This season New York City Ballet unveiled two entirely new ballets by choreographers Peter Martins and Benjamin Millepied. Both world premieres took place during the NYCB’s spring gala earlier this month and were reprised Tuesday night for an eager, if not as impressively dressed, audience.

Claire Kretzschmar and Taylor Stanley in Peter Martins' Mes Oiseaux © Paul Kolnik
Claire Kretzschmar and Taylor Stanley in Peter Martins' Mes Oiseaux
© Paul Kolnik

Martins’ Mes oiseaux (“My Birds”), first of the night, included some interesting choices. Composer Marc-André Dalbavie’s Trio no. 1 provided a dynamic score. Four dancers, Taylor Stanley, Lauren Lovette, Ashly Isaacs, and Claire Kretzschmar, selected from the corps de ballet, got their chance to shine in the small ensemble piece. However, the tension in the music was not maintained in the choreography. Stanley partnered the three women to produce beautiful images on stage but Mes oiseaux lacked a sense of growth or development.

Diagonal lines are repeated throughout Mes oiseaux. The dancers move along a diagonal across the stage and the ballerinas create long diagonal lines with their bodies. The women repeat a phrase, skipping, tapping a beat, and ending in arabesque, along diagonals crossing center stage. Within each duet, there is a time when Stanely supports the women through variations of the same movement. In arabesque, a diagonal from toe to head, she dips her torso forward before rotating her chest upward and diving forward in the opposite direction. These themes make Mes oiseaux cohesive but don’t build up to a climatic conclusion.

Two Hearts, Millepied’s latest work and second in the program, included new music by Nico Muhly. This piece focuses on the hearts of its central couple, Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle, supported by six more pairs of men and women. Both the lighting (Roderick Murray) and costumes (Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte) are severe, contrasting black and white patterns on the stage as well as the costumes’ fabric. Rodarte may be a familiar name since their involvement with the movie Black Swan.

Peck and Angle’s partnership is immediately sweet and tender. His arms follow hers, scooping around her, embracing and echoing her movements. This relationship is interrupted for a section when Peck is joined by three other men. She doesn’t interact with them; instead, they catch her at the apex of each of her jumps. These snapshots create a rhythm within the movement, building excitement as the audience anticipates the next one. The music for Peck and Angle’s final duet was inspired by the European folk song “Lord Thomas and Fair Eleanor.” But as the couple continue to demonstrate their affection, wrapping their arms around one another on the floor, the lyrics tell another story. Peck and Angle portray utter devotion that, like Romeo and Juliet, makes others nervous. While the audience finally hears how Lord Thomas decapitated his wife for killing his lover, Two Hearts seems to be more of a tragedy than a love story.

A crowd favorite, Fancy Free concluded the program on a familiar and cheerful note. Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein’s first collaboration remains popular today perhaps because it was such a product of its time. The three sailors on leave (Tyler Angle, Joaquin De Luz, and Amar Ramasar) provide a form of escapism everyone longs for. They go to a bar, chase women, and show off brilliantly. Angle, De Luz, and Ramasar dance with the carefree demeanor of stars like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly who immortalized this style on screen.

This mixed program shows New York City Ballet’s range with three distinct ballets. Ballet Master-in-Chief Peter Martins continues to experiment with new works while maintaining a clear appreciation for the company’s foundation.