Fair Winds from the West

Seth Orza as Balanchine's Apollo with (front to back) Carla Körbes, Maria Chapman, and Lesley Rausch. Photo: Lindsay Thomas

Lincoln Kirstein has written that while the New York State Theater (now the Koch) was under construction, George Balanchine wandered in and saw that the pit would hold no more than 35 musicians. He immediately threatened to withdraw the New York City Ballet as the principal designated tenant. The pit was redesigned to accommodate 70 players. Had Balanchine, to whom music was so important, … [Read more...]

See the Music

Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky, keeping an eye on his creations

George Balanchine once said that during his grueling years as a pupil in the Imperial St. Petersburg Theatrical School, he didn’t fall in love with ballet until he was twelve. The change occurred the first time he appeared onstage in Marius Petipa’s Sleeping Beauty, set to Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky’s ravishing score, and young Georgi Melitonovitch was cast as a Cupid. His arrows, so to speak, … [Read more...]

About That Nutcracker

A dream wedding: Clara and her Prince (Hee Seo and Cory Sterns). Photo: Gene Schiavone

The Nutcracker in its many manifestations is like an attic toy box into which generations of children have tossed the playthings they’ve grown too old for. Amid the dolls and stuffed animals and fairy tales and toy soldiers are folded longings, nightmares, pre-pubescent thoughts of sex, and fear of growing up. The ballet by Lev Ivanov that premiered in St. Petersburg in December of 1892 has … [Read more...]

In Season

The peerless Herman Cornejo in Ratmansky's Symphony #9. Photo: Gene Schiavone

Hello!  Goodbye! American Ballet Theatre’s City Center season came and went with dispiriting speed—seven performances in five days (October 16 through 20). The pleasures outweighed the disappointment. New Yorkers could rendezvous with revivals of three ballets in the company’s history: Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo (1942), Antony Tudor’s The Leaves Are Fading (1977), and Mark Morris’s Drink to Me Only … [Read more...]

Astray in Summer Dreams

Cory Stearns as Oberon and Xiomra Reyes as Titania in ABT's The Dream. Photo: Gene Schiavone

If you can’t see a production of Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a woodland setting during a long June twilight, as I once did, you can be enthralled by a different sort of magic conjured up by the Bard’s plot. George Balanchine’s 1962 ballet of the same name ended its week in the New York City Ballet’s season before American Ballet Theatre hit the solstice dead on with Frederick … [Read more...]

Flaming Magic and Goofy Girls

Natalia Osipova in Alexei Ratmansky's new Firebird for ABT. Photo: Gene Schiavone

One of the most surprising things about American Ballet Theatre’s new Firebird is how Russian it isn’t. When Serge Diaghilev commissioned 27-year-old Igor Stravinsky to write his first ballet score, one of the impresario’s continuing aims was to acquaint Paris with Russian music and culture. L’Oiseau de Feu premiered in 1910 with a wandering Tsarevitch as its hero and a magic bird as its … [Read more...]

Love and Death in an Imagined India

Herman Cornejo and Alina Cojocaru in Act I of ABT's La Bayadere. Photo: Gene Schiavone

People interested in ballet history can entertain themselves with unlikely questions. What, for instance, would Marius Petipa think of the production of his 1877 La Bayadère that the great ballerina Natalia Makarova constructed for American Ballet Theatre in 1980?  If he were sitting in a seat at the Metropolitan Opera House during ABT’s current season of classics and new works, how much of the … [Read more...]

New York City Ballet: The New and the Refurbished

Tiler Peck floating over Tyler Angel in Two Hearts. Photo: Paul Kolnik

Have you noticed that many new ballets look like older ballets?  Either that, or they introduce kinks that take them far outside the classical vocabulary. The best ballet choreographers have a way of making steps that every advanced student dancer does many times a day look newly expressive, or interweave with the music in deeply satisfying ways. I can’t say that Peter Martins’s new work for … [Read more...]

One Good Thing About Arizona. . .

The women of Ballet Arizona in Ib Andersen's Play. Photo Kyle Froman

Ib Andersen didn’t move to Phoenix in 2000 to become artistic director of the Arizona Ballet. According to a recent interview, when he took on the job he was already in Arizona—loving the clear light, open sky, and sere landscape, and painting in his spare time. He may not have much spare time these days. During his tenure, the company debt has been erased, the board has labored to raise money, … [Read more...]

It’s All Wheeldon

Wendy Whelan and Robert Fairchild in Christopher Wheeldon's Les Carillons. Photo: Paul Kolnik

Trying to trace Christopher Wheeldon’s career, you might decide he has a vagabond streak that tugs against a now-and-then yen for stability. As a young dancer and choreographer-in-waiting, he left Britain’s Royal Ballet for the New York City Ballet, became NYCB’s resident choreographer from 2000 to 2008, started Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company while still affiliated with NYCB, pulled out of that in … [Read more...]