Dancers who reach the heights of a company like the New York City Ballet, which opens its summer residency at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, July 16, have a special connection to dance.
Even as little children, they loved moving to music. Megan Fairchild, one of the company’s principal dancers, started at age 4 and by high school she was already enrolled in the School of American Ballet, the official school of New York City Ballet.
So, too, did Claire Kretzschmar, one of the company’s newest soloists, who decided in high school that dance would be her focus and enrolled as a full-time student.
Both are dancing this summer: Fairchild in her signature role in “Coppelia”; and Kretzschmar in Justin Peck’s new ballet “Principia.”
Both women are excited: Kretzschmar because she’s dancing in a ballet that she helped create and Fairchild because “Coppelia” is one of her favorite roles now that she’s back dancing after having had a baby last November.
“It’s a harder process to be choreographed on to,” Kretzschmar said. “It’s like being part of a team to come up with new steps. It’s a collaborative experience.”
Peck set his dance, which is in 10 movements of which Kretzschmar is in three, to Sufjan Stevens’ Indie music. It’s very athletic choreography.
“But I love that the choreography is suited to the music and I can nuance the steps with my face, how my leg unfolds, play with the moods,” she said.
Even better she’ll get a costume that was made for her and not something she has to be fitted into that other dancers have worn.
“It’s a dream to have a costume fit individually. It’s liberating,” she said.
While Peck’s choreography is not the hardest, she said, it was tiring.
“Having the stamina is challenging,” Kretzschmar said.
“Principia” is scheduled for July 17 and July 20.
Fairchild, however, has had what for a dancer is an adventure. She’s one of only four women dancers currently in the company who have had children and are still dancing. That’s out of a company of almost 100 dancers.
“When you are a principal, your career is usually longer, stretching easily past the 40-year old mark,” Fairchild said in an email. “I love my career, but I also know that I want to have the joys that a family brings. So I am very grateful and blessed to have both.”
Getting back in shape — she was out for six months after giving birth — was not an onerous task. She swam, worked at the barre, did Pilates and Gyrotonic and said she feels she has a better body than before.
“It was a fun project for me,” she said. “I love to move. I love exercise. I didn’t diet. The perfectionist in me had a good time whittling my body back in shape.”
She knew she had to because “Coppelia” is one of the most difficult of all roles.
“It’s exhausting stamina-wise [but] I love my role with a character,” Fairchild said. “You work on the technical stuff but then you rehearse … the acting moments especially when there is pantomime. I like having a bit of balance between. The human moments are some of my favorite parts on stage. But when the curtain goes down after a hard ballet, I feel so fulfilled and just like I left all of my heart and energy out on that stage. There is a buzz you feel … an adrenaline high. So even when things are hard, they still have their great reward.”
“Coppelia” is scheduled for July 18-20.
The other ballets are some of the company’s favorites: “Serenade,” “Mozartiana,” Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 2 (all on July 16, 18) and “Apollo” and “This Bitter Earth”(July 20). All the other dances set for July 17 and 20 are new to SPAC.
Pre-concert talks will be one hour before each show.
New York City Ballet
WHEN: 8 p.m. July 16- 20; 2 p.m. July 18, 20
WHERE: Saratoga Performing Arts Center
HOW MUCH: $100 - $30; $29, lawn
MORE INFO: 518 584-9330; www.spac.org
July 16: Tchaikovsky and Balanchine
July 17: 21st century choreographers: Frohlich, Peck, Abraham
July 18: Tchaikovsky and Balanchine
July 18-20: “Coppelia”
July 20: GALA (Balanchine, Wheeldon, Peck)
Ballet Gala set July 20
The annual Ballet Gala will kick off at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center at 6 p.m. on Saturday, July 20.
The summertime soiree celebrates “Apollo,” Balanchine’s first collaboration with Stravinsky. The event, called “Apollo & The Muses” this year, takes place both inside the Hall of Springs ballroom and on SPAC’s grounds. It’s SPAC’s largest fundraiser for the New York City Ballet.
“This year, the spirit of Balanchine’s ‘Apollo’ will be felt from the Hall of Springs and festive party on the lawn to the amphitheater stage,” said Elizabeth Sobol, president and CEO of SPAC.
There will be pop-up performances interspersed throughout the event and produced by Nicole Coady. Seven local dance school, including the School of the Arts at the National Museum of Dance, Northeast Ballet Company, Reality Elite Dance Company, Ballet in the City and Skidmore College Dancers will be featured during the pre-performance festivities, starting at 5:30 p.m.
At 8 p.m. NYCB will hold its final performance of the season. The program includes “Apollo,” “The Bitter Earth” and the premiere of Justin Peck’s new work “Principia.” Following the performance will be a fireworks show and an after party with live music from Soul Session. The jazz bar will also be open throughout the evening.
“Our jazz bar has become a favorite post-performance gathering place to socialize, dance and enjoy great music. For the first time ever, we will keep the jazz bar open for the entire evening for Ballet Gala guests to continue their late-night revelry,” said Sobol.
Tickets for the Gala events are $250 and include a champagne cocktail party, dinner by Mazzone Hospitality, seating for the NYCB performance and admission to the after party.
Gala event tickets are available by contacting Seth Buono at 518.584.9330 ext. 101 or [email protected]
Tickets for the Lawn Party are $55 and include general admission to the performance and the outdoor after party.
Tickets for the NYCB performance only range from $55-125. For more info visit spac.org.
-- Indiana Nash