SPAC Classical 2020 Preview: NY City Ballet

On the Cover: Adrian Danchig-Waring in Summerspace, Choreography by Merce Cunningham
Photo: Erin Baiano

NEW YORK CITY BALLET residency highlighted by THREE SPAC PREMIERES; A Program Dedicated to 20th CENTURY MASTERS; Full-length Story Ballet SWAN LAKE, and a BALANCHINE and ROBBINS Gala Program

Sara Mearns as Odette in Swan Lake Photo: Paul Kolnik

SARATOGA SPRINGS – The NEW YORK CITY BALLET (NYCB) returns from July 14 – 18, with its roster of more than 90 dancers under the direction of Artistic Director Jonathan Stafford and Associate Artistic Director Wendy Whelan, accompanied by the New York City Ballet Orchestra, led by Music Director Andrew Litton. The Company will present four captivating programs including the full-length story ballet Swan Lake, marking its fourth appearance at SPAC and the first time since 2006, an evening dedicated to 20th Century Masters highlighted by Merce Cunningham’s Summerspace, returning for the first time since 1967, and a program showcasing three SPAC premieres, including Lauren Lovette’s The Shaded Line, a new work by Justin Peck set to a commissioned score by composer Nico Muhly, and the SPAC premiere of Balanchine’s Haieff Divertimento from 1947. The annual New York City Ballet Gala, on Saturday, July 18, will showcase Jerome Robbins’ In G Major, and Balanchine’s The Man I Love Pas de Deux from Who Cares? with music by George Gershwin.   

Swan Lake Act I Choreography by Peter Martins New York City Ballet Photo: Paul Kolnik

“Our City Ballet season perfectly marries innovative new works with traditional favorites from the return of the stunning full-length story ballet Swan Lake… a program that will span the great works of 20th Century Choreographers including Merce Cunningham’s striking Summerspace… an evening of SPAC premieres that will showcase new works alongside a rare Balanchine ballet never before seen on our stage… and an exceptional jazz infused Gala program,” said Elizabeth Sobol, president and CEO of Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

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Swan Lake




Swan Lake Act II Choreography by Peter Martins New York City Ballet. Photo: Paul Kolnik

Swan Lake (Tschaikovsky/Martins after Petipa, Ivanov, Balanchine)                       

NYCB’s opening night, and its Friday evening and Saturday matinee performances will feature Peter Martins’ full-length production of Swan Lake, which has only appeared at SPAC three times and not since 2006. A stunning romantic tragedy, this seminal ballet is shaped by Tschaikovsky’s heartbreakingly beautiful score and the central role of Odette/Odile, an interpretation that is both technically and emotionally demanding. 

The story ballet features sets and costumes by Danish artist Per Kirkeby and lighting by NYCB’s Director of Lighting Mark Stanley. While retaining the well-known set pieces from the traditional version by Petipa and Ivanov, NYCB’s full-length Swan Lake is imbued with the speed and clarity that the Company is known for. The lakeside scenes are based on the choreography of Balanchine’s one-act version.

20th Century Masters



Summerspace                                                  (Feldman/Cunningham)

Piano Pieces                                                    (Tschaikovsky/Robbins)

Rubies                                                               (Stravinsky/Balanchine)  

SPAC’s 20th Century Masters program will pay homage to iconic choreographers Merce Cunningham, Jerome Robbins and George Balanchine.

Adrian Danchig-Waring and Emilie Gerrity in Summerspace, Choreography by Merce Cunningham,. New York City Ballet. Photo: Erin Baiano

Highlighting the program is Cunningham’s Summerspace, which has not been performed at SPAC since 1967. The piece, part of NYCB’s 2019 fall season, was performed in honor of the 100th anniversary of Cunningham’s birth. The piece is indicative of Cunningham’s unique collaborative method, in which Morton Feldman composed the score, Robert Rauschenberg designed the décor, and Cunningham choreographed independently from each other. Together, the movement, music, and décor give the effect of a balmy, summer day.

Created for the Company’s 1981 Tschaikovsky Festival, Jerome Robbins’ Piano Piecesis set to 15 of the composer’s piano works.  A collection of group works, solos, and pas de deux, the ballet demonstrates Robbins’ love for folk dances, ensemble interaction, and musical phrasing.

Rubies from JEWELS Choreography George Balanchine Photo: Paul Kolnik

Closing the program is Rubies, the second section of George Balanchine’s three-part masterpiece Jewels, set to Igor Stravinsky’s Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra, composed in 1928-29.

SPAC Premieres


Haieff Divertimento                                       (Haieff/Balanchine)

The Shaded Line                                             (Tan Dun/Lovette)

New Peck                                                         (Muhly/Peck)

Back by popular demand is a program featuring all SPAC Premieres including new works by Lauren Lovette, Principal Dancer with NYCB, and Justin Peck, NYCB Resident Choreographer and Artistic Advisor. Balanchine’s rarely performed Haiff Divertimento will also be presented at SPAC for the first time.

Haieff Divertimento showcases a leading couple and four supporting couples dressed in simple costumes.  Set to an Alexei Haieff composition, this Black & White ballet combines popular American dance idioms and modern concert dance with classic ballet.

Georgina Pazcoguin flanked by from left, Davide Riccardo, Mary Thomas MacKinnon, Gilbert Bolden, Unity Phelan and Jonathan Fahoury in “The Shaded Line” Photo: Erin Baiano

The Shaded Line is the third work that Lauren Lovette, a Principal Dancer with New York City Ballet, has choreographed for the Company, following the success of For Clara (2016) and Not Our Fate (2017).  The ballet for 24 dancers is set to Tan Dun’s Fire Ritual and features costumes by fashion designer Zac Posen and lighting by NYCB Resident Lighting Director Mark Stanley.

Collaborating for the first time is Resident Choreographer Justin Peck and contemporary composer Nico Muhly, who will contribute a commissioned score for Peck’s premiere as part of NYCB’s 2020 winter season.

SPAC’s NYC Ballet Gala


In G Major                                                                      (Ravel, Robbins)               

In G Major Choreography by Jerome Robbins New York City Ballet Photo: Paul Kolnik

The Man I Love Pas de Deux (from Who Cares?)  (Gershwin/Balanchine)

Rubies (from Jewels)               (Stravinsky/Balanchine)

Sterling Hyltin and Andrew Veyette in Rubies from Jewels Choreography George Balanchine New York City Ballet Photo: Paul Kolnik

SPAC’s NYC Ballet Gala, the finale to New York City Ballet’s 2020 residency, will draw inspiration from jazz with Robbins’ In G Major incorporating the playful jazz accents of Ravel’s Concerto in G and scenery and costumes by Erté; Balanchine’s The Man I Love Pas de Deux from the ballet Who Cares? setto music by Gershwinand Balanchine’s Rubiesfeaturing Stravinsky’s jazz-inflected Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra.


Photo: Shawn LaChapelle
Tickets will be available online at starting on Wednesday, January 15 at 10:00 a.m. to SPAC members and Wednesday, January 29 at 10:00 a.m. to the general public.  
NYC Ballet
Matinee Performances
Front Orchestra: $53.00 – $63.00
Rear Orchestra: 
$43.00 – $53.00
$28.00 – $63.00
Lawn: $18.00  

Evening Performances
Front Orchestra: $63.00 – $113.00
Rear Orchestra: 
$43.00 – $83.00
$33.00 – $103.00
Lawn: $29.00 – $34.00  

NYC Ballet Gala
Front Orchestra: $98.00 – $128.00
Rear Orchestra: 
$68.00 – $98.00
$58.00 – $108.00
Lawn: $58.00

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