From lifelong fans to the previously uninitiated, New York City Ballet’s All Robbins program was designed to make the whole house cheer. Jerome Robbins’ (1918–98) work on Broadway and in ballet made him a revered artist in both circles. Few others were ever able to achieve such crossover success. Robbins’ choreography anticipates the viewers’ desires, providing humor, excitement and beauty in just the right mix. Interplay, Fancy Free and I’m Old Fashioned are satisfying in the same way that catching up with an old friend leaves one feeling fulfilled. The conversation is familiar and yet still manages to provide something new.

Lauren Lovette and Taylor Stanley in Jerome Robbins' Interplay © Paul Kolnik
Lauren Lovette and Taylor Stanley in Jerome Robbins' Interplay
© Paul Kolnik

Interplay is a colorful, literally playful game of a dance. Daniel Ulbricht takes the reins after the introduction, setting a high bar for showmanship. He teases his cohorts with impish delight between leaps bursting off the stage in his aptly titled section “Horseplay”. Morton Gould’s music turns jazzy, accented by hihat and other percussion with the dancers snapping their fingers in time. Soloists Lauren Lovett and Taylor Stanley’s duet stretches the notes of each phrase through their bodies. In the final lift, Lovett twists around Stanley like a corkscrew before settling on the ground. The bright costumes and dynamic score also make Interplay’s fun to watch; it’s a joyful experience.

Fancy Free is easily recognizable. It’s as beloved by audiences today as it was when it premièred in 1944. But new viewers may feel at home, too, thanks to the ballet’s ever-entertaining story (three sailors on leave chasing women) and because Robbins’ influence is still visible in musical theater today. Amar Ramasar, Joaquín De Luz and Robert Fairchild’s brilliant dancing isn’t debatable, and Robbins’ choreography gives them every opportunity to show their verve and panache as the strut trying to impress the two women. But their acting, along with Georgina Pazcoguin and Tiler Peck, keep their characters fresh. This cast’s timing is impeccable in terms of both artistry and comedy.

With the largest ensemble and most formal costuming (adapted gowns and tuxedos by Florence Klotz), I’m Old Fashioned is an apt conclusion for this program. Despite its name, this is the youngest of the three ballets by nearly four decades. Robbins was inspired by Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth’s duet in the movie You Were Never Lovlier, riffing on both the movement and music (original theme by Jerome Kern, variation by Morton Gould) in his piece. First Hayworth and Astaire’s original is projected on stage, then various iterations from duets to the whole corps transform the scale and range of each step. The black tie dress code adds a sophisticated elegance to this creative study. In the final rendition the cast fills the stage dancing in unison with their silver screen counterparts. For a moment, even they pause to watch the two icons.

This sampler of Robbins’ choreography might seem nostalgic at first glance. However, New York City Ballet brings these works to life in a way that isn’t sentimental, but instead timeless.

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