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JUSTIN PECK'S COPLAND - Back to Being Butch


Jerome Robbins would be ecstatic. Okay, knowing Jerry as a tyrant and a taskmaster, perhaps ecstatic was not in his emotional oeuvre, or maybe it was, but satisfied he would be with Justin Peck's new take on Aaron Copland's . . . what I will call . . . Wild, Wild, West Symphony. The music, to which this talented choreographer sets 80 minutes of new dance, is given an appropriate homage, especially in light of Robbins' transcendent ballet Rodeo, and the derivative musicals of Agnes de Mille.

The ballet of Justin Peck has no intermission, and, except for those of us battling Old Guy Prostate, not an occupied seat in the theater cared. There was but one lag, towards the end (of course) in a pas de deux which lasted about two minutes of twilight-infused melody too long.

Besides that one head-nodding overabundance of not enough terpsichore and too much musical latency, there was exuberance of feminine charm, and a health dose of men dancing as, gasp!, MEN! Yes, the cowboy gestalt of Aaron Copland is back. No Backroom Brokeback Mountains. No flaccid over-elegance of movement. Lots of athletic jumps, multiple turns, muscular grande allegros, and a military (Again. GASP! Don'tcha know this is Manhattan, the land of the people who hate, uh, uniformly, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines?) precision from the corps de ballet.

The stage, awash in a simplistic background and costume design reminiscent of the Crayola 64 crayon box, throbbed with the energy of a downed power line in a thunderstorm. Entrances and exits executed seamlessly as small, medium, and full cast groups of dancers broke apart and rejoined in a prix fixe menu of delight.

Despite my predilection for the female form, and an appreciation for the virtuosity of the distaff side of The New York City Ballet, it was the male contingent which drew me. Decades of effete, soft, and, lately, woke choreography for the masculine performers of dance had chased me from the Gotham dance scene. Peck rescued NYC by invoking the street, or prairie, tough viciousness of West Side Story in every male solo, duet, trio, and group effort.

Let men dance like men. If I want to see lithe, sensitive elegance, I'll wait for a look at the lower bodies of City Ballet's gorgeous women, and there are plenty of them.

Was an 80 minute inhalation and an IV of testosterone at City Ballet's Copland's Dance Movements.

May there be many more.


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