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Bedhead & Deconstructed Bodies at New York City Ballet

I’ve never thought much about hair in ballet. Mostly because we’re not given many options: bun, or bun. Or, occasionally, unleashed waterfalls of locks revealed in the climax to represent sudden freedom or sensuality (see: “Walpurgisnacht Ballet” or “Serenade”). So it was something of a thrill to see Jerome Robbins’ “The Cage” for the first time last week, in which the lead female (currently Lauren Lovette) sports a dark pixie and her gang of ferocious female companions are topped with billowing clouds of teased tufts. For one, it made the piece feel quite modern, despite its 1951 vintage. Mostly, though it made me think about how hair is part of character, and how refreshing and radical it was to suggest ballerinas could have a broader range of personalities than the demure and frozen bun indicates, and how rarely this tool is used.

During intermission, I visited the latest installment of City Ballet’s annual Art Series, in which the company commissions noted visual artists to transform (or decorate) the grand foyer of the Koch Theater. Brooklyn-based artist Dustin Yellin has contributed 15 works, staggered across the floor, that look like bright, exploding bodies captured in blocks of ice. (They are, in fact, collages of paint and cultural scraps, vaguely in the shape of dancing humans, encased in layers of glass.) Like last year’s JR portraits, it’s whimsical, Instagram-ready, and slightly disturbing. It’s also a wholly appropriate nod to the intersection of body, beauty and culture that ballet captures.

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