Ballet Stars
Hyltin in Jerome Robbins' Afternoon of a Faun. Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

New York City Ballet's Robbins 100 Festival last spring included 19 Jerome Robbins ballets performed over the course of two and a half weeks, requiring extreme stamina and versatility from the company's dancers. No one rose higher to the occasion than principal Sterling Hyltin. The festival showcased the breadth of her range, yet Hyltin shone brightest in Robbins' 1953 Afternoon of a Faun. From her first entrance through the door of the gauzy studio set to the end of the 11-minute pas de deux, Hyltin's embodiment of the role was complete; each movement expressed the naiveté and ethereal sensuality of her character. Her leggy, lithe physique is reminiscent of Tanaquil Le Clercq, the NYCB ballerina on whom the work was made and is now dedicated.

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News
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.

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Viral Videos

Known for her long limbs and leggy grace, Tanaquil Le Clercq was one of the most transcendent American ballerinas of her generation. George Balanchine's fourth and final wife, Le Clercq was an inspirational muse for both Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, who choreographed Afternoon of a Faun for her in 1953. The ballet, described as “a chance encounter between two young dancers in a studio," is dedicated to Le Clercq, who shines in this 1953 clip alongside partner Jacques d'Amboise.

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Kitchens with Jerome Tisserand in Afternoon of a Faun. Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

The woman's role in Jerome Robbins' Afternoon of a Faun is surprisingly hard. The plot seems straightforward enough: two dancers happen upon each other in a studio. But the character, created for Tanaquil Le Clercq in 1953, oozes sensuality, innocence and vanity while responding—through the mirror—to her partner's gaze. Here, Pacific Northwest Ballet soloist Kylee Kitchens offers insights into the “less is more" approach to Robbins' choreography.

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