By Victoria L. Dammer

I’m going to skip the traditional review guidelines and state right up front–you don’t know what you are missing if you don’t see at least one performance by New Jersey Ballet. The troupe is that amazing.

Under the tutelage of Artistic Director Maria Kowroski, New Jersey Ballet never ceases to amaze me. Artistic Director Maria Kowroski guides the most talented ballerinas and danseurs, rewarding the audience with visual and physical delights during their outstanding ballet, modern dance, choreography, and music.

The evening program, performing to a full-house theater at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark, opened with Kowroski on stage, and she informed us she had worked with all three choreographers who shared their talents for this evening’s event at the New York Ballet.

In the first piece entitled Murder Ballades, choreographed by Justin Peck, three women, and three men, dressed in costumes like gym clothes and sneakers, danced and performed gymnastic-like moves to staccato piano music and orchestra. The program was energetic, explosive, and exhausted the audience just watching the sensational company. One part featured a love duet, warm and playful. The 35-minute dance received resounding applause for the vibrant and high-spirited presentation.

After a brief intermission, a well-known ballet piece entertained us entitled Purcell Suite, music by Henry Purcell and choreographed by Harrison Ball. Purcell wrote extensively in the late 1600s, with an English Baroque style that also incorporates French and Italian elements.

Harrison Ball was a student at the elite School of American Ballet and a former principal dancer of the New York City Ballet, and he showcased his remarkable skills in the beauty of each of the 9 acts performed. Before the performance, Ball interacted with several audience members, and I heard accolades for his expertise in dance as he transformed it onto the stage.

Famed American fashion designer Zac Posen designed long, spaghetti-strap gowns that fit each of the 7 ballerina’s bodies like a glove and ebbed and flowed during each movement. Each gown hugged the dancer’s sleek and feminine frame to perfection. Posen was also in the audience, conversing with theatergoers, and wearing a dark, Indiana Jones-style fedora.

Purcell Suite features staccato violins, harpsichords, cello, and beautifully written melodies that stir the soul. The evening’s presentation featured a stunning front-lit dance where the ballerina’s shadows dance upon the blackened backdrop. The entire dance was mesmerizing.

But nothing could prepare the crowd for the World Premier of Jewel Box, choreographed by American ballet dancer Lauren Lovette. Kevin Puts, a Pulitzer Prize and Grammy Award-winning composer composed the score, Music Concerto for Orchestra. This dance celebrated the delicate twirling of the jewel box ballerina, and the music was a crescendo that builds to a pleasant toccata exchange in the percussion section. The music and dancing in this piece emulate the sights and sounds of intricate and delicate balance, like the jewel box ballerina and the working parts of the mechanism.

Many people assume ballet is passe’, but New Jersey Ballet will change your opinion as soon as the final curtain drops, and the roar of the audience acknowledges the talent on the stage and behind the scenes. Go see the ballet.

NJPAC presents New Jersey Ballet. Artistic Director Maria Kowroski; Assistant Director Paul H. McRae; Executive Director David Tamaki; Artistic Coordinator Kotoe Kojima-Noa; Production Manager Brian Coakley. Featuring 3 performances: Murder Ballades, Choreography by Justin Peck; Staged by Charlie Hodges; costume design by Justin Peck; Original lighting design by Brandon Stirling Baker; Visual design by Sterling Ruby; Lighting by Lauren Libretti, and Purcell Suite, Music by Henry Purcell; Choreography by Harrison Ball; Costume Design by Zac Posen; Original Lighting by Jesse Campbell; Lighting by Lauren Libretti, and the World Premier of Jewel Box, choreographed by Lauren Lovette; Music Concerto for Orchestra by Kevin Puts; Design Consultant Libby Stadstad; Costumes by Lauren Lovette and Peggy Casey; Set Design by SHOWFAB; Lighting by Lauren Libretti. Press by AMT Public Relations.

New Jersey Ballet Company: Emily Barrows, Louis Defelice, Vinicius Freire, Yuiko Honda, Akira Iida, Se Hyun Jin. Ilse Kapteyn, Raleigh Ledford, David Lopena, Risa Mochizuki, Denise Parungao, Jonathan Philbert, Abigail Robison, Brian Sevilla, Eunice Suba, Felipe Valentini, Joshuan Vazquez, Catherine Whiting, Lilli Etheredge, and Alexandra Limeburg.