The New York City Ballet: A Global Beacon of Grace and Elegance
The New York City Ballet (NYCB) is a globally renowned institution that has been at the forefront of the world of classical dance for over seven decades. Founded in 1948 by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein, two towering figures in American arts, the NYCB quickly gained a reputation for its innovative style, technical precision, and the remarkable versatility of its dancers. Located in Lincoln Center, The NYC Ballet is home to some of the most talented artists from around the globe, including its principal dancers like Tyler Angle, Ashley Bouder, Chun Wai Chan, and Adrian Danchig-Waring.
The company’s repertoire is a breathtaking blend of classical and contemporary ballet with a distinctive neoclassical style that has become synonymous with the NYCB. This style, characterized by its speed, energy, and musicality, is the product of Balanchine’s pioneering vision. Over the years, the NYCB has staged more than 400 works, many of which are considered masterpieces of 20th-century choreography. These include iconic ballets like The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and Romeo and Juliet, as well as groundbreaking contemporary pieces by choreographers like Jerome Robbins, Peter Martins, and Justin Peck.
The New York City ballet’s influence extends far beyond the stage. The company is deeply committed to nurturing the next generation of dancers and choreographers through its affiliated School of American Ballet. Additionally, the company plays a vital role in the cultural life of New York City, offering educational programs and community engagement initiatives that reach tens of thousands of New Yorkers and visitors to the city each year. As we go deeper into the history, contributions, and significance of The NYCB, it becomes clear why it remains a global icon of class and innovation.
The Origin of the NYC Ballet
The company’s birth is steeped in a rich story that begins with the meeting of two visionaries, George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein. Balanchine, a Georgian-born choreographer, and Kirstein, an American arts patron and writer, shared a common dream: to create a uniquely American ballet company that would rival the grandeur of Europe’s esteemed troupes. In 1948, their shared vision materialized into The New York City Ballet.
The guiding principles and vision of the duo were clear from the outset. They wanted to break away from traditional ballet norms and create a unique style that was fast, energetic, and deeply musical. This commitment to novelty and excellence in their experiments set the tone for the NYCB’s evolution over the years. Balanchine served as the ballet’s primary choreographer, creating a vast repertoire of works that showcased his groundbreaking neoclassical style.
New York City Ballet’s company has weathered changes in leadership, shifts in public tastes, and the challenges posed by economic downturns over the seventy-five years of its vibrant existence. Through it all, the NYCB has remained faithful to its founders’ vision.
NYCB’s Global Influence
The New York City Ballet’s influence is marked by its worldwide recognition and the significant impact it has made on the global ballet culture. Its reputation for showcasing groundbreaking choreography and fostering exceptional talent has earned it a prestigious place on the international stage. Ballet companies from around the world look to the NYCB, drawing inspiration from its distinctive neoclassical style and vast repertoire.
The NYCB has shaped the evolution of dance worldwide, promoting a style that emphasizes speed, energy, and musical interpretation. It has not only changed how ballet is performed but also how it is perceived, presenting it as a dynamic, evolving art form rather than a static tradition.
The company has been a magnet for international talent, attracting some of the world’s most gifted dancers. These include:
Principal dancer Chun Wai Chan – Born and trained in Guangdong, China, Chun Wai Chan’s exceptional talent earned him a place as a finalist at the prestigious Prix de Lausanne and a full scholarship with Houston Ballet’s second company. He swiftly rose from a corps de ballet member to a principal dancer, showcasing his versatility through leading roles in ballets like George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® (Cavalier) and Christopher Wheeldon’s
DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse.
Principal dancer Megan Fairchild – Born in Salt Lake City, Utah, Megan Fairchild embarked on her dance journey at the tender age of four, receiving training from distinguished institutions, including Dance Concepts, Ballet West Conservatory, and the School of American Ballet. Her exceptional talent led to her swift ascent from an apprentice in November 2001 to a principal dancer by January 2005 at the New York City Ballet, showcasing her dedication and skill in this prestigious company. Some notable roles include Balanchine’s Apollo (Calliope) and Peter Martins’s Sleeping Beauty (Aurora, Ruby, Princess Florine).
Soloist Sebastian Villarini-Velez – Born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sebastian Villarini-Velez began his dance training under the guidance of esteemed instructors such as Rodney Rivera and Joaquin Banegas. He honed his skills at the School for the Performing Arts in Puerto Rico and prestigious summer courses at the Miami City Ballet School and the Pacific Northwest Ballet School. His journey led him to the School of American Ballet, the official school of New York City Ballet, in 2008, and he joined the company in August 2013. Featured in Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments (Melancholic) and Peter Walker’s dance odyssey.
Corps de Ballet Davide Riccardo – Hailing from Messina, Italy, Davide Riccardo embarked on his ballet journey at the age of 5 at the Istituto Regionale Della Danza under the guidance of Emma Prioli. His path led him to the Rome Opera Ballet School and then to the School of American Ballet (SAB under the NYC Ballet) in 2015. His talent and commitment culminated in him joining the New York City Ballet as an apprentice in August 2018 and becoming a member of the Corps de Ballet by January 2019. Featured roles since joining NYCB: George Balanchine’s Divertimento No. 15 and Jerome Robbins’s Glass Pieces.
These dancers underscore the NYCB’s global appeal and its ability to bring together diverse talents in the pursuit of artistic excellence.
The NYC Ballet’s Artistic Style
Balanchine’s neoclassical approach broke away from the narrative-driven ballets of the 19th century, focusing instead on the abstract beauty of movement and the relationship between dance and music.
This unique style sets the NYCB apart from other ballet companies and has given it a distinctive identity in the world of dance. Where traditional ballet is often characterized by its adherence to storylines, set designs, and costumes, the NYCB’s style is defined by its choreography and the physicality of its dancers. The focus is on the beauty of the human form in motion, the rhythmic interplay between the dancers, and the intimate connection between the dance and the music.
The NYCB’s repertoire features signature ballets that showcase this distinctive style. These include Balanchine’s Serenade, the first original work Balanchine created in America, and Jewels, a ballet that is often hailed as the first full-length abstract ballet. These works, along with countless others, exemplify the artistic style that has made the New York City Ballet the way we know it to this day.
The Role of the NYC Ballet in the Community
This Company’s role extends beyond the boundaries of its stage at Lincoln Center, reaching deep into the community it calls home. A firm believer in the transformative power of dance, the NYCB is committed to making ballet accessible to all, irrespective of age, background, or economic status.
This commitment is evident in the company’s extensive array of outreach and educational programs. Through its Public Programs and initiatives like Access Workshops, which provide movement workshops for individuals with disabilities, the NYCB is reaching audiences who might not otherwise have the opportunity to experience ballet. Moreover, its Family Saturdays program introduces children and their families to the magic of ballet through interactive, hour-long presentations. Dance enthusiasts, teens, and adults with little or no training can easily experience ballet from the inside with the Ballet Essentials workshop. These 75-minute classes, led by NYCB dancers, include a ballet warm-up and movement combinations inspired by the current season’s repertory. Participants also have the chance to engage with the artists during a brief Q&A session.
Beyond that, New York City Ballet acknowledges the historical marginalization of people of color within the ballet field and is actively working toward systemic change. This commitment to anti-racism and diversity includes measures such as listening sessions, focus groups, and anti-racism training for dancers, staff, and board members. The company is dedicated to creating an inclusive environment that values and reflects racial justice, diversity and equity, and amplifies the voices of all races, ethnicities, and identities.
In a broader sense, the NYCB strives to make ballet accessible by breaking down the barriers that often surround this art form. They aim to demystify ballet, presenting it as an art form that can be enjoyed by everyone, not just the “elite.” In doing so, the New York City Ballet continues to uphold its mission, bringing the joy and beauty of dance to the widest possible audience.
The New York City Ballet Today
Today, the New York City Ballet continues to thrive, upholding its legacy of excellence while pushing the boundaries of what is possible in ballet. The company, home to approximately 90 of the world’s most talented dancers, remains a powerhouse of creativity and technical prowess. The NYCB’s current repertoire is a testament to its commitment to innovation, featuring a mix of timeless classics and bold new works that challenge and excite audiences.Recent seasons have seen the NYCB stage a diverse range of performances, from revivals of beloved Balanchine ballets to world premieres by contemporary choreographers. This collection features ballets from three choreographers closely associated with the company, each bringing a unique interpretation to their work. Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia is a standout piece, celebrated for its striking choreography set to the avant-garde music of György Ligeti. Peter Martins’ Barber Violin Concerto is a unique blend of ballet and modern dance, featuring one couple in traditional ballet footwear and another barefoot. Lastly, Justin Peck’s The Times Are Racing, a fan favorite since its 2017 debut, adds a twist with dancers performing in sneakers.
NYCB is dedicated to upholding its mission: to create ballets of the highest caliber, nurture the next generation of dancers and choreographers, and make ballet accessible. The 2023-2024 lineup of shows presents a compelling reason to visit New York this season. Experience the grace of ballet at its finest with The New York City Ballet.