Christopher Wheeldon, whose “Les Carillons” had its world premiere Saturday at New York City Ballet, was a young British dancer in the troupe’s corps when he began choreographing 15 years ago. He turns out dances at a prodigious rate for companies worldwide.
“Les Carillons,” to music by Georges Bizet, opened an all-Wheeldon program, fielding 20 fleet bodies in Mark Zappone’s gorgeous costumes. Set to 19th century music, the dancing harks back to even earlier times, with fillips of baroque ornament. Wheeldon seems to be in love with ingenuity for its own sake, treating dancers like toys he can bend to his will, gifted Barbies and Kens who form elaborate stage pictures.
The new work makes some breakthroughs, letting veteran ballerina Wendy Whelan move through the crowd of bounding couples like a lost soul seeking a new direction.
Wheeldon’s 2006 “DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse,” new to NYCB this season, has a complicated, post-apocalyptic set and costumes by Jean-Marc Puissant. Michael Nyman’s aggressive music does more to set the mood than the movement does. Wheeldon’s ingenious images divert the eye, but except during the remarkable performances of Whelan, rarely touch the heart.