Back in that brief, shining moment when Twyla Tharp was making dances for Mikhail Baryshnikov, everything she choreographed for him was also about him. Tharp is a master at making the best use of the materials at hand, and in Baryshnikov she had the material she had been waiting for all her life: He was the ultimate ballet-trained male dancer, and at the same time, he had a chameleonic physical brilliance that enabled him to dance his way into the unique, profoundly demanding style she had developed for her own company.
The last piece to emerge from the two of them was a 1992 solo called Pergolesi. (After that, a zillion personal and professional conflicts kept them from working together again.) Baryshnikov performed it on tour, and then it disappeared—until earlier this month, when it was reborn in glory at the Joyce. Peter Boal, the New York City Ballet star who embodies the princely virtues of his calling as if they’d been conferred on him at birth, presented an evening of dances with three colleagues from City Ballet and opened the program with a beautifully considered rendition of Pergolesi.
Boal is Olympian. There’s a seriousness and purity about his dancing that seems to come from his own character. He’s the Bach cantata; Baryshnikov is the Mozart aria. Hence the quirks—the throwaway gestures and sense of abandon, the off-kilter tilts and rebounds, the Tharpisms—are less pronounced in Boal’s version of Pergolesi, and an aura of perfect calm surrounds him like a blessing no matter what he does. But there are similarities, too, between him and Baryshnikov. Boal easily commands the technical rigor, the wit, and the open-mindedness that Tharp has worked right into the choreography; he also has the unaffected sense of pleasure that keeps this dance in focus. What a gift, to have Pergolesi onstage again!
And what an amazing solo followed it—Mopey, by the German choreographer Marco Goecke. Sean Suozzi, a City Ballet corps member, was riveting in a portrait of madness so eloquent it looked like Shakespeare without words. Keep an eye out for both of these young artists; they’re moving fast.