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Review: At City Ballet, bending rituals and codes of form

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As more dancers arrive – including royal Miriam Miller, who takes on some sort of conductor or instructor role – strange tensions simmer. Attractive costumes for the cast of 10, Easter egg-colored unitards by Reid Bartelme and Harriet Jung, suggest spring, joy; the music is more tangled, unsettling, its strangeness accentuated by Brandon Stirling Baker’s excellent lighting.

Sometimes the choreography appears as a patchwork – yes, a mosaic – of allusions to ballet rituals and codes. At first, a group casually clusters on a far edge of the stage (Tanowitz likes to use the fringes), as if preparing for class drills across the floor. A solo for Miller, in silence, oscillates between practice and performance. In an essential duet, Sara Mearns and Russell Janzen present what look like blotchy, toned-down versions of story-ballet mime. (Here, Tanowitz reuses material from his second City Ballet work, a short starring Janzen.)

Much of the movement plays with this relaxed quality and with images of fatigue. Standing behind Janzen as he points, princely, into the distance, Mearns rests her head on his arm, as if giving up in the middle of a pas de deux. In a section for several couples, the women drop to the ground, heavy and wooden. At the other extreme, more traditional displays of virtuosity sound like alarm bells, as when Preston Chamblee executes a series of whipping turns, or when Ruby Lister, a striking new member of the corps, alone commands the stage with alert, springing leaps. .

From certain angles, “Law of Mosaics” seems random, structurally confused. To others, its fragmentary nature reads as more deliberate, a pointed challenge to the expected order, not just for the audience, but for Tanowitz and the dancers. The heart of the dance, oddly, seems to be its ending: an austere, dark solo for a barefoot Sara Mearns. Lately, Mearns, in her collaborations outside of City Ballet, has leaned into imperfection (or so she says). As she sways and stuffs, her limbs fluttering and thrusting against the violent jolts of the music, a real vulnerability comes to the surface. In retrospect, she seems to be the main character in this mystery.