50 ballets, 159 performances, 21 weeks of dance – New York City Ballet celebrates its 50th anniversary at Lincoln Center in spectacular style. The Company’s 2013-14 season includes 22 works by Co-Founder George Balanchine, 7 by Co-Founding Choreographer Jerome Robbins, and ballets by Mauro Bigonzetti, William Forsythe, Peter Martins, Benjamin Millepied, Justin Peck, Angelin Preljoçaj, Alexei Ratmansky, Richard Tanner and Christopher Wheeldon.
The Lincoln Center has been home to New York City Ballet since the opening of the New York State Theater (now the David H Koch Theater) in April 1964. The second major venue to open at Lincoln Center, the theater was designed by Philip Johnson especially for George Balanchine and the Company – the first was Philharmonic Hall (now known as Avery Fisher Hall) which opened in 1962.
NYCB’s Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins, has designed the performances for this celebratory season to showcase the Company’s extensive repertory of music and dance – a repertory which includes world premieres by Angelin Preljoçaj, Liam Scarlett, Justin Peck, and Martins himself.
The 2013-14 season also features a range of musical scores by more than 40 different composers, including two commissions – from Marc-André Dalbavie for the Martins premiere, and from Sufjan Stevens for Justin Peck’s ballet – all to be performed by the 62-piece New York City Ballet Orchestra.
The Fall Gala performance takes place on September 19, featuring three world premieres – by French avant-garde choreographer Angelin Preljoçaj; film director, choreographer and former NYCB soloist, Benjamin Millepied; and Justin Peck, NYCB soloist and 2011-12 Choreographer-in-Residence of the New York Choreographic Institute. Costume designs are by three renowned talents of the fashion industry – Oliver Theyskens, Iris van Herpen and Prabal Gurung.
The Company’s Fall performances – which run from September 17 to October 13 – open with Peter Martins’ full-length production of Swan Lake. This production, set to Tchaikovsky’s score, and first performed by NYCB in 1999, features sets and costumes by acclaimed Danish painter Per Kirkeby, and was last performed by the Company in the fall of 2011, to sold-out houses.
The Fall season continues with 15 ballets in five different programs. Balanchine Black and White features four of his signature works, those in which he chose to focus on music and movement in favor of decorative costumes. These include The Four Temperaments – with music commissioned by Balanchine from Paul Hindemith – Episodes, set to music by Webern and regarded as possibly his most avant-garde work, and two works inspired by the music of Stravinsky – Duo Concertant and Symphony in Three Movements.
The program entitled Tradition and Innovation draws together contemporary works and long-time favorites. So we have Mauro Bigonzetti’s Vespro – dark and sophisticated with intricate choreography – the Balanchine/Stravinsky Duo Concertant, and Jerome Robbins’ supremely elegant Dances at a Gathering, set to a selection of some of Chopin’s loveliest pieces – mainly mazurkas and waltzes.
Just for Fun is a program for all ages. Christopher Wheeldon presents his own interpretation of Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals, Peter Martins’ Jeu de Carte is “a ballet in three deals” – the dancers depicting a game of poker to Stravinsky’s score – and Jerome Robbins’ ballet choreographed to excerpts from Verdi’s The Four Seasons from his opera I Vespri Siciliani.
Contemporary Choreographers features another Wheeldon ballet – his Soirée Musicale, set to an orchestral arrangement of Samuel Barber’s piano suite Souvenirs, the new Angelin Preljoçaj ballet in which he collaborates with Belgian designer Olivier Theyskens – currently Artistic Director of American fashion house Theory – and Alexei Ratmansky’s Namouna, a light-hearted look at “the clichés of classical ballets”, set to a lively score by Édouard Lalo from his 19th Century French ballet about a slave girl called Namouna.
The program entitled Balanchine’s Short Stories comprises three diverse narrative ballets. La Sonnambula, the tragic sleepwalker who haunts a masked ball, is set to music by Rieti/Bellini; the powerful story of The Prodigal Son which Balanchine created for Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, has a score by Prokofiev; and the racy, risqué and utterly dazzling Slaughter on Tenth Avenue was created by Balanchine for the 1936 Rodgers and Hart musical On Your Toes.