Illuminating the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center with thousands of Swarovski crystals, Gianna Reisen’s Ballet, Play Time, evokes an audience with choreographed excellence, adorned in Alejandro Gómez Palomo’s costuming, backdropped by Solange Knowles’s first-ever score for the New York City Ballet— the second Black woman ever to do so.

Photography by Kendall Bessent

Debuting during the 2022 Fall Fashion Gala, an exclusive turnout where the opening saw the likes of Beyoncé Knowles to Tyler the Creator, Play Time, is making its grand return this May with a string of shows where a wider audience has the opportunity to experience the colorful performance. “I received a lot of really great feedback. So I’m happy about it. I’m just excited for it to continue and live on,” Reisen notes about the show’s return.

Photography by Kendall Bessent

Beginning her journey at a young age, attending The School of American Ballet, then leading into her first commission at age 18, Rei- sen has always had an affinity for dance, striking the attention and mentorship of then-NYCB director Peter Martins. Newly graduated, Rei- sen became the youngest choreographer ever granted the opportunity to create a show for the Fall Fashion Gala, a real sink-or-swim moment she recounts. In 2017, the ambitious movement director debuted, Composer’s Holiday, customized by the late Virgil Abloh, then followed by her second commission in 2018, Judah, another offering for the Fall Fashion Gala. “They were successful, but it was a learn- ing curve for me. I learned a lot about my artistry,” Reisen recalls.

Photography by Kendall Bessent

Since releasing Judah in 2018, the talented artist took the following years to explore her craft, resulting in her inevitable return in 2022 with her third commission for the Fall Fashion Gala, this time a more ambitious and riskier show. Play Time grew from early-on collaborations with designer Alejandro Gómez Palomo of Palomo, Spain, with desires of rainbowed silhouettes and subverted tailoring, later informing the choreography and ensemble. Reisen states, “We had a great collaboration between us. We were bouncing ideas back and forth, and I loved all of his ideas.”

Influenced by the extravagance of ’70s and ’80s American music videos and entertainers like Elvis, Palomo’s approach of bold forms and genderless cuts solidified Reisen’s creative concepts, resulting in a 16-minute-long display of choreographed vibrance. Though Palomo and Reisen’s collaboration laid a foundation for Play Time, Solange Knowles’s jazzy score, experimental in nature, brought everything together, prompting the 23-year-old to approach the choreography in a subverted sense.

Photography by Kendall Bessent

Upon getting word that multi-disciplinary artist Solange Knowles would be attached to Play Time, then untitled, Reisen understood the significance of this commission even more. While their collaboration was more hands-off, Solange would send Reisen melodies and pieces of the score, and each respected artist would share their love of Jazz. “I put a lot of freedom and trust into her vision, and I think it worked out,” Reisen explains.

Marking Solange’s first score for the NYCB, Reisen succeeded in capturing the one-of-a-kind arrangement, blending the extravagance of Palomo’s costuming, resulting in a choreographed triumph that later would be tilted, Play Time. As each dancer makes their way onto the stage, and the audience latches onto the luminous suits, intrigued by the jazzy sounds, Reisen understands though ‘Play Time’ is a transient experience, one that only exists only for a while, its impact will definitely live on.

‘Play Time’ returns to the David H. Koch Theater at Lincoln Center on May 2, 2023.

This feature appears inside the pages of V142, now available for purchase!

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