At NYCB’s Spring Gala, Two Premieres and a Classic Bloomed

Notable guests included actor Bryan Cranston, philanthropist and former mayor Michael Bloomberg, dancer and choreographer Mikhail Baryshnikov, Catfish host and producer Nev Schulman and actress Nicole Ari Parker, among others.

Jean Shafiroff and Harrison Coll. Patrick McMullan via Getty Image

Spring was in the air last week as the New York City Ballet held its Spring Gala at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater. The view from the Promenade during the cocktail reception was, frankly, spectacular. Floral-toned gowns swished by indoor cherry blossoms, and the crowd pushed outside to the balcony to take in the perfect early-season evening. Below, the beautiful people posed around the plaza, tilting their heads, turning and gazing over their shoulders at the cameras.

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Once the guests—a healthy mix of celebrities, arts patrons and ballet enthusiasts—were seated in the theater for the gala performance, bubbly from the champagne and excitement, the Company’s executive director Katherine Brown announced that the Gala had raised more than $3 million dollars this year. This led to cheers all around from the likes of Brooklyn Nets arena host Ally Love, actress Bianca Lawson, actor Bryan Cranston, model Coco Rocha, actress Diane Kruger, author Emma Lovewell, CBS’s Lesley Stahl, choreographer Melanie Hamrick, philanthropist and former mayor Michael Bloomberg, dancer and choreographer Mikhail Baryshnikov, Catfish host and producer Nev Schulman, actress Nicole Ari Parker and talk show host Tamron Hall, among others.

Cathinka Wahlstrom and Michael Bloomberg. Patrick McMullan via Getty Image

NYCB’s Spring Season, a continuation of their year-long 75th Anniversary Celebration, focuses on the Company’s future and its commitment to new work, so it was appropriate to feature two world premieres on the Gala program, by a duo of today’s most innovative choreographers: resident choreographer Justin Peck and renowned choreographer Amy Hall Garner.

Two dancers in red reach and hold hands
Megan Fairchild and Anthony Huxley in Rubies. Erin Baiano

The program began, though, with a NYCB repertory classic. Rubies (1967), choreographed by George Balanchine, is the sassy second section of the beloved full-length ballet Jewels set to Igor Stravinsky’s Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra (1929) with an original cast featured Patricia McBride, Patricia Neary and Edward Villella. The curtains open to a striking scene: the corps de ballet lined up and posed at a diagonal, Peter Harvey’s sharp red scenery hanging above, matching Karinska’s ornate costumes. The piece is mostly a flirtatious pas de deux for the principal dancers (here, Megan Fairchild and Anthony Huxley) and a showcase for the “Tall Girl” soloist (here, Mira Nadon). The corps functions as atmosphere, a vibrant moving background. Fairchild and Huxley had great chemistry. And Nadon was perfectly alluring, especially in the sequence where four men manipulate her limbs, pushing her body to its limit. She lets them—confident, coquettish—then moves away, fully in control.

A female dancer balances on one foot while a male dancer watches
Tiler Peck and Roman Mejia in Dig the Say. Erin Baiano

Following Rubies was the world premiere of Peck’s Dig the Say, his twenty-fourth work for the Company. The pas de deux, danced by Tiler Peck and Roman Mejia, is set to Vijay Iyer’s eponymous 2012 score performed by the multi-Grammy nominated string quartet PUBLIQuartet. The piece opens in a similar fashion to Rubies—dancers posed amid a fabulous stage design. In this case, Brandon Stirling Baker’s lighting and set feature neutral gray tones (so do Humberto Leon’s costumes), coolly cold compared to Rubies’ warm reds. And it is flirty like Rubies, though more playful and less seductive. Peck and Mejia toss a red ball back and forth and take turns playing wall ball while the other shows off their moves. At one point Peck leaves the stage and Mejia tosses the ball into the wings. Peck catches it and leaps into his arms, where he catches her. They repeat this again and then again, and it feels tender. Genuine. The rest of the ten-minute piece is mostly virtuosity. Mejia performs incredible leaps and turns, and Peck flaunts her quick footwork and incomparable musicality. The choreography is clearly tailor-made for them, and the duo shines brightly.

A trio of dancers perform ballet on a bare stage
(from left) Chun Wai Chan, Mary Thomas MacKinnon, and Gilbert Bolden in Underneath, There is Light. Erin Baiano

Ending the performance was the world premiere of Amy Hall Garner’s Underneath, There Is Light. The ensemble piece is set to an eclectic selection of music by five composers: Jonathan Dove, Michael Zev Gordon, William Grant Still, Ottorino Respighi, and Aldemaro Romero. Marc Happel’s costumes are fun and sparkly, and Mark Stanley’s set design is a highlight. A large sculptural mobile hangs above the dancers, and one piece of it floats up and out after every section, marking time like a reverse hourglass. Garner’s choreography here is mostly classical (how different from her recent work Century (2023) for Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre), with bits of contemporary vocabulary woven through. The final section is the strongest—the light underneath, perhaps? Stanley’s lighting is a beautiful underwater blue, and the remaining piece of mobile appears soft pink. The dancers change into elegant yellow dresses and blue short unitards, and things start to fall into place. As a viewer, this was where I started to understand, to see the intimate soul-depth that I loved so much in Century. And I was sad when it was soon over.

“I loved everything about that,” a woman said after the raucous applause died down. Then the guests made their way back to the Promenade for dinner and dancing and more of that perfect early-spring air.

Mikhail Baryshnikov and Maria-Cristina Anzola

Mikhail Baryshnikov and Maria-Cristina Anzola. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Alberto Agrest, Luz Agrest, Ginny Ferraro and Matias Melero

(L-R) Alberto Agrest, Luz Agrest, Ginny Ferraro and Matias Melero. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Lucia Hwong Gordon

Lucia Hwong Gordon. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Desi Lydic

Desi Lydic. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Justin Peck and Bill Wright

Justin Peck and Bill Wright. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Jacqueline Bologna, Romilly Newman and Jennifer Vitagliano

(L-R) Jacqueline Bologna, Romilly Newman and Jennifer Vitagliano. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Tamron Hall

Tamron Hall. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Kristin Kennedy Clark

Kristin Kennedy Clark. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Coco Rocha, Ioni James Conran and James Conran

Coco Rocha, Ioni James Conran and James Conran. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Jean Shafiroff and Camelia Entekhabifard

Jean Shafiroff and Camelia Entekhabifard. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Diane Kruger

Diane Kruger. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Tiler Peck

Tiler Peck. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Julia Kwamya and Nicole Ari Parker

Julia Kwamya and Nicole Ari Parker. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Nev Schulman

Nev Schulman. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Michele Herbert

Michele Herbert. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Ally Love

Ally Love. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Isabelle Guerin-Frohlich, Adrian Danchig-Waring and Thomas Rom

(L-R) Isabelle Guerin-Frohlich, Adrian Danchig-Waring and Thomas Rom. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

David Williams and Bojana Novakovic

David Williams and Bojana Novakovic. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Kevin Thau and Brynn Putnam

Kevin Thau and Brynn Putnam. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Daniel Wang and Jessica Wang

Daniel Wang and Jessica Wang. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Emilie Gerrity and Andrew Pilchick

Emilie Gerrity and Andrew Pilchick. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Jamie Wolf and Harrison Coll

Jamie Wolf and Harrison Coll. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Andrew Litton and Katharina Litton

Andrew Litton and Katharina Litton. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Gilbert Bolden III and Jovani Furlan

Gilbert Bolden III and Jovani Furlan. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Jim Coakley, Christian Zimmermann, Jean Shafiroff and Michael Bloomberg

(L-R) Jim Coakley, Christian Zimmermann, Jean Shafiroff and Michael Bloomberg. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Janna Bullock and R. Couri Hay

Janna Bullock and R. Couri Hay. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Melanie Hamrick

Melanie Hamrick. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

Justin Peck and Patricia Delgado

Justin Peck and Patricia Delgado. Jared Siskin/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

At NYCB’s Spring Gala, Two Premieres and a Classic Bloomed