Tudor himself chose and organized the Koechlin selections for the score, so he must have had reasons for the extended reappearances and territorial battles that constitute most of the action. The dancers seemed to treat all these scenes alike; but I think Tudor meant to incorporate more nuance — a certain whimsicality, a resignation at the end that's neither happy nor regretful. Does the Boy achieve enlightenment only by winning these prolonged contests, or does he learn or change while they're played out? Simkin acted awed, pleased, calm at different times, but his cherubic face never looked thoughtful. Salstein was noncommittal. The Terrestrials and Celestials were Roddy Doble and Sarah Lane, Cory Stearns and Xiomara Reyes.
Benjamin Millepied choreographed Troika, a three-guy competition/buddy ballet that looked like Jerome Robbins meets Paul Taylor on speed. It seemed to have nothing to do with its Bach score (the Suites for Unaccompanied Cello Nos. 2 and 3), which was played on stage by Jonathan Spitz.
New works by our most important classical choreographers, Alexei Ratmansky and Christopher Wheeldon, bracketed the program. Ratmansky's Dumbarton again made reference to Robbins, who choreographed Dumbarton Oaks for New York City Ballet's 1972 Stravinsky Festival. Richard Hudson's pale dresses and casual shirts and slacks for the Ratmansky reminded me of Robbins's ballet, which seemed to be set beside a 1920s tennis court. Eschewing Robbins's (and Millepied's) deliberately audience-friendly colloquialisms, Ratmansky never strays from the ballet idiom, yet the feelings and incidents he instigates seem wholly contemporary.
Set for five couples — both casts were largely drawn from the lower ranks of the company — Dumbarton is very much an ensemble ballet. Even when Ratmansky draws your attention to someone, he doesn't indulge that person's prominence. The whole idea seems to be that differences in status don't exclude anyone from the community. Nearly every scene and grouping sets one couple or a lone individual apart from others who are dancing a different pattern. Whenever people are left alone for a few moments, others will pass by with mutual unconcern.
Although I saw Dumbarton twice, I felt there was much more to it than I absorbed. Compact and brief, it seems to overflow with good fellowship. I think its warmth and unprepossessing use of the classical idiom distinguishes it from Christopher Wheeldon's Thirteen Diversions, which makes some of the same assumptions. Wheeldon also poses a group against individuals and puts dancers of different ranks together. His dance too is entirely classical with expressive implications.
But Wheeldon uses a big cast (four principal couples and 16 secondary dancers) arranged in evolving formal patterns, and his effects derive as much from the spectacular lighting (by Brad Fields) and the interesting, little-heard score by Benjamin Britten (Diversions for Piano and Orchestra). The orchestra begins the ballet with Britten's Theme, against a black curtain. Ormsby Wilkins conducted pianist Josu De Solaun and an ensemble of brass, woodwinds, and strings. The curtain lifted on an empty stage with a gradually expanding triangle of light in the corner. This became an artificial sky with a brighter beam that rose and fell across it, the colors changing scene by scene. With complementary overall stage lighting, the dances seemed to be taking place in different environments.