The score by Woodkid, before it goes all Philip Glass, sets the scene with martial percussion. A corps of no less than 40 dancers crosses the stage, the men wielding the women like bayonets or surging against their rigid relevés as against barricades. They merge. They pile up. It’s rather like “Les Misérables.”
But there are also two central characters. The program calls them an artist and a journalist, though those roles are not apparent in the piece. Instead, Lauren Lovette and Lil Buck look like what they are: a radiant ballerina and a virtuoso in the street dance form known as jookin. Their duet reads as a conversation between people speaking different languages, and also as a missed opportunity.
Lil Buck answers Ms. Lovette’s bourrées and jetés and turns with his own toe-tip gliding and flips and spins on his knees. He’s doing his own thing and gets creative co-credit, along with Mr. Martins. But the exchange between the dancers, who share a winning innocence, and between their forms, fails to deepen. J R projects video close-ups of their anguished faces, but there’s a better way to amplify intimate emotion on a big stage. It’s called choreography.
It’s not clear how “Les Bosquets” fits in with the idealistic and populist aims of J R’s art. (It may contain some buried message about “the media”; the costumes at the end suggest the dots of newsprint.) But Mr. Martins has been frank about what “Les Bosquets,” which opens almost every program this week, is supposed to do for City Ballet: attract the young people who follow J R on social media. The full house on Tuesday did not strike me as unusually young. I did notice, however, an unusually large number of people wearing hats.
Tuesday’s program was supposedly devoted to “21st-Century Choreographers.” Mr. Martins’s “Barber Violin Concerto” was made in 1988, but at least it continued the theme of ballet encountering other forms. Though the aesthetic conflict it poses between a ballet couple and a modern-dance couple who swap partners was antiquated in 1988, the piece is skillfully made. Sara Mearns, attacking the ballerina role with plunging abandon, made her duet with Jared Angle’s modern man feel like liberation with a cost, like adultery.
William Forsythe’s “Herman Schmerman Pas de Deux” dates from the early ’90s…