SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. >> While treasuring its rich George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins repertory, the New York City Ballet commissions more new works than any other troupe. Wednesday night marked SPAC premieres for Alexei Ratmansky’s terrific, troubling “Odessa” and Justin Peck’s absorbing piano ballet, “The Decalogue.”
“Odessa” shows a world of passion and brutality. Leonid Desyatnikov’s suite, from a Russian film adaptation of Isaac Babel’s tales about the city’s murderous Jewish gangsters, tastes of Yiddish klezmer and Argentine tango (a longtime Odessan obsession), mixing exuberance, decadence, and danger.
Of the ballet’s three couples, two interact in disturbing ways. Taylor Stanley roughly handles Tiler Peck. She protests; he throws her to the ground, then swings her up to his shoulder.
Sterling Hyltin spurns Joaquin De Luz’s advances, yanking back her hand as he kisses it. As De Luz dances, men of the corps lift Hyltin and float her toward him, like a dream painted by Chagall. The men carry them both aloft, hinting at a Jewish bride and groom, but dream becomes nightmare when they violently abduct Hyltin, tossing her in the air.
Tyler Angle and Sara Mearns offer a counter-vision as he lifts her, her legs whirling forward and back, then hoists her in joyous splits. In another surreal dream image, as she lies with bent knees, feet flat on the ground, he smoothly raises her stiff body to standing position.
Brief virtuoso passages also offer hope: Angle whips off stunning leaps and turns, Mearns advances slowly,…
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