By Lauren Warnecke
Remember that scene in the movie “Footloose?” The one where Kevin Bacon drives into a warehouse in his VW bug, pulls a cassette tape out of the glove box, drinks a beer and dances like heck? I don’t know if Justin Peck was thinking about Kevin Bacon when he made “The Times Are Racing” for the New York City Ballet — after all, he wasn’t even born when that movie came out — but Peck, NYCB’s resident choreographer, captured something similar to that pent-up anger that drove Bacon to dance.
“The Times Are Racing” saw its Joffrey premiere on a mixed-rep program of the same name, through Feb. 23 at the Auditorium Theatre.
Dancer Edson Barbosa bounded across the stage — airborne more frequently than his feet, shod with white high-top sneakers, were on the ground — in tank top and jeans, sweat flying from his brow. But unlike Kevin Bacon in that warehouse, Barbosa isn’t alone. “The Times Are Racing” isn’t about getting out personal frustration; rather, it’s about how a collective of people can band together to create change in the world.
“The Times Are Racing” opens with a single dancer huddled by the company. Barbosa’s solo becomes a tap-dance inspired duet with Greig Matthews. A stunning pas de deux for Jeraldine Mendoza and Dylan Gutierrez (who gives the best performance of his career) repeats pretzel-like intricacies, mimicking the cumulative rise in energy that builds within selections from Dan Deacon’s iterative electronic score called “America.”
Dancing in sneakers affords these dancers the freedom to execute Peck’s larger-than-life choreography with reckless abandon, jumping higher and reaching farther than they could in their ballet slippers. They’re dressed in street clothes which give off an early 1990s vibe (styled by Humberto Leon of Opening Ceremony), but this is not a Gen X ballet. There’s an underbelly to “The Times Are Racing” that speaks directly to today’s deeply divided political landscape. That’s not to say millennials and Gen Z-ers are the only ones to experience political division. But Peck choreographed the piece during the 2016 presidential election — which is why it’s important to point out that this piece is actually not at all like “Footloose.” It’s not just virtuosic; it’s deeply personal to those dancers on stage. Of course, no Peck ballet is without commitment to technique and form, so any sense of cacophony is tempered by clean, crisp lighting by Peck’s frequent collaborator Brandon Sterling Baker, tightly organized formations and a blending of grounded pedestrianism from the waist down with perfectly balletic upper bodies.
Read the full review online here.