Turn It Out with Tiler Peck & Friends

Choreography Tiler Peck, Alonzo King, Michelle Dorrance, Jillian Meyers, William Forsythe; music Caroline Shaw, Jason Moran, Aaron Marcellus Sanders and Penelope Wendlandt, James Blake
Sadler's Wells

The Barre Project Credit: Christopher Duggan
Time Spell Credit: Christopher Duggan
Swift Arrow

“A love letter to my craft”, says Tiler Peck. It is indeed that in this dazzling, high-octane evening that blows me away, lifts my mood, and restores my energy depleted by a recent litany of disasters. This is what the arts do so well—pay attention Arts Council…

Peck and ‘her friends’ bring a New York dynamism and pizzazz to grey London. An “award-winning New York City Ballet principal dancer”, classical ballerina par excellence, she has created a programme that injects jazz ballet, tap and hip hop beats into her own art form in an evening that starts slowly then builds to the William Forsythe climax.

Sold-out at its world première in New York, we are lucky to have it in London for its European debut, sadly for a very brief run. Four pieces in all, two very short, about ten minutes each, Thousandth Orange and Swift Arrow, wet the appetite.

Then comes the half-hour aptly named Time Spell, playing with beats, timing, tap, contemporary, and ballet on pointes doing street battle, a splendid lead up to Forsythe’s The Barre Project, Blake Works II, created and streamed during lockdown, a gift in bleak times. A joint project, a “bucket-list dream” realised: it seems she was the instigator. They rehearsed over Zoom. And it is even more stunning live on stage.

Tiler captivates with her astonishing musicality, nothing is impossible, what can’t she do… I knew she was a talented dedicated ballerina, but you have to see her to believe it. The precision, the speed, the lyricism, the turning on a sixpence, but above all the timing, drive, vigour and vitality are extraordinary. And she is not alone: her team of collaborators are equal to her lead.

But back to the beginning… Thousandth Orange, choreographed by herself when she was injured (that girl must be on permanent high adrenaline) to Caroline Shaw’s music for a music quartet on stage (Sophia Prodanova Violin, Max Mandel Viola; Adrian Bradbury Cello; Shu-Wei Tseng Piano).

Costumed by Harriet Jung and Reid Bartelme in shades of apricot, citrus, menthe and berry, six dancers paint a cool scene on a bare stage canvas. In pure lines and heavenly lifts, they pair, pause to watch as others dance: I think of Apollo and his muses. NYCB influences and Cunningham come to mind. Unhurried, soothing,

After a pause, we get Alfonso King’s ten-minute philosophical Swift Arrow duet for Peck and Roman Mejia—she in leotard, he in skimpy shorts—to Jason Moran’s piano solo and an electronic percussive beat. She loses herself in the dance; he is all macho jumps and turns.

Another long pause, which encourages much chatter and mobile phone use… Then Time Spell, with its trio of choreographers Michelle Dorrance, Jillian Meyers and Peck in collaboration with the dancers, eleven in all, spellbinds us. Scat singers Aaron Marcellus Sanders and Penelope Wendlandt are amazing—they improvise, they vocalise, they harmonise, they dance, they clap and beat.

Tap, jazz, contemporary and classical blend and battle, mix and match, it is fabulous. I can barely keep in my seat—surely that must be its aim, join in the dance, in the wonderful feel of music coursing through the body and its expression.

Tap shoes on board, pointe shoes in juxtaposition—a successful marriage, the seemingly casual, the funky and the disciplined. Four odalisque girls with swaybacks and grinding hips—is this Chicago The Musical or Cabaret? Club moves, jazz numbers, I think Jerome Robbins and the enthusiasm of letting it all hang out, but above all the fun and love of dance, the physical exploration and expression of music.

And finally, the crescendo that is Forsythe—The Barre Project, Blake Works II—if you saw his Blake Works 1 / Playlist (EP) last year you’ll be familiar with his swift feinting style. Lex Ishimoto, Brooklyn Mack, Roman Mejia and Peck are like swifts darting here and there, flying off stage, returning for more and more, in a virtuosic display. Amazingly, Tiler manages to make several costume changes en route.

Centre work and at the barre (at the back in the shadows, lit by Brandon Stirling Baker) the vocabulary is neo-classical but what a script… Thirty minutes fly by too quickly. What stamina, she a musical note on the stave of the barre, the men thrilling in their athleticism.

Talk about spirit of the dance—it is all there. Energising, challenging convention, exploding legs, arms curving parabolas in the air. A breathtaking, brilliant evening of dance...

Quinn Starner, Jovani Furlan, Christopher Grant, Lauren Lovette, Mira Nadon, K J Takahashi and Byron Tittle complete the list of Friends.

Reviewer: Vera Liber

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