Classical & Dance

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Show and Tell: ‘Opus Jazz’

Few ballets capture what it means to be young in New York City like Jerome Robbins’s 1958 NY Export: Opus Jazz. Dancers in sneakers meet, compete, and touch, notably in a then-controversial interracial pas de deux; the result had all the urban fever of West Side Story, minus the melodrama. New York City Ballet soloists Ellen Bar and Sean Suozzi heard their nondancer friends were “jumping out of their seats” after seeing it performed this year, and set out to create a film updating Opus Jazz to 21st-century New York. After securing the ultraprotective Robbins Trust’s okay, they shot it atop the High Line with Rachel Rutherford and Craig Hall, two of City Ballet’s most talented dancers. Judging by the first portion (premiering November 20 at City Ballet’s winter gala), this film is just about the purest, sexiest thing going in ballet. Wearing street clothes, Rutherford and Hall touch, clutch, and collapse upon each other in a fraught, sensual duet, then go their separate ways, all before a perfect sunset shot on 35-mm. film. That the interracial aspect is no longer shocking allows viewers to focus on the sensuality. “The way our generation is dancing it, it’s still about breaking boundaries,” says Suozzi, “but the dancers have evolved. They’re able to make it their own.”


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