The New York City Ballet returns to its summer home at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Tuesday for a two-week run with a program that ranges from crowd-pleasing classics to newly commissioned works, all hand-picked by ballet master in chief Peter Martins.
The season kicks off with an all-American program, including “Fancy Free,” about three sailors on leave in New York with music by Leonard Bernstein and choreography by Jerome Robbins; Ulysses Dove’s athletically charged “Red Angels” with music by Richard Einhorn; Martins’ Barber Violin Concerto; and Balanchine’s “Who Cares?” to music by George Gershwin.
The summer program also includes the classic that began it all, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” City Ballet first performed this full-length story ballet, choreographed by ballet founder George Balanchine and set to music by Felix Mendelssohn, on July 8, 1966.
Click here to read about Christopher Wheeldon’s musical inspiration for his latest ballet, “Estancia,” .
More than 100 dancers, including 27 local children, will be performing in this production, which has an elaborate set. “There is no better stage for this woodland fairy tale than SPAC itself, which has the forest, fireflies and moonlight to make this lyrical work come to life,” said Marcia J. White, SPAC’s president and executive director.
Another classic that returns to SPAC is Balanchine’s “The Steadfast Tin Soldier,” based on the Hans Christian Andersen story. SPAC originally commissioned this ballet in 1975.
Missing this year will be four principal dancers who retired after the spring season in New York City: Darci Kistler, Albert Evans, Yvonne Borree and Philip Neal. The ballet orchestra’s principal conductor, Maurice Kaplow, also retired this spring.
New York City Ballet at SPAC
July 6, 8 p.m.: All American program with: “Fancy Free” (Bernstein/Robbins); “Red Angels” Einhorn/Dove); Barber Violin Concerto (Barber/Martins); “Who Cares?” (Gershwin/Balanchine)
July 7, 8 p.m.: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Mendelssohn/Balanchine)
July 8, 2 p.m.: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Mendelssohn/Balanchine)
July 8, 8 p.m.: “La Source” (Delibes/Balanchine); “Fancy Free” (Bernstein/Robbins); “Who Cares?”(Gershwin/Balanchine)
July 9, 8 p.m.: Mixed Rep program: Divertimento No. 15 (Mozart/Balanchine); “Red Angels” (Einhorn/Dove); Barber Violin Concerto (Barber/Martins); “Fancy Free” (Bernstein/Robbins)
July 10, 2 p.m.: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Mendelssohn/Balanchine)
July 10, 8 p.m.: Ballet Gala — Saratoga Premieres: “Namouna” (Lalo/Ratmansky); “Estancia” (Ginastera/Wheeldon). Fireworks after the performance
July 13, 8 p.m.: All Robbins program: “N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz” (Prince/Robbins); “In the Night” (Chopin/Robbins); “The Concert” (Chopin/Robbins)
July 14, 8 p.m.: Emma Willard American Girl Night: “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” (Bizet/Balanchine); “Walpurgisnacht Ballet” (Gounod/Balanchine); “Namouna” (Lalo/Ratmansky)
July 15, 2 p.m.: Divertimento No. 15 (Mozart/Balanchine); “Red Angels” (Einhorn/Dove); Barber Violin Concerto (Barber/Martins); “Estancia” (Ginastera/Wheeldon)
July 15, 8 p.m.: “La Source” (Delibes/Balanchine); “After the Rain” (Part/Wheeldon); Stravinsky Violin Concerto (Stravinsky/Balanchine)
July 16, 8 p.m.: All Robbins program: “N.Y. Export: Opus Jazz” (Prince/Robbins); “In the Night” (Chopin/Robbins); “The Concert” (Chopin/Robbins)
July 17, 2 p.m.: “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” (Bizet/Balanchine); “Walpurgisnacht Ballet” (Gounod/Balanchine); “After the Rain” (Part/Wheeldon); Stravinsky Violin Concerto (Stravinsky/Balanchine)
July 17, 8 p.m.: All Balanchine program: “Walpurgisnacht Ballet” (Gounod/Balanchine); Stravinsky Violin Concerto, (Stravinsky/Balanchine); Divertimento No. 15 (Mozart/Balanchine)
Intermingled with classic favorites are brand-new ballets. “We always try to bring new works every year from our winter season and our spring season,” said Sean Lavery, assistant to the ballet master in chief, who has been coming to Saratoga for the past 33 years. The SPAC premiere of the new works that were “huge hits” in New York City, according to Lavery, will take place at the annual Ballet Gala on July 10.
One is “Namouna” by choreographer Alexei Ratmansky set to the musical piece written in 1881 by Edouard Lalo. Ratmansky took the score written for a French ballet about a slave girl named Namouna as his inspiration, creating a ballet with several short vignettes.
“It has a real distinct look, and it’s amusing,” Lavery said. “There are some very funny things in it, and some of the choreography is so flashy and daring.”
The other Saratoga premiere is “Estancia” a new work by the New York City Ballet’s first resident choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon, set to music by Argentinian Alberto Ginastera. The music, from 1941, speaks of life on a cattle ranch, and Wheeldon’s ballet tells a city boy, country girl story, complete with dancers as horses. “It’s a little reminiscent of an Americana cowboy feeling,” Lavery said.
The scenic design for this ballet is by architect Santiago Calatrava, who is designing the new transit hub and the World Trade Center site in Lower Manhattan.
In addition to performances, the season includes some pre-performance activities for ticket holders, including Thursday Date Nights (July 8 and 15) with wine and chocolate tastings, music on the lawn and other attractions for couples and American Girl Night (July 14), sponsored by Emma Willard School, with tea parties, crafts and giveaways for children. Family events are offered on Fridays (July 9 and 16) with free ice cream, face painting and workshops presented by NYCB dancers, musicians and teachers.
Ticket prices for SPAC’s New York City Ballet performances are $18 for lawn seats and $26-$72.50 for inside seating. The “Kids Free on the Lawn” promotion gives free lawn admission to children 12 and under for classical performances (excluding the American Girl Night, where children’s lawn seats cost $5, and the gala, where there are no discounted lawn tickets).
There are order forms for tickets available on SPAC’s Web site at www.spac.org or by contacting SPAC at 584-9330.