Estancia at New York City Ballet

Christopher Wheeldon's "Estancia" at New York City Ballet, photo by Paul Kolnik

In its four-week season at Lincoln Center, New York City Ballet has brought back several of the new ballets from its spring season, many of which included collaborations with architect Santiago Calatrava.  One was Christopher Wheeldon’s Estancia, which truly shined last Saturday afternoon.  It has a lot of merits on its own, but next to Balanchine’s bizarrely anti-climactic Danses Concertantes and the dated Duo Concertant, it stood out as a fresh addition to the repertoire and hopefully one that will stick around for a while.

On paper, Estancia tells an old-fashioned love story: an eager Argentine city boy – vividly portrayed by Tyler Angle – travels to an estancia (ranch), falls in love with a feisty country girl (Tiler Peck) who tames horses, and then must win her over by learning the ways of the country folk.  As soon as he successfully tames one of the wild horses, she falls in love with him and they remain happily together on the ranch.  Alberto Ginastera’s score – also called Estancia – was colorful but not particularly danceable, and therefore provided a challenge for Wheeldon to create a variety of sections that conveyed the story: the ensemble of country folk going about their chores, the frenetic taming of wild horses, the city boy and country girl’s exchange after he successfully tames a horse, and a rapturous finale for everyone.

Tyler Angle and Tiler Peck in "Estancia", photo by Paul Kolnik

Though Calatrava is an architect, he offered painted set designs for this ballet, all of which beautifully captured the earth tones of the Argentine pampas – deep greens and browns in the trees and dusty road, and hints of orange and yellow for the sky.  The scenery shown during the overture depicted wild animals, and when brought to life by several dancers that played the roles of horses, this was what made Estancia so unique.  Andrew Veyette was superb as the wild horse, as was Georgina Pazcoguin as one of the additional horses.  Wheeldon gave them movement that depicted the sweeping gallops and brusque head shakes of wild horses, while the taming involved intricate movement that swiftly shifted from the ground to lifts.

Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle are two of the company’s most expressive dancers, so they were well-suited for these roles.  Peck’s edginess and impatience with Angle upon first meeting him melted away in their tender pas de deux, where they both showed wonderful fluidity and ease.  In the joyous finale, they once again revealed a feistier side as they joined with the country folk to tame horses.  The work never ends.  Though not an original story, and one that easily draws comparisons to Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo, Wheeldon’s ballet is a refreshing take on a classic.

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