Rubato is the operative word for Dances at a Gathering, the Jerome Robbins masterwork from 1969. It refers to the Italian musical term for stealing time from one musical phrase and giving it to another to give added poignancy. Chopin’s music has many of those moments and Robbins choreographed most of them into this ballet. It gives the dancers an opportunity to float over the music or linger over a balance to show off their artistry.

Sara Mearns and Adrian Danchig-Waring in Jerome Robbins’ <i>Dances at a Gathering</i> © Paul Kolnik
Sara Mearns and Adrian Danchig-Waring in Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering
© Paul Kolnik

The end result is a deeply expressed vision of poetry in movement and it was danced beautifully by this cast. Sara Mearns and Adrian Danchig-Waring interlaced their phrasing perfectly in their waltz and it was impossible to say which one moved more beautifully. Megan Fairchild debuted in green, a part full of flirtation and Slavic inflections, and tossed it off as though she’d been doing it for years. Tiler Peck bubbled with effervescence. Amar Ramasar filled in dancing green and partnered so well with Mearns. Tyler Angle and Gonzalo Garcia were perfectly sympathetic partners.

My favorite moment of the ballet comes in the final Nocturne when the full company is facing the audience, looking at something in the distance, above our heads. I imagine them to be watching a flock of migratory birds taking flight, leaving them all behind. It perfectly captures the wistful loneliness at the heart of Chopin’s music. This ballet is all about the grace of small things. So much can be said just by taking a hand or releasing it and Robbins had a gift for showing restraint. There’s no showing off here, just expressions of joy and longing. There’s none of the excessive emoting without dramatic context that makes many current ballets irritating. Any moments of feeling are an outgrowth of the characters that the dancers are portraying and they feel authentic and integral to the ballet.

Robbins was of course, also a Broadway powerhouse and his West Side Story Suite of dances taken from the show gives the company a chance to do something completely different. The orchestra also seemed to enjoy it as Andrew Litton drew a full and brassy sound from them. There has been a steady stream of dancers playing on the Broadway stage lately. Robert Fairchild, who was strong as Riff, did his turn in American in Paris and in August, Georgina Pazcoguin will be joining the cast of On the Town where Megan Fairchild has also performed.

Georgina Pazcoguin and Amar Ramasar in Jerome Robbins’ <i>West Side Story Suite</i> © Paul Kolnik
Georgina Pazcoguin and Amar Ramasar in Jerome Robbins’ West Side Story Suite
© Paul Kolnik
With the opening of Something’s Coming, you could feel the brimming energy coming from the stage. Okay, not everyone is cut out to be a Broadway hoofer. Singing while you’re dancing is much harder than it looks and not everyone in the company is great, but it sure was fun. Amar Ramasar was slinky and cat-like as Bernardo. He was appealing enough that I wanted him to have a singing part to see what he could do. Chase Finlay and Mimi Staker were sweet as Tony and Maria but it was Pazcoguin, the resident company firecracker, who once again stole the show with her uncanny portrayal of Anita. She will be well worth seeing on Broadway.

An all Robbins program at New York City Ballet is one of my favorite things. He was a brilliant choreographer who embraced Broadway and ballet with equal enthusiasm and his work has withstood the test of time. The company has so many treasures in its repertoire that it’s hard to find time to perform them all. We’re lucky to get nights like this.

****1