American ballet audiences are likely to have become familiar with Andersen when he joined the New York City Ballet in 1980. The Balanchine influences of the decade he spent dancing there are apparent in his new work for Ballet Arizona, Goldberg Variations I.
The casting of the piece was not only determined by physical distancing restrictions due to coronavirus, but also the personal milestones of his dancers.
Real life couple Jillian Barrell and Nayon Iovino are expecting a child soon and Andersen chooses to incorporate Barrell’s five-month pregnancy into Goldberg, a kind of prelude to the rest of the piece. It’s a bit reminiscent of the birth prologue in Balanchine’s Apollo.
In fact, the couple’s tender duet in royal blue costumes gives way to nine more celebratory movements with dancers dressed in all white, marking a clear stylistic and visual distinction. The choreographer’s goal is to convey the life and joy of dance and this is achieved successfully with playful interaction, intricate footwork, and lofty jumps. It is in this ballet that we get to see the company working as a whole; their unified energy is contagious.