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

Companies Worldwide Are Celebrating Jerome Robbins' Centennial This Spring

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.

Latest Posts


xmb photography, Courtesy The Washington Ballet

The Washington Ballet's Sarah Steele on Her At-Home Workouts

Ballet at home: Since she's not preparing for any immediate performances, Steele takes ballet barre three to four times a week. "I'm working in more of a maintenance mode," she says, prioritizing her ankles and the intrinsic muscles in her feet. "If you don't work those muscles, they disappear really quickly. I've been focusing on a baseline level of ballet muscle memory."

What she's always working on: Strengthening her glute-hamstring connection (the "under-butt" area), which provides stability for actions like repetitive relevés and power for jumps. Bridges are her go-to move for conditioning those muscles. "Those 'basic food group'–type exercises are some of the best ones," she says.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Getty Images

Hiding Injuries: Why Downplaying Pain Can Lead to Bigger Problems Down the Road

Sabrina Landa was thrilled to be offered a traineeship with Pennsylvania Ballet. "As a trainee, everything felt like a chance to prove myself as a professional," she says. Her training hours increased and she was dancing more than she ever had before. When Landa began experiencing pain in her metatarsals partway through the 2018 Nutcracker season, she notified the staff. "But in fear of losing my shows, I downplayed the severity of it," Landa says.

She notes that no one pushed her to keep dancing but herself. "I was 18 and was aiming to receive a contract by the end of the year," she says. "I felt so much anxiety over missing an opportunity that I was afraid to be honest about my pain." Pennsylvania Ballet's artistic staff were understanding and supportive, but Landa minimized her injury for the next few months, wanting to push through until the season ended and contracts were offered. But after months of pain and an onset of extreme weakness in her foot, Landa was diagnosed with two stress fractures in her second and third metatarsals. She spent the next three months on crutches and six months off dancing to allow for the fractures' delayed healing.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Skjalg Bøhmer Vold, Courtesy Merritt Moore

How Quantum Physicist Ballerina Merritt Moore Learned to Dance With a Robot (Plus, Her Newest Film)

When the world went into lockdown last March, most dancers despaired. But not Merritt Moore. The Los Angeles native, who lives in London and has danced with Norwegian National Ballet, English National Ballet and Boston Ballet, holds a PhD in atomic and laser physics from the University of Oxford. A few weeks into the coronavirus pandemic, she came up with a solution for having to train and work alone: robots.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks