BWW Review: The School of American Ballet is Celebrating its 85th Anniversary
The School of American Ballet's (SAB) annual Workshop Performances are a public demonstration of the continuing tradition of the vision of George Balanchine. Dozens of advanced students participate each year in the school's Workshop, which culminates in three spring performances at Lincoln Center's Peter Jay Sharp Theater with costumes, lights, and live orchestra.
Opening the program were speeches of Welcome and Tributes were given by Carrie Hinrichs, Executive Director; Jonathan Stafford, Artistic Director (and newly appointed Artistic Director of New York City Ballet); Kay Mazzo, Chairman of Faculty (and former principal ballerina of NYCB under Balanchine), and Sion Harrington, Dean of Students.
First, on the program, which I attended on June 1, 8:00pm, was a Balanchine favorite, Concerto Barocco, staged by Suki Schorer (former principal dancer under Balanchine), music by Johann Sebastian Bach. This ballet was begun in class at SAB as an exercise in stagecraft. It premiered on June 27, 1941. At this performance, Brandi Steirn danced the first violin role, well partnered by Jackson Fort. The second violin part was beautifully danced by Shelby Tzung, despite working with a body type that is not the norm for Balanchine dancers. She gave an authentic, comfortable performance. Steirn looked happy to be performing, many smiles. Her best moments came while being partnered in the pas de deux. Principals and corps de ballet in this piece as well as the ballets to follow were musical and stayed in line, essential to professional performances.
The Garland Dance from The Sleeping Beauty, choreographed by Balanchine, music by Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky was staged by Katrina Killian (former soloist with NYCB), Dena Abergel (former member of NYCB), and Arch Higgins (former soloist with NYCB). This sweet dance, including many young dancers, was well organized, happy, and musically danced.
New Sleep, a pas de deux by choreographer William Forsyth, was the first inclusion of Forsyth's choreography in an SAB workshop. Music by Dutch composer Thom Willems is one of sixty collaborations with this choreographer. The staging was by Noah Gelber, assisted by Allen Peiffer. This was my favorite work of the evening, performed by the supple Quinn Starner and her attentive partner, KJ Takahashi. They handled the rhythmic contemporary ballet with apparent ease, a beautiful interpretation.
Last on the program was Bourree Fantastique, choreographed by Balanchine to music by Emmanuel Chabrier, staged by Susan Pilarre (former soloist of NYCB). The premiere was on December 1, 1949. There were forty-four dancers in this ballet in three parts, every one of them full of enthusiasm. Bouree Fantastique was led by Savannah Durham and Dylan Calahan with inscrutable confidence. Prelude, the second section, was led by the gifted Malorie Lundgren and Samuel Melnikov. The final section, Fete Polonaise, featured Dianetzy Rojas and Jonah Glickman dancing with joy. In this ballet, it was abundantly clear that there are many talented boys as well as girls currently studying at SAB.
Photo courtesy of SAB