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Apollo at New York City Ballet

09/21/11 David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza (Columbus Ave. at 63rd St.) Map
212-721-6500
nycballet.com Ages: All Ages
Mercurial Manoeuvres at New York City Ballet
09/21/11 David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza (Columbus Ave. at 63rd St.) Map
212-721-6500
nycballet.com Ages: All Ages

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Balanchine regarded Apollo as his artistic coming of age. He said that through the creation of this work, he learned he could "dare not use all my ideas, that I too, could eliminate. . . to the one possibility that is inevitable." The ballet depicts Apollo, the young god of music, who is visited and instructed by three Muses, who were also children of Zeus and thus his half-sisters: Calliope, Muse of poetry, whose symbol is a tablet; Polyhymnia, Muse of mime, whose symbol is a mask that represents the power of gesture; and Terpsichore, Muse of dance and song, whose symbol is a lyre. Stravinsky, who possessed a strong interest in Greek mythology, conceived of and composed the score as a ballet. It was with this work, his second ballet set to the music of Stravinsky, that Balanchine, at age 24, achieved international recognition and began his lifelong partnership with the composer. Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), born in Russia, is acknowledged as one of the great composers of the twentieth century. His work encompassed styles as diverse as Romanticism, Neoclassicism and Serialism. His ballets for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes included The Firebird, Petrushka, The Rite of Spring, and Apollo. His music has been used in over thirty ballets originating with New York City Ballet from 1948 through 1987, including Danses Concertantes, Orpheus, The Cage, Agon, Monumentum pro Gesualdo, Rubies, Symphony in Three Movements, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Concerto for Two Solo Pianos, Suite from L'Histoire du Soldat, Concertino, and Jeu de Cartes.

This witty and cheerful piece for 21 dancers opens with an explosive male variation — a series of bravura leaps performed to a trumpet solo — that is followed by rapidly shifting ensemble work for a corps of women which materializes from behind gauze panels on each side of the stage. After a quietly mesmerizing pas de deux of unfolding turns, arrested leaps and intricate lifts, the ballet ends with squadrons of dancers flying on and off the stage in ever-changing directions, patterns, and diagonals. An early reviewer compared the work's intricate geometry to the paintings of Kandinsky and Malevich. The score by Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) fell in and out of favor with the Soviet government as the composer's creative development and fortunes were often determined by political events in the Soviet Union. Shostakovich studied at the Leningrad Conservatory, where his work was encouraged by Alexander Glazounov, the Conservatory's Principal. Shostakovich's 1926 graduation piece, The First Symphony, catapulted him to prominence. During the next decade he composed a satirical opera, The Nose (based on a story by Nicolai Gogol), three full-length ballets, and the first of many film scores. Shostakovich, whose work was influenced by Gustav Mahler and Cesar Franck, wrote 15 symphonies (several of them with epic themes relating to the Russian Revolution and World War II), concertos, quartets, operas, and patriotic cantatas. Christopher Wheeldon, a former soloist with New York City Ballet, retired from dancing in May 2000. He was born in Somerset, England, and joined The Royal Ballet in 1991, the same year he won the Gold Medal at the Prix de Lausanne Competition. In 1993, he was invited to become a member of the NYCB corps de ballet. In addition to dancing, he has choreographed works for New York City Ballet's Slavonic Dances (Dvorak) (1997) and Scènes de Ballet (Stravinsky) (1999), Boston Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Ballet Inc., The Royal Ballet, the Royal Ballet School, and the School of American Ballet. His work can also be seen in the feature film Center Stage (released May 2000). In 2000, Mr. Wheeldon was selected as New York City Ballet's first Artist in Residence.

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