Ballet’s fate has recently become an issue of popular debate thanks to Jennifer Homans’ Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet (November 2010). The author’s bold assertion that ballet is dying is a call to arms for choreographers like Lynn Parkerson, who has been ready and willing to answer for years. In line with this current preoccupation with ballet history and Homans' dire diagnosis, Lynn offered a curatorial nod to ballet’s past conditions and current vivacity in March.
Brooklyn Ballet celebrated its first home season, From Baroque to Hip Hop, with a timeline of dances ranging from 1700 to today, commemorating ballet’s roots and defining moments as well as showcasing possible modes of progression. (Homans was the guest of honor at the opening gala performance, signing books and conversing with audience members.)
Roslyn Sulcas of The New York Times applauded Lynn's programming, drawing attention to its "notable reconstruction of 18th-century and 19th-century dances." A performance of Lynn and Thomas Baird’s “La Folia,” which sets Baroque style dance by Raoul Feuillet beside contemporary ballet by Lynn, highlighted the roots of balletic language and playfully demonstrated the stark differences between today’s movement and its ancestral derivation.
Collaborating artists and dance scholars, Claudia Jeschke and Robert Atwood presented “The Justamant Suite,” three short but intricate works choreographed by Henri Justamant, a French ballet master heretofore unknown among historians, whose work was uncovered at the Theatersammlung in Cologne, the Bibliothèque Opera de Paris and the Dance Collection of the New York Public Library. Before Brooklyn Ballet’s performance last month, these works had not been presented in 150 years.
Thanks to the George Balanchine Trust, Brooklyn Ballet was also able to include Balanchine’s "The Four Temperaments (Themes I-III)" in the season's concerts. This seminal 1946 work encouraged audiences to note the significant role Balanchine played in shaping contemporary performance.
Last, and most current, Lynn presented the world premiere of "Close to You," which was shown as a work-in-progress at last spring’s First Look series at The Schermerhorn. The intertwining of street dance and ballet contemporizes the genre and validates its position in the present landscape of contemporary art, with its penchant for defying classification by entertaining diverse influences.
Photos by Julie Lemberger and Marcos Reyes.