Stars of American Ballet
STARS OF AMERICAN BALLET
g eorge Balanchine’s Jewels has its 50th anniversary this year, an event that was commemorated at New York City’s Lincoln Center last month with performances by dancers from the Paris Opera Ballet, New York City Ballet, and the Bolshoi Ballet. The performances were notable not just for the coming together of three of the world’s great dance companies, but because their international representation mirrored the work itself. Jewels is composed of three acts: Emeralds, which evokes the French tradition of ballet; jazzy Americana showcased in Rubies; and Diamonds, with music by Tchaikovsky and a mood and style that recall Balanchine’s training in Russia. National Public Radio called the shows “a bit of cultural diplomacy.”
Santa Fe audiences will have the opportunity to see a pas de deux from Diamonds when the Stars of American Ballet return for their seventh year. The troupe — whose members include principal and soloist dancers with New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre — will be performing a mixed repertoire over the course of two evenings, Wednesday, Aug. 9, and Thursday, Aug. 10, at the Lensic Performing Arts Center. Dances in this year’s programs range from restagings of pas de deux from August Bournonville’s 1836 La Sylphide and Marius Petipa’s 19th-century Le Corsaire to a world premiere by Broadway choreographer Lorin Latarro.
Stars of American Ballet productions always honor Balanchine, New York City Ballet’s co-founder, and this year, in addition to Diamonds, they will perform Who Cares?, a celebration, in the vein of Rubies ,of American vivacity. The works, both plotless, premiered three years apart, with Who Cares? following in 1970.
Diamonds “does not stretch the lines of classical ballet,” said Daniel Ulbricht, founder of Stars of American Ballet and a New York City Ballet principal
dancer. “In fact, it uses a lot of classroom and classical vocabulary. Nothing is off balance.” It emphasizes “pure ballerina strength, poise, grace” — the ballerina’s partner is “the utmost cavalier, always presenting her.” Balanchine muse Suzanne Farrell and Jacques d’Amboise, founder of the National Dance Institute, danced the leads in the original production of
Diamonds; it is being performed in Santa Fe by City Ballet principals Teresa Reichlen and Ask la Cour. The title Who Cares? comes from a song in Of Thee
I Sing, the 1931 musical by George and Ira Gershwin, which satirizes presidential elections and political inanity. For his ballet, Balanchine revisited 1920s and ’30s America, and set his choreography to several George Gershwin favorites — the result is a captivating ode to Manhattan life. While Who Cares? uses classical ballet technique, it pushes that technique past its confines, infusing the piece with the forms of theatrical dance. Who Cares? not only expands the ballet vocabulary but makes it “stretch, lean, twist, torque, and fall,” Ulbricht said. “Maybe where the dancers, in terms of a very classical ballet vocabulary, would be doing something where their hips would be under them, and they would be very placed, here Balanchine has the dancers go more off pointe. Here he has the dancers swing their hips back and forth.”
Two other jazzy and popular songs from the past are featured in this year’s programs: “Sing, Sing, Sing” by Louis Prima with arrangement by Benny Goodman (1937) and “Moses Supposes,” from the 1952 film Singin’ in the Rain. Sing, Sing, Sing was choreographed by Ulbricht and first performed earlier this year; Moses Supposes is by Latarro. Both duets are performed by Ulbricht and musical theater dancer Danielle Diniz. Like Who Cares?, these new works extend the dialogue between classical technique and musical theater. All three dances do so to the nostalgia-invoking sounds of American standards. In revisiting the past, they have made it fresh again, invigorating it with new energy and creative verve.
“The pieces I loved growing up dancing were the pieces in which I could see the personality of the dancer,” Ulbricht said. In Sing, Sing, Sing, the audience is “watching two people be so elated and be in that moment. My goal would be to flood the entire orchestra of the Lensic with the energy they just saw.” He said that “the horn that’s going wah wah —I want the pirouette to create that shape. The moment where there is the drum coming in — these classic drum breaks that are in the choreography — that’s us moving a little more grounded to the floor.”
“Talk about a different vocabulary,” Ulbricht said of Latarro’s Moses Supposes, which incorporates forms such as soft shoe to refer back to, and celebrate, the dancing styles in classic Gene Kelly films. The duet plays on the contrasts between classical and theater dancing, with a sportive back-and-forth developing between the two dancers. Latarro, whose résumé includes Broadway’s Waitress and Les Dangereuses
Liaisons, adds a layer of cinematic dancing to the 2017 Stars of American Ballet programs, broadening the scope of their repertoire.
Other dances in this year’s programs include pieces by American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Marcelo Gomes (choreographing to music by Berlioz and the Animals) and Ask la Cour, and the balcony pas de deux from Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s 1965 Romeo and
Juliet. Nine of the works are being performed by Stars of American Ballet for the first time in Santa Fe. The programs provide an opportunity for audiences to see the range of balletic dance, as well as the ways in which its vocabulary has shifted and expanded with time.
Who Cares? not only expands the ballet vocabulary but make it “stretch, lean, twist, torque, and fall,” said Stars of American Ballet founder Daniel Ulbricht.
Stars of American Ballet in Who Cares?
Danielle Diniz and Daniel Ulbricht in
Teresa Reichlen and Ask la Cour in Diamonds