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Firebird at New York City Ballet

01/28/12 David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza (Columbus Ave. at 63rd St.) Map
212-721-6500
nycballet.com Ages: All Ages
New Wheeldon at New York City Ballet
01/28/12 David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza (Columbus Ave. at 63rd St.) Map
212-721-6500
nycballet.com Ages: All Ages
Polyphonia at New York City Ballet
01/28/12 David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza (Columbus Ave. at 63rd St.) Map
212-721-6500
nycballet.com Ages: All Ages
The Steadfast Tin Soldier at New York City Ballet
01/28/12 David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza (Columbus Ave. at 63rd St.) Map
212-721-6500
nycballet.com Ages: All Ages
Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux at New York City Ballet
01/28/12 David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza (Columbus Ave. at 63rd St.) Map
212-721-6500
nycballet.com Ages: All Ages
Who Cares? at New York City Ballet
01/28/12 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's Firebird was one of the choreographer's first creations for the young New York City Ballet, using elaborate sets and costumes. The story, the choreography, the sets, and the music all integrated many brilliantly colored elements from Russian folklore. Because Balanchine chose to use the orchestral suite rather than the complete three-act score, he simplified the story and emphasized the mythical elements of the Firebird's character. For revivals in 1970, 1972, and 1980, Balanchine changed his choreography for the Firebird — and sometimes the costume as well — to suit the ballerina cast in the leading role. At Balanchine's invitation, in 1970, the artist Marc Chagall came to New York City to supervise the construction of new sets and costumes based on his designs for a new production. For the 1970 revival, Robbins contributed new choreography for the monsters' dance. The current production was staged in 1985. 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.

NYCB's former first-ever Resident Choreographer, Christopher Wheeldon now travels the world as one of the most in-demand dance makers. Wheeldon returns to choreograph a world premiere for the New Combinations Evening, which honors Balanchine's birthday each year with the performance of new work.

"Romantic with comic twists," is how Christopher Wheeldon describes his new work set to ten eclectic piano pieces by Ligeti. Its brief sections run the choreographic spectrum from the bold, neoclassic angularity of Balanchine through playful duets, a dreamy waltz, a gentle, plaintive solo to the intense intertwining of one couple. Anchored by dynamic opening and closing ensembles filled with twisting turns, jabs and quirky hard movements, its eight dances seem to be tearing through the musical fabric. Overhead horizontal lifts, rolls and pushes off the floor contrast with classical ballet steps. The first of two key duets for the leading principal couple evokes sea creatures swimming, while the second looks like a strange plant growing and closing in on itself. The last horizontal lifts and fade out arrest the movement, frame it and let it dissolve like a film. Ligeti's polyphony (many individual voices sounding simultaneously) with fleeting references to Stravinsky, Debussy, Kodály and Prokofiev, among others, finds its match in the choreographer's interweaving of ballet and modem dance movement.

The Steadfast Tin Soldier, based loosely on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, focuses on the wistful courtship and love between a tin soldier and a paper-doll ballerina. The work was commissioned by the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The present pas de deux stems from a 1955 collaboration in which Balanchine, Francisco Moncion, and Barbara Milberg choreographed all of Bizet's Jeux d'Enfants. Both the context and the woman's variation of The Steadfast Tin Soldier were derived from this earlier work. The soldier's variation was restaged for the new pas de deux. Georges Bizet (1838-1875) is best known for Carmen, one of the most successful operas ever written. However, he had more success in his lifetime with non-operatic works. He was an excellent pianist, and wrote many pieces for that instrument, including Jeux d'Enfants. Many of the operas Bizet wrote, with the exceptions of Carmen and The Pearl Fishers, were destroyed by the composer or never finished.

An eight-minute display of ballet bravura and technique, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux uses music that the composer belatedly created for Act III of Swan Lake. It was hurriedly composed for Anna Sobeshchanskaya, a Bolshoi prima ballerina who was scheduled to make her debut in the title role at the fourth performance of the 1877 Moscow production, and sought to enrich the part of Odile. Because the music was not in the original score, it was not published with the rest of Swan Lake, and disappeared for more than half a century. When it was discovered in the Bolshoi Theater archives in 1953, Balanchine sought — and was granted — permission to use it for his own choreography.

In 1937, George Gershwin asked Balanchine to come to Hollywood to work with him on Samuel Goldwyn's "Follies." Tragically, Gershwin was felled by a brain tumor before he completed the ballet music for the film. Thirty-three years later, Balanchine choreographed Who Cares? to 16 songs Gershwin composed between 1924 and 1931, including "I Got Rhythm," "The Man I Love," "Embraceable You," and "My One and Only." Kay's orchestrations draw extensively on Gershwin's own piano arrangements of his songs. Balanchine used the songs not to evoke any particular era but as a way to portray an exuberance that is both broadly American and charged with the distinctive energy of Manhattan.

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