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Wednesday, September 27, 2023

** New Yorkled Magazine **





50th Annual Performance will pay tribute to Alexandra Danilova

1 2855-13_Divert15SAB REDUCED SIZEThe School of American Ballet will celebrate 50 years of its annual performance tradition at Lincoln Center’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater on Saturday, May 31, (2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.) and Tuesday, June 3,(7:00 p.m. benefit performance).  Students will perform ballets specially chosen to recognize the School’s co-founder George Balanchine and former faculty member Alexandra Danilova, who together launched SAB’s first year-end student Workshop in 1965.  Excerpts from ballets featured in Workshop’s first years—Coppélia (1965)andSwanLake (1966) —along with Balanchine’s Serenade and the fourth movement of his Western Symphony will be performed. As in years past, the performances will once again provide audiences with a unique opportunity to witness the pre-professional debuts of the nation’s most talented ballet students as they prepare to embark on professional ballet careers with notable companies around the U.S. and abroad.

After inviting Alexandra Danilova to join SAB’s faculty in 1964, George Balanchine encouraged her to create a year-end performance showcase for SAB’s advanced students similar to the graduation performances they had experienced together at the ImperialBalletSchool in Russia as teenagers. From humble beginnings (the 1965 show was a shared bill with the West End Symphony and performed in a local junior high school auditorium), the Workshop has evolved into a professionally staged showcase not only for the school’s talented students but also for the interpretive staging skills of SAB’s talented faculty (including most notably Madame Danilova, Stanley Williams, Suki Schorer and Susan Pilarre), and as a laboratory for young choreographers (including John Clifford, Peter Martins, Helgi Tomasson, Christopher Wheeldon and Benjamin Millepied).  Among the scores of notable SAB alumni who have made their pre-professional debuts at SAB’s Workshop are Fernando Bujones, Robert Weiss, Gelsey Kirkland, Merrill Ashley, Lourdes Lopez, Maria Caligari, Ethan Stiefel, Margaret Tracey, Paloma Herrera, Wendy Whelan, Peter Boal, Jock Soto, Darci Kistler, Maria Kowroski, Damian Woetzel, Benjamin Millepied, Ashley Bouder, Sara Mearns, Tiler Peck, Chase Finlay, and Lauren Lovette, among many others.

Highlights of the 2014 program include:

  • Serenade. 2014 marks the 80th anniversary of the formation of the School of American Ballet and the creation of Balanchine’s enduring masterpiece, which he began to choreograph on SAB’s students less than three months after the School opened in 1934.  The first performance by students took place on June 10, 1934, at the estate of Felix Warburg near White Plains, NY. Balanchine continued to make revisions to the ballet over the succeeding four decades, and it became a cornerstone of the repertoire of New York City Ballet (founded by Balanchine and Kirstein in 1948) and one of the most-performed Balanchine ballets by companies worldwide. Serenade was added to SAB’s Workshop repertoire in 1974 on the occasion of the ballet’s 40th anniversary and subsequently performed by SAB’s students in 1984, 1989, 1994, 2004 and 2009.  This year’s seventh Workshop staging (along with each of those since 1974) has been undertaken by former NYCB principal dancer Suki Schorer, a member of SAB’s permanent faculty since 1972. Among those former SAB students coached by Suki Schorer in the various Workshop productions of the ballet are Judith Fugate, Maria Caligari, Kyra Nichols, Lourdes Lopez, Nichol Hlinka, Wendy Whelan, Margaret Tracey, Brian Reeder, Monique Meunier, Maria Kowroski, Riolama Lorenzo, Tiler Peck and Lauren Lovette.
  • Excerpts from Coppélia.  SAB’s students will perform dances (Waltz of the Hours, Dawn, Prayer, Spinner, Discord and War) excerpted from Act III of the full-length Coppélia created in 1974 for New York City Ballet by George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova. Famed for her interpretation of Swanilda during her international performing career, Alexandra Danilova chose dances from the ballet for SAB’s first Workshop in 1965 and returned to it several times during her 25 years overseeing Workshop. It remains the ballet with which she was most closely identified. Five faculty members (Yvonne Borree, Katrinan Killian, Lisa de Ribere, Jock Soto, Sheryl Ware) will each stage one of the dances, and Dena Abergel and Arch Higgins will oversee the children’s corps of 24 dancers.
  • Excerpts from SwanLake. Students will perform portions of George Balanchine’s one-act version of SwanLake, featuring the white swan pas de deux and a corps of 20 swans, to celebrate Madame Danilova’s Russian Imperial heritage.  Danilova staged excerpts from SwanLake on a number of occasions for Workshop, most notably in 1980 when she introduced 15-year-old Darci Kistler to Workshop audiences as Odette in a fully staged presentation of the Act II lakeside scene. Ms. Kistler, currently an SAB faculty member, will stage this year’s performance.
  • Western Symphony. Students will perform the fourth movement Rondo and finale to close the performance. The ballet has been performed at three previous Workshops with notable past casting including Peter Boal and Wendy Whelan (1984), Maria Kowroski (1994) and Robert Fairchild (2004). It will be staged this year by faculty member Susan Pilarre.

The School of American Ballet, founded by legendary choreographer George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein in 1934, is the premier ballet academy in the United States.  Approximately 530 boys and girls ranging in age from six to nineteen attend classes during the Winter Term at SAB, which is both a constituent of LincolnCenter for the Performing Arts and the official school of New York City Ballet. Each year, 20 SAB students on average sign professional contracts with dance companies around the United States and abroad.  Not only do SAB alumni comprise 95 percent of New York City Ballet, but dancers trained at the School also currently appear on the rosters of over 60 U.S. and more than a dozen international companies.

Tickets for the 2014 Workshop Performances may be purchased online at www.sab.org/workshop . Ticket prices are $50 for May 31 (2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m).  Tickets for the June 3 benefit performance and dinner dance are available at $100 (performance only), $1,500 and $2,500.  The Peter Jay Sharp Theater is located at 155 W. 65th Street (between Amsterdam and Broadway).

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