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(photo by Paul Kolnik)

Eight dancers explore the Salem Witch Trials in Angelin Preljocaj’s SPECTRAL EVIDENCE (photo by Paul Kolnik)

David H. Koch Theater
20 Lincoln Center Plaza
Tuesday, October 8, 7:30, Thursday, October 10, 7:30, and Saturday, October 12, 2:00, $29-$159,

The fall edition of the New York City Ballet’s Contemporary Choreographers makes for a splendid evening at the David H. Koch Theater, featuring a trio of works from three immensely talented artists. The program begins with a slightly revised version of forty-year-old English choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s 1998 American School of Ballet piece Soirée Musicale, set to Samuel Barber’s “Souvenirs Ballet Suite, Op. 28” from 1955. Wheeldon, a former NYCB principal who left his company, Morphoses, in 2010 and was named artistic associate of the Royal Ballet in 2012, has fun with ballet tropes and sexual innuendo in Soirée Musicale, the men in tuxedoes, the women in long tutus, proceeding through a waltz, a schottische, a tango, a two-step, and a lovely pas de deux (Lauren Lovette and Zachary Catazaro) before bringing all together for the grand finale. Next, fifty-six-year-old French filmmaker and choreographer Angelin Preljocaj presents the world premiere of the dazzling Spectral Evidence, set to half a dozen previously recorded John Cage works, some with vocals. Preljocaj, who formed Ballet Preljocaj in December 1984 and created La Stravaganza for NYCB in 1997, uses the Salem Witch Trials as inspiration for Spectral Evidence, with four male dancers (Robert Fairchild, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Amar Ramasar, and Taylor Stanley), in priestly black outfits with white collars, and four women dancers (Tiler Peck, Megan Fairchild, Georgina Pazcoguin, and Gretchen Smith), in long off-white dresses with sinful patches of red. The set makes fascinating use of white wedges that transform into various other objects, including angled slides and a coffin. Spectral Evidence is a mesmerizing piece that could have gone on all night.

Robert Fairchild searches for his true love in Alexei Ratmansky's NAMOUNA, A GRAND DIVERTISSEMENT (photo by Paul Kolnik)

Robert Fairchild searches for his true love in Alexei Ratmansky’s NAMOUNA, A GRAND DIVERTISSEMENT (photo by Paul Kolnik)

The program concludes with forty-five-year-old Russian choreographer Alexei Ratmansky’s 2010 Namouna, A Grand Divertissement, set to nineteenth-century composer Édouard Lalo’s “Namouna.” Ratmansky, the former director of the Bolshoi Ballet and the first artist in residence at American Ballet Theatre, takes on classical ballet clichés in the piece, which features seven primary dancers (Sterling Hyltin, Tyler Angle, Jenifer Ringer, Sara Mearns, Megan Fairchild, Daniel Ulbricht, and Abi Stafford) and another two dozen troupe members smoking cigarettes, acting out scenes reminiscent of silent film, and picking on one poor sailor who is trying to find his love. The costumes, by Marc Happel and Rustam Khamdamov, range from long-flowing yellow gowns and wigs that evoke both Cleopatra and Louise Brooks to bronze outfits and tight-fitting hats that recall Fritz Lang’s Metropolis to colorful body-hugging tops and short skirts accompanied by swim caps. The piece does get repetitive and goes on a bit too long, but it’s still vastly entertaining. This Contemporary Choreographers program, which repeats on October 8, 10, and 12, should appeal to both adventurous ballet regulars as well as those predisposed to more modern dance.

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