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How many contemporary ballets really put across a love story? Benjamin Millepied’s new Two Hearts for NYCB is not exactly a love story. But there is romance in it, both happy and sad aspects, and it pulls at your heart. That’s partly because of Nico Muhly’s magical music and partly because the two main dancers are lusciously gorgeous in this. Not over-the-top gorgeous. But modulated, take-your-time, tone-rich gorgeous.
Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle are both the kind of dancers who can make their breath visible, and they create a flow of Millepied's inventive moves in three separate duets. The partnering doesn’t have nifty geometry like Wheeldon’s, or elaborate swirls like Ratmansky’s. It’s Millepied’s own voice—and partnering was always his strong suit. These duets have an intimacy tinged with a sense of loss. The first duet feels like the flush of dawn, the second is more sinuous, and the third is slow and concentrated.
Tiler Peck and Tyler Angle in Millepied's Two Hearts. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.
Actually, I was knocked out from the very first diagonal that Tyler Angle makes from stage right to stage left. He covers space with a spurt of irregular rhythm: a skimming/skipping trajectory with freely elastic limbs that announces the originality of the ballet.
Even the group parts are exquisite. They have a hint of the surging feeling of my other favorite piece of Millepied’s, Quasi Una Fantasia, from three years ago. (Here is my rave about that one.)
At the end, the last duet slows everything down, and we hear a voice: a pungent folk tune sung by Dawn Landes. (Next time I’ll pay attention to the lyrics, which Muhly said at a recent NYCB talk includes some danger in them.)
Peck and Angle in Two Hearts. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.
The only drawback of the production is the costumes, which are stark white and black, with a big black strip across the upper chest for most of the men. The men looked like squared off sailors and the women looked like ice skaters. The swaying, threading, and sliding of the choreography would be better served by a forest of colors and fabrics that move. The designers, Kate & Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, may have been working with the idea of a dark underside, but it was too literally carried out.
But Two Hearts is so engaging that the tone-deaf costumes can’t ruin it. And Tiler and Tyler make a really affecting couple. He seems to have expanded, and she, as musical as ever, has softened. Watching her take a breath in his arms is a sweet thing. Rarely have I seen such an enthralling whiff of romance in a thoroughly contemporary ballet.