IOWA CITY — Everything was exquisite in New York City Ballet’s Hancher debut Tuesday night, but all eyes were fixed on Iowa City native Miriam Miller’s triumphant return to her hometown.
She appeared in the company for “La Stravaganza” in the first half of the 2 1/2-hour program, but truly got to shine in the sensual “After the Rain.” Christopher Wheeldon, whose re-imagined “Nutcracker” previewed at Hancher last year, created a pas de deux — a ballet dance duet — in 2005 with extraordinary, fluid choreography that today fits Miller’s tall frame beautifully, showing the full reach of her liquid, languid arms.
Clad simply in a pale pink leotard and beige ballet slippers, her hair flowing long and loose, every inch of Miller’s 5-foot-10-inch body draped elegantly over her partner, principal dancer Adrian Danchig-Waring. The collapsing beauty of those moments transformed seamlessly into power poses as Danchig-Waring lifted her stiff, doll-like body into the air, her arms and legs outstretched in a rigid X.
This picture of passion and grace played out over the gorgeous flow of Arvo Part’s “Spiegel im Spiegel,” performed in an equally romantic violin-piano pas de deux.
An immediate standing ovation and endless cheers rang out as the dancers melted into each other and onto the floor.
Just 20 years old, it’s so easy to see why Miller is captivating New York audiences and critics alike, and earning industry accolades for her elegant arm extensions and sensitive interpretations. A recent recipient of the prestigious Princess Grace Award for emerging artists, she chose to dance for her Iowa family and friends instead of traveling to Los Angeles this week to receive that award in a gala presentation.
The entire evening was a study in opulent fusion, with classical nobility undulating through modern counterpoints in music and dance for this select group of performers on the esteemed company’s fall MOVES tour.
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Moving through silence, the first pair of dancers entered the space lighted by twinkling stars for Jerome Robbins’ “In the Night.” Three couples would eventually be featured individually and en masse to the music of Chopin, flowing through enchanting arabesques, fluid extensions, embraces and lifts.
Each couple was given a distinct look and style within the classical realm of costumes and dance. The first pair, in pastel delicacy, gave way to a more rustic style with elements of folk dance and fervor for the second couple, followed by the shimmering midnight blue hues reflected in costume and a dance, punctuated by angular, unusual arm positions for the third couple. All three joined in the final moments, ending with a waltz and a high lift as they faded into the darkness.
French choreographer Angelin Preljocaj created a fusion of ancient and contemporary chaos for the largest work on the program, “La Stravaganza.” Playing out to a taped score of Vivaldi and jarring electronica, the piece featured the push and pull where worlds collide.
Six dancers in simple, modern clothing dancing to pastoral birdsong and babbling brooks provided a stark contrast to the six in peasant attire, pounding the earth with plies as they scattered seeds, beckoning their contemporary counterparts into their world. A fiery volcano loomed in the background, adding to the primal feel, punctuated by twirling hands, whirling arms, hand claps and a cacophony of primal percussion and French phrases spoken and sung.
George Balanchine’s “Sonatine” pas de deux gave the evening its most gorgeous moments, wrapped in icy blue and classical, complex yet delicate pointe work playfully tumbling over a cascading piano waterfall by Maurice Ravel.
The evening ended with the newest work on the program, Justin Peck’s 2012 “In Creases,” featuring eight dancers and two grand pianos creating angular, geometric images to the music of another Hancher favorite, Philip Glass. So very imaginative, the dancers created a playground of columns, poses and leaps over bodies lying on the ground.
This breathtaking collection of contrasts repeats tonight as one of the gems in Hancher’s 45th sapphire season celebration. Tickets are still available.
IF YOU GO
What: New York City Ballet MOVES
Where: Hancher Auditorium, 141 E. Park Rd., Iowa City
When: 7:30 p.m. today
Tickets: $20 to $80, Hancher Box Office, (319) 335-1160, 1-800-426-2437 or Hancher.uiowa.edu
Program: “In the Night,” music by Frederic Chopin, choreography by Jerome Robbins; “La Stravaganza,” music by Antonio Vivaldi, Evelyn Ficarra, Robert Normandeau, Serge Morand and Ake Parmerud, choreography by Angelin Preljocaj, with Iowa City native Miriam Miller in the ensemble; “Sonatine,” music by Maurice Ravel, choreography by George Balanchine; “After the Rain” pas de deux, with Miriam Miller, music by Arvo Part, choreography by Christopher Wheeldon; “In Creases,” music by Philip Glass, choreography by Justin Peck
Artist’s website: nycballet.com
l Comments: (319) 368-8508; email@example.com