Opening the evening were New York City Ballet’s principal ballerina Tiler Peck and recently promoted soloist Roman Mejia in a restaging of Tharp’s Cornbread which premiered with Peck and Fairchild at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2014.
Set to a folksy and hoedown track of music by the Carolina Chocolate Drops, the lighthearted duet was a practical opener and felt very American in its stylish flair. Peck danced light and airily across the stage in her pointe shoes, and Mejia performed with quite the boyish flair – noting one moment in particular that caused the audience to chuckle as he looked back over his shoulder before beginning a solo with many classically influenced jumps and turns.
After an intermission following the three duets, the audience returned to their seats to see Tharp’s All In, placing the entire cast of her project onstage, including a youth ensemble of six dancers. The piece was joyous, to say the least. However, reusing some of the choreography from the duets and casting pairings that the audience had already witnessed earlier on the bill hindered the anticipation behind the world premiere.
Inlaid in the middle of the brief ensemble was a duet with Fairchild and Mearns, which was contrarily melancholy and contained moments to appreciate their masterful lines.
The most exhilarating part of All In, in my opinion, was the pure unbridled joy that could be spotted radiating from Harris’ face. From each moment that she entered the stage, it was impossible to watch any other dancer as her exhilaration for existing in that moment was contagious.
Yet it was frustrating – and additionally slightly distracting – to see Harris and Gilmer wearing “nude” costumes that did not match their dark skin color. After all the trials and tribulations dancers have been through in the past two years, this small negligence of costume choice felt like a giant step backwards into 2019 along with the slightly contradictory stagnant momentum behind the choreography.
Nonetheless, as Tharp triumphantly ran onto the stage to join the cast for bows at the end of the night, the audience enthusiastically thundered with a standing ovation. Since emerging into the New York City choreographer scene in the ‘60s as a female, a career spanning across Broadway, Lincoln Center, Hollywood, television, international stages, and even the ice rink, Tharp is something to celebrate. She has undeniably transformed the standard of the American dancer, and the audience was so incredibly blessed to witness some of her niche repertoire that evening to honor the American icon.