Wheeldon’s signature pieces, originally choreographed for NYCB in 2002. Wendy Whelan and Craig Hall were completely in touch with one another as they moved effortlessly from one unthinkable shape to the next. I had seen this piece performed at NYCB a few times, but this time I was particularly struck by the fluidity of the dancers as they “morphed”. Near the beginning of the ballet, the four dancers hold hands as they flex or arch their backs and use different levels to form twisted shapes and knots. The continuous movement of this part of the piece was amazing, and reminded me of those hypnotic screensavers of a three-dimensional box that changes shapes and colors. Sterling Hyltin replaced Ashley Bouder, and although she performed remarkably well, there were a few moments of strain in the partnering with Edwaard Liang. Overall, the combination of sophisticated dancers and remarkable choreography was superb.
Liang’s Vicisstude, which was also on Program 1, was even more enjoyable after the second viewing. The pas de deux gave both dancers the opportunity to showcase their strengths: for Maria Kowroski, her beautiful, long lines and expressive upper body, and for Tyler Angle, his grace, superb partnering ability, and excellent jump.
Propeller and Satie Stud were two brief pieces that involved a lot of posing and not a lot of movement. I thought that both pieces lacked flow and connections from one shape or pose to the next. While Propeller certainly offered some unusual lifts, the piece seemed to be more about testing the dancers’ physical strength for shock value, rather than about incorporating these unusual lifts into an organic whole.
Slingerland Pas de Deux, choreographed by William Forsythe, was also on Program 1, but this time with Aesha Ash and Gonzalo Garcia performing. They danced with passion and lyricism, and seemed to invite the audience into their dancing. On the other hand, Wendy Whelan and Edwaard Liang performed the piece with more sharpness and precision, and they remained distanced from the audience, making the piece seem more mysterious. I liked both interpretations equally, and think it’s great to see what different dancers bring to a piece.
The performance closed with Mesmerics, a Wheeldon piece for three men and three women, with six cellists on stage playing Philip Glass. The piece involved a lot of changing pairings, with one couple exiting the stage and quickly being replaced by another. Adrian Danchig-Waring of NYCB definitely stood out because of his power, intensity, and incredibly expansive arms. He also looked more grounded than in the past, dancing with the floor rather than a few inches above it.
The expectations for Morphoses were high, perhaps too high. Rather than saying that my expectations were or weren’t met, I would say that overall I was impressed with the choreography, the balance of the programs, and the artistry and technique of the dancers. More importantly, I think the performances showed raw, emotional physicality and choreography that’s sexy, which is exactly what Wheeldon wants Morphoses to be.