News

Companies Worldwide Are Celebrating Jerome Robbins' Centennial This Spring

New York City Ballet's Joseph Gordon and Tiler Peck in "Fancy Free." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

One of the titans among choreographers of the 20th century, Jerome Robbins will be celebrated by a number of ballet companies worldwide in 2018 for the centennial of his birth. He died in 1998 at age 79 after a prolific career. His rare talent enabled him to direct and choreograph Broadway hits (West Side Story, On the Town and Fiddler on the Roof, among many) and to create sublime ballets, such as Afternoon of a Faun for New York City Ballet; Fancy Free (his first ballet) for American Ballet Theatre; and NY Export: Opus Jazz for his short-lived troupe Ballets: U.S.A.


Jerome Robbins. Photo Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.


Lourdes Lopez, the artistic director of Miami City Ballet and former principal dancer with NYCB, worked closely with Robbins. "I always describe Jerry as the quintessential American choreographer," says Lopez. "He really understood America and American feelings." She recalls the serendipity of two strikingly different geniuses, Robbins and George Balanchine, working in the NYCB studios: "Mr. B would say, 'Show me what you want to do with this.' Jerry said, 'Here are the steps and the character.' We could not ad lib. We had to become those characters." Lopez also lauds the enormity and diversity of Robbins' genius, which embraced everything from the spot-on comedic timing of The Concert to the humanistic Dances at a Gathering.

Among the legendary muses who inspired Robbins were Tanaquil Le Clercq, Allegra Kent, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Suzanne Farrell. Robbins' partnership with composer Leonard Bernstein produced seminal collaborations: West Side Story, Fancy Free, On the Town and Dybbuk.

"He stretched your imagination and intelligence," says Lopez, and notes that his ballets required dancers to think deeply about their characters. Dancers also needed to be prepared for his demanding perfectionism. "He could nail it when you were faking it," she adds.

Robbins' life and career will be honored by numerous companies around the globe this spring. Here's a roundup of what's on tap:

  • Miami City Ballet: Jerome Robbins Celebration, January 12–February 4, with six works, including three company premieres—Circus Polka, The Cage and Other Dances. Miami City Ballet is also performing Afternoon of a Faun, In the Night, and Other Dances on May 25 during Spoleto Festival USA in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • The Joffrey Ballet: Modern Masters program with Glass Pieces, February 7–18.
  • Cincinnati Ballet: Fancy Free on its March 15–18 Director's Cut: Musical Masters series.
  • San Francisco Ballet: Four pieces celebrate Robbins' and Leonard Bernstein's centennials March 20–25 in Robbins: Ballet & Broadway.
  • English National Ballet: The Cage on its April 12–21 Voices of America program.
  • New York City Ballet: Robbins 100 runs May 3–20, featuring 19 Robbins ballets and a world premiere by Justin Peck, in tribute to Robbins and set to a Bernstein score.
  • Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre: A program running May 4–6 features West Side Story Suite, Fancy Free and In the Night.
Show Comments ()
Ballet Stars

Words of wisdom: As a morning mental warm-up, Stephanie Rae Williams, of Dance Theatre of Harlem, recites an affirmation, like "Today is a great day" or "You can and you will." After she suffered an injury onstage, she also started saying a mantra in the wings, such as "I am strong. I am healthy. I am capable." It helps quell her nerves backstage.

DTH's Stephanie Rae Williams shares her smart conditioning tips. Photo by Rachel Neville, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem.

Keep reading... Show less
popular

Cleaning is a daily procedure. Proper maintenance will help extend the life of your floor and protect its special slip-resistant surface.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Catherine Conley is now a member of the National Ballet of Cuba. Photo courtesy Riley Robinson

This time last year, Catherine Conley was already living a ballet dancer's dream. After an exchange between her home ballet school in Chicago and the Cuban National Ballet School in Havana, she'd been invited to train in Cuba full-time. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, and one that was nearly unheard of for an American dancer. Now, though, Conley has even more exciting news: She's a full-fledged member of the National Ballet of Cuba's corps de ballet.

Photo courtesy Miguel Gutierrez

Keep reading... Show less
News
New San Francisco Ballet principal Wei Wang in Helgi Tomasson's Concerto Grosso. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

Promotions season is well underway. Earlier this spring we covered exciting changes at Boston Ballet and Pennsylvania Ballet; now we're back with news from six more companies—English National Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Miami City Ballet, Ballet West and Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. (Stay tuned throughout the summer as additional companies release their updated rosters.) Here's who's doing a happy dance.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Quinn Wharton

San Francisco Ballet soloist WanTing Zhao counts Old Hollywood actress Audrey Hepburn and current "it" model Bella Hadid as her major style icons—something which comes across in her own sartorial looks. Choosing classic pieces with on-trend elements (like her black turtleneck dress with its lace-up sleeves), Zhao also has an eye for detail, adding pops of bold color and accessorizing with delicate hoop earrings. "I usually wear turtlenecks, high-waisted jeans and sneakers," Zhao says of her off-duty style. "It's chic and comfy."

That description carries over to her studio look, too, which Zhao says is always a leotard with pink tights. "I usually wear my hair in a low bun with either a side or center part, and I like to wear a little bit of foundation, eyeliner and mascara—all from Tom Ford," she says.

Quinn Wharton

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Canadian junior finalist Mya Kresnyak in a variation from "Paquita." Photo by Richard Finkelstein, Courtesy USA IBC.

On June 10, 119 dancers from 19 countries gathered in Jackson, MS to compete in the USA International Ballet Competition. Today, the USA IBC announced the list of 32 finalists, who will compete for medals and cash awards in Round III, held June 19-21. All of the finalists will receive a travel stipend, and medalists and award winners will be announced at the competition's gala on June 22. See the full list below, and stay tuned all week on our Facebook and Instagram pages as we bring you the latest from Jackson, live.

Keep reading... Show less
News
Ulrik Birkkjaer and Susanne Grinder in Bournonville's Napoli." Photo by Costin Radu, Courtesy Jacob's Pillow Dance.

On June 20, Royal Danish Ballet will open the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival with a weeklong run in the historic Ted Shawn Theatre. The celebrated relationship between the Copenhagen-based company and the Pillow dates back to 1954, when leading RDB soloist Inge Sand stepped in to replace a dancer from another company at the last minute, resulting in her U.S. debut. Her popularity led to the company's inaugural U.S. performance at the festival the next summer. According to the Pillow's director of preservation, Norton Owen, this was also the first time that works by August Bournonville, the famed 19th-century Danish choreographer, were seen in this country. Following its success at Jacob's Pillow, RDB made its New York City debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1956, and in 1957 the King of Denmark knighted Jacob's Pillow founder Ted Shawn for his role in bringing Danish ballet to America. Over the next 20 years, soloists from RDB returned to the Berkshires frequently to great acclaim; their most recent visit was in 2007.

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Photo by Amitava Sarkar, Courtesy Houston Ballet

Houston Ballet soloist Harper Watters has a good thing going on. Not only is he one of the company's rising young dancers, but he's also a ballet celebrity on social media, where he charts his life on Instagram and on his hugely popular YouTube series, "The Pre Show" (which he describes as "tons of ballet, banter, boys and lots of backstage shenanigans").

The Dover, New Hampshire, native, who seems just as comfortable in a pair of pink heels as he does onstage, trained at Walnut Hill School for the Arts and Portsmouth School of Ballet. While a member of Houston Ballet II, he landed an apprenticeship with the company after winning the Contemporary Dance Prize at the 2011 Prix de Lausanne. He joined the main company that same year and was promoted to soloist in December 2017. Known for his big personality, elegantly long lines and sensual flow in contemporary work, Watters, 26, is ready to take on the next phase of his career. He recently spoke with Pointe about his new rank and his mission to help others feel proud of who they are.

Keep reading... Show less

Sponsored

Videos

Sponsored

mailbox

Get Pointe Magazine in your inbox

Sponsored

Win It!