Ballet, whether classical or contemporary, is a language that is not necessarily accessible to everyone.
New York City Ballet dancers Sterling Hyltin and Adrian Danchig-Waring are working to change that with NYCB On and Off Stage.
The program opens the company’s residency at SPAC on Tuesday and includes excerpts from each ballet that will be performed throughout the week. Hyltin and Danchig-Waring will host the program and provide background and insight into each ballet.
“We want to help provide audiences with a key to what makes each of these works unique and [what] makes each of these works remarkable and, in many cases, timeless,” said. Danchig-Waring. He is a principal dancer at NYCB, as well as director of the New York Choreographic Institute, which is an incubator for emerging choreographers, composers and designers.
Snippets will include “Summerspace” by Merce Cunningham, “Glass Pieces” by Jerome Robbins, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Balanchine and “Gustave Le Gray No. 1” by Pam Tanowitz, among others. The dancers will be costumed and there will be live music, as well as fixed pieces from the ballets.
“It’s like a little tasting menu of everything we’re going to serve for the rest of the week,” Hyltin said.
Between excerpts, the co-hosts will discuss everything from the history of the plays to particularly difficult or important aspects that audience members may be looking for. The objective of the program is twofold; to make ballet more accessible to anyone who might be new to the art form and to deepen the knowledge of those who are already familiar with it. Lasting about an hour and a half, the program will include almost an hour of dancing.
“A big part of my interest is trying to show what sets each choreographer’s language apart,” Dancing-Waring said. “I think the work I do with the Choreographic Institute really reinforces the feeling that classical ballet choreography is a language unto itself and when used to its fullest capacity can express anything the word writes. or the spoken word can.”
“We chose these snippets of masterful choreography that show all these different facets of not just what the human body can do, but also what it feels like to be human,” Danchig-Waring added.
Deciding which excerpts to include from each of the ballets was no small feat.
“We were really trying to think about how to be the most respectful of these ballets and the choreographers by showing excerpts that communicate enough about the scale of each piece and the vision of each piece, while remaining under five minutes” , Danchig-Waring said. .
He will do double duty on Tuesday, not only co-hosting but also dancing in the excerpt from “Gustave Le Gray No. 1,” which features four dancers and is part of a collaboration with the Dance Theater of Harlem.
Danchig-Waring has performed in most of the ballets that will be covered in the On and Off Stage program. One of the stars is “Summerspace”, a piece which is an aberration in the company’s repertoire since it is repeated without music.
“As the curtain rises the orchestra begins to play its score and the dancers begin to dance, their choreography and all of our points of reference in this dance are either visual or spatial. So we are deeply in tune with each other. others without the musical track record. And I think for the dancers of New York City Ballet, the music is paramount. It’s our pulse that beats… so it’s a real physical challenge, but a challenge intellectual beyond,” Dancing-Waring said.
To kick off the program, they will present one of the company’s most traditional works, featuring a snippet of the beloved ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, which will feature performances by local children.
“‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ I think that’s the crown jewel of the program in my opinion,” Hyltin said. “Not only because I play in it, but it’s just Balanchine at its most spiritual and sublime.”
Performing at SPAC is especially meaningful to Hyltin because it’s where she first saw the NYCB when she was growing up. The Texas native was attending the School of American Ballet summer school and took a trip to SPAC to see the NYCB. It was this performance that solidified her desire to pursue ballet professionally.
“It’s an important place for me and my career,” Hyltin said.
She’s been dancing with the NYCB for 20 years, becoming the company’s principal dancer in 2007. While “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a longtime favorite, she said she only performed it another year at the SPAC.
“’A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is so special there because the bugs on stage are starting to come out, the real bugs are coming out. There are real fireflies and it’s an immersive experience for the audience,” Hyltin said.
The ballet will mark Hyltin’s final performance at SPAC before retiring at the end of this year to raise her daughter.
“For me, in particular, it’s going to be very meaningful because it will be the last time I play there. [since] I am retiring in December. So I’m really excited to be here, especially after a few years away. It will feel like a big goodbye in some ways,” Hyltin said.
Co-hosting the On and Off Stage program is also a great start, and Hyltin hopes it will give audiences more reason to enjoy the performances throughout the NYCB residency.
“If audiences choose to come back, hopefully it will give them something to really look for in every room,” Hyltin said.
Danchig-Waring also believes the program will help contextualize the ballets and show off the NYCB’s range of dancers.
“I think this idea is a reflection of this time we live in where so many . . . the content we consume is decontextualized, via social media or news headlines or push notifications. I hope people come away feeling like they want to know more, they want to see more, they want to know more,” Danchig-Waring said.
NYCB on and off stage
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Saratoga Center for the Performing Arts
TICKETS: From $44
MORE INFO: www.spac.org
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Categories: Entertainment, Life and Arts, Saratoga Springs