Movement-filled programme of dance from Tiler Peck & Friends at Sadler’s Wells

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Turn It Out with Tiler Peck & Friends: Sadler’s Wells, London, 10.3.2023. (JO’D)

Time Spell © Christopher Duggan

Thousandth Orange
Choreography – Tiler Peck
Music – Caroline Shaw
Musicians: Sophia Prodanova, Max Mandel, Adrian Bradbury, Shu-Wei Tseng

Dancers – Jovani Furlan, Christopher Grant, Lauren Lovette, Mira Nadon, Quinn Starner, KJ Takahashi

Swift Arrow
Choreography – Alonzo King
Music – Jason Moran
Musician – Shu-Wei Tseng

Dancers – Tiler Peck and Roman Mejia

Time Spell
Choreography – Michelle Dorrance, Jillian Meyers and Tiler Peck, in collaboration with and improvisation by the dancers
Music – Aaron Marcellus Sanders and Penelope Wendtlandt
Musicians – Aaron Marcellus Sanders and Penelope Wendtlandt

Dancers – Michelle Dorrance, Christopher Grant, Lex Ishimoto, Lauren Lovette, Roman Mejia, Jillian Meyers, Mira Nadon, Tiler Peck, Quinn Starner, KJ Takahashi, Byron Tittle

The Barre Project, Blake Works II
Choreography – William Forsythe
Music – James Blake

Dancers – Lex Ishimoto, Brooklyn Mack, Roman Mejia, Tiler Peck

Among the movement in this movement-filled programme of dance, a moment of stillness stood out. It ended a section of the final piece, William Forsythe’s The Barre Project, Blake Works II. Softly lit behind a scrim, with one hand holding an upstage-centre barre, a single female dancer in a pale blue leotard performed an arabesque. Instead of going instantaneously black, as is often the case in Forsythe, the stage faded into darkness as the pose was held to the melancholy music of James Blake: a single female dancer in an arabesque that is frozen in time.

The dancer was Tiler Peck, Principal Dancer with New York City Ballet and curator of the wide-ranging, four-work, Turn It Out with Tiler Peck & Friends. The friends are colleagues from NYCB and independent artists. They brought what might be an American verve to Sadler’s Wells: everything bigger, faster, more energetic.

That was certainly the impression from the opening Thousandth Orange, a piece choreographed by Peck herself. In their leotards and pointe shoes, the three women seemed to have particularly long legs: the three men, in sleeveless body suits, almost beefy about the shoulders and arms. Sharing the stage with four musicians and piano, the dancers moved decorously in their springlike colours from opening to closing tableaux vivants, to music by Caroline Shaw, through choreography redolent now of George Balanchine, now of Jerome Robbins, now (when the dancers sit to watch each other dance) of Alexei Ratmansky.

The curtain went up on Alonzo King’s Swift Arrow to applause, and whoops, for the good-looking set of muscles displayed by a downstage male dancer in tight-fitting shorts (Roman Mejia). At some distance from him upstage, in a leotard of dark blue velvet, his female partner (Peck) waited. Near her, an onstage pianist about to play music by Jason Moran. The dance brings the man and woman together, not in an embrace but in a rather intriguing closing of the gap, according to the choreographer, between ‘object and subject’.

Big, fast, energetic: Time Spell, by tap choreographer/dancer Michelle Dorrance, Jillian Meyers and Peck (in collaboration with the dancers) was all three. Hoofers and toe-dancers sharing the stage along with two singer/musicians (Aaron Marcellus Sanders and Penelope Wendtlandt), who also interact with their companions. A crowd-pleasing combination that allowed for interesting effects. Not least when four, side-lit, long-legged women in leotards drift on pointe, like indifferent alien life form, among the more grounded, floor-based dancers.

The Barre Project © CLI Studios

Presented on the Sadler’s Wells digital stage during the pandemic in 2021, and making its live European premiere, The Barre Project, Blake Works II starts with the Forsythe strut, by Peck, but a strut towards the upstage barre that gives the piece its name. With only four dancers (Peck and three men), the work is intimate, as if it were a ‘project’ from the dance class rather than a finished performance. Something of the digital remains in a section involving film of dancers’ hands and the barre. Elsewhere there is the speed one associates with Forsythe, the skewed danse d’école, dancers dancing in their own shadow. And standing out from the rest, Tiler Peck’s soft, wistful arabesque as the lights fade.

John O’Dwyer

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