There is much to look forward to in New York City Ballet’s 2023-24 Season—The Nutcracker! Justin Peck! A Midsummer Night’s Dream!—but let’s focus on the here and now. NYCB’s fall programming at the David H. Koch Theater in Lincoln Center features eighteen ballets by Company co-founder George Balanchine.
The Opening Night Celebration on Tuesday, September 19, combines a performance of Balanchine’s beloved Jewels (1967) and a tribute to NYCB’s alumni dancers, about 250 of whom will be in attendance. Principal Dancers Sara Mearns and Russell Janzen will dance the “Diamonds” section that evening, with the show on the 24th marking Janzen’s final performance with the Company.
On Saturday, September 30, the Company has planned a special day of programming for balletomanes of all ages: Discover NYCB at 75. Audiences will be able to observe an onstage Company class led by NYCB Repertory Director Gonzalo Garcia, along with a lecture demonstration with members of the Company performing excerpts from NYCB’s repertory, before attending family-friendly performances. There will also be three movement workshops for children ages 8-12; children with physical disabilities and movement disorders; teens and adults.
One fondly anticipated highlight will be the Fall Gala on Thursday, October 5, which this year honors the Company’s Founding choreographers, fashion and New York City. The performance will include Jerome Robbins’ postmodern Glass Pieces (1983) set to music by Philip Glass, as well as excerpts from Balanchine’s classic Who Cares? (1970) with new costumes by American fashion designer Wes Gordon for Carolina Herrera set to George Gershwin songs sung live by—wait for it—Joshua Henry, Patti LuPone, and Vanessa Williams. Yes, that Vanessa Williams. Among the many incredible Gala Chairs are Sarah Jessica Parker, Laverne Cox, Claire Danes and Hugh Dancy, Mazdack and Zanna Rassi, Jordan Roth, Lizzie Tisch, Naomi Watts, Elaine Welteroth and Scott Wittman, so we know it will be fabulous.
Another night not to be missed is the 75th Anniversary celebration on Wednesday, October 11, which will recreate NYCB’s inaugural performance at City Center on October 11, 1948. It will include Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco (1941), Orpheus (1948) and Symphony in C (1947).
So, which of the many programs should you see this fall? You can’t go wrong with Jewels, which has seven performances from September 19-24. It is Balanchine’s only full-length plotless ballet and is considered to be the first three-act abstract ballet ever created. If you want some “Ballet Americana,” check out All Balanchine I where all of the ballets—including favorites like Stars and Stripes (1958)—are set to American music. For some comedic entertainment, try All Balanchine II which includes the rarely-seen Bourrée Fantasque (1949) and “vampy” Slaughter on Tenth Avenue (1936). If you want some haunting classical beauty, there’s La Sonnambula (1946) in All Balanchine III and Serenade (1935) in All Balanchine V. All Balanchine IV is all about the music, featuring Johann Sebastian Bach, Sergei Prokofiev and Georges Bizet.
And while you’re at Lincoln Center, take some time to look up at the façade of the David H. Koch Theater and enjoy David Michalek’s large-scale video installation SlowDancing/NYCB. Every evening starting on September 18 and running through October 1, the looping video on a triptych of screens 40 feet high and 28 feet wide will feature hyper slow-moving images of NYCB dancers performing iconic moments from the Company’s repertory, ranging from Balanchine’s Apollo (1928) to Peck’s Copeland Dance Episodes (2023).