The New York City Ballet drew a decidedly downtown crowd to Thursday’s performance of The Most Incredible Thing, an adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story featuring a score by Bryce Dessner (guitarist for The National) and costumes and sets by cult artist Marcel Dzama. And boy did the NYCB do everything it could to extend a valentine to that crowd: before the latest installment in its Art Series, it was announced that there’d be a surprise after-party with an unlimited flow of free beer and a DJ set by Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem and The Juan Maclean.
While swigging away, we also got a look at a short film, above, that’s not unlike the one Dzama did with Kim Gordon and his fellow Canucks, Arcade Fire. In it, Amy Sedaris stands in for Dzama and the ballet’s 28-year-old choreographer, Justin Peck. “I can barely barely see my dancer’s crotches!” she gripes.
The video should give you an idea of the amazing costumes designed by Dzama, the Canadian-born New Yorker who illustrated Nick Hornby’s Songbook and the cover of Beck’s Guero, among others. His drawings and sculptures were on display all around the David H. Koch Theater, as well as in The Book of Ballet, a handsome takeaway co-published by David Zwirner Gallery. They evoke Tim Burton, the occult, Jodorowsky, Alice in Wonderland, art deco, and Wes Anderson.
The most arresting of the costumes–a sort of optical illusion requiring two people to pull off– is that of the titular king who offers up half his kingdom and his daughter to anyone who can show him “the most incredible thing.” He’s described in Dzama’s sketch as “like a mix of Dracula, Rasputin, Vader and Oskar Schlemmer.” You can see him in the promo video below.
In the Hans Christian Andersen tale, the “most incredible thing” ends up being, no, not $30 orchestra tickets and an open bar, but a magical, anthropomorphic clock that is destroyed, only to come back to life. In a conversation with Peck that’s included in The Book of Ballet, Dzama says he was excited to be asked to adapt the story because “it was around that time when ISIS was destroying all the artwork and things like that, so it felt like such a timely piece. I really feel like it makes sense for now. And hopefully the art will come back for revenge, like it does in the story!”
The Feb. 19 performance of The Most Incredible Thing is sold out, but there’s good news: it’s returning for a string of spring shows on April 21, April 30 and May 7. Sadly, tickets are no longer $30 across the board and now range from $30 to $170. You can snag ’em here.