Ballet Stars

Eight Companies, One Iconic Choreographer: Inside Rehearsals for New York City Center’s Balanchine Festival

Wendy Whelan leads a crowded morning class. "The energy was amazing," she says. "Among the visiting companies, there was such a shared respect and friendliness toward each other." Kyle Froman.

On a crisp day in late October, the studio air is thick and hot as dozens of sweaty dancers finish up grand allégro at New York City Center. Despite the fact that many of them are jet-lagged, there is a palpable, positive energy throughout the studio. Teaching class is former New York City Ballet star Wendy Whelan, which seems fitting. The dancers, culled from eight major companies around the world, are getting ready for opening night of Balanchine: The City Center Years, a five-day festival highlighting the choreographer George Balanchine's early works.


NYCB was officially founded at City Center in 1948, 16 years before the company moved into its current, much larger home at Lincoln Center. Some of Balanchine's most groundbreaking works, such as 1957's Agon, were created while the company was in residence there. To celebrate its 75th-anniversary season and its place in dance history, City Center invited eight companies—American Ballet Theatre, The Joffrey Ballet, Mariinsky Ballet, Miami City Ballet, NYCB, Paris Opéra Ballet, The Royal Ballet and San Francisco Ballet—to showcase 13 Balanchine ballets over six programs. Each troupe prepared one to two ballets for the festival, ranging from modernist (The Four Temperaments, Agon) to classical (Divertimento No. 15, Symphony in C) to sweepingly lyrical (Serenade).

The event had New York City audiences buzzing with excitement, but it couldn't compare with the excitement of the dancers themselves. "I have friends here from all over the place, even some who I know only from Instagram," says Mariinsky Ballet principal Xander Parish. "This brings us all together and makes the ballet world even smaller."

Pointe went behind the scenes with the dancers to capture the festival's final preparations.

Mariinsky principals Kimin Kim and Viktoria Tereshkina run through Balanchine's 1960 Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux.

Photography by Kyle Froman

The Conversation
News
American Ballet Theatre Studio Company in Lauren Lovette's Le Jeune. Erin Baiano, Courtesy The Joyce Theater.

Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've rounded up some highlights.

Keep reading... Show less
The Royal Ballet's Vadim Muntagirov and Marianela Nuñez in La Bayadère. Photo by Bill Cooper, Courtesy ROH.

Do you ever wish you could teleport to London and casually stroll into The Royal Opera House to see some of the world's best-loved ballets? Well, we have a solution for you: The Royal Ballet's 2018-19 cinema season.

Whether live or recorded, the seven ballet programs listed below, streaming now through next October, will deliver all of the magic that The Royal Ballet has to offer straight to your local movie theater. Can you smell the popcorn already?

Keep reading... Show less
Ballet Stars
Maria Kowroski and Stella Abera. Via Instagram @stellaabreradetsky.

While both based in New York City, American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet are very different companies, from their touring schedules to their repertoire and training styles. Nevertheless, two principals—ABT's Stella Abrera and NYCB's Maria Kowroski—have sustained a long-lasting friendship "across the plaza" of Lincoln Center. Both Abrera and Kowroski entered their respective companies in the mid-1990s at age 17, and their careers have run side by side ever since.

Tonight, for the first time ever, these two primas, joined by their colleagues Isabella Boylston and Unity Phelan, will perform together in a new work by Gemma Bond titled Marie Thérèse, presented as part of the annual Dance Against Cancer benefit concert. We caught up with Abrera and Kowroski after a recent rehearsal with Bond to hear what it's like to finally dance together, how they've seen the ballet world change throughout the years, and what advice they'd give to their younger selves.

Keep reading... Show less
Carlos Acosta in a still from Yuli. Photo by Denise Guerra, Courtesy Janet Stapleton

Since the project was first announced toward the end of 2017, we've been extremely curious about Yuli. The film, based on Carlos Acosta's memoir No Way Home, promised as much dancing as biography, with Acosta appearing as himself and dance sequences featuring his eponymous Cuba-based company Acosta Danza. Add in filmmaking power couple Icíar Bollaín (director) and Paul Laverty (screenwriter), and you have a recipe for a dance film unlike anything else we've seen recently.

Keep reading... Show less