American Ballet Theatre's David Hallberg and New York City Ballet's Joseph Gordon are two very different dancers at very different points in their careers. Yet they each made striking debuts when they came together to dance Maurice Béjart's Song of a Wayfarer last August. Staged by Maina Gielgud for The Joyce Theater's annual Ballet Festival, Béjart's quietly intense male duet was originally created on Rudolf Nureyev and Paolo Bortoluzzi in 1971. Gordon and Hallberg, portraying the young wayfarer and his destiny, respectively, gave the ballet renewed significance.
Set to four sung pieces by Gustav Mahler, the ballet begins with Gordon slicing through the air with sharp battements, passés and arabesques, a simple theme of movements revisited again and again. An understated performer, Gordon beautifully embodied his character's youthful vigor, innocence and idealism. Hallberg observed patiently in the darkness, waiting for the right moment to introduce himself to his charge. For a short while, life looked full of possibilities as they danced together. Yet Hallberg expertly built tension, growing gradually more commanding and sinister and blocking the wayfarer's way before pulling him into a dark abyss. Gordon, in a role that expanded his artistic range, looked back in anguish, a dramatic image that many in the audience will never forget.