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The Seven Deadly Sins at New York City Ballet

02/08/12 through 02/12/12 David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza (Columbus Ave. at 63rd St.) Map
212-721-6500
nycballet.com Ages: All Ages
Tarantella at New York City Ballet
02/08/12 David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza (Columbus Ave. at 63rd St.) Map
212-721-6500
nycballet.com Ages: All Ages
Vienna Waltzes at New York City Ballet
02/08/12 through 02/12/12 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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Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's ballet chant� (sung ballet) has a long association with George Balanchine and the New York City Ballet. Originally commissioned for Balanchine's experimental Les Ballets 1933, it starred Weill's wife, singer/actress Lotte Lenya and dancer Tilly Losch. In 1958, at the suggestion of Lincoln Kirstein, Balanchine revived the production for City Ballet, again starring Lotte Lenya and young dancer Allegra Kent, with a new English translation from the German by poets W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

The Seven Deadly (or Cardinal) Sins?Sloth, Pride, Anger, Gluttony, Lust, Greed, and Envy?do not appear as such in the Bible. Since early Christian times theologians incorporated them into Church teachings as examples of sins that led to other sins. In the Weill-Brecht collaboration, these forbidden human frailties are explored in a cabaret-style melding of music, song, dance, and spectacle. A sometimes bittersweet, sometimes sardonic morality play set in an imagined America (neither composer or librettist had yet been to the United States), it tells the story of two Annas (perhaps sisters, perhaps alter-egos) as they travel to seven cities to earn enough money so their family can "build a little home down by the Mississippi in Louisiana," encountering in each city one of the title sins. The two Annas are very different: Anna 1 sings "[Anna 2's] the one with looks, I'm realistic/She's just a little mad, my head's on straight?" Weill's score combines popular music from the 1920s and 30s (foxtrots, waltzes), with a barbershop quartet, marches and hymns into a melodic symphonic whole filled with the driving rhythms and unusual orchestrations that are a hallmark of his work. Brecht's libretto has been open to various interpretations. At the 1933 premiere, audiences could see a reflection of a decadent Berlin, the rise of Hitler and the Nazis, and the turmoil caused by the Great Depression. Over the years, others have viewed it as Brecht's critique of capitalism. One reviewer called the current City Ballet production a depiction of a "not-so-mythical America, a world in which for the sake of money, moral values are turned sharply on their head." Choreographer Lynne Taylor-Corbett has commented that in light of the country's on-going political, social, and economic polarizations, the nearly 80-year-old work continues to speak to and resonate with today's audiences.

The nimble quickness of Tarantella provides a virtuosic showcase. The profusion of steps and the quick changes of direction this brief but explosive pas de deux requires typify the ways in which Balanchine expanded the traditional vocabulary of classical dance. Gottschalk, who lived from 1829 to 1869, was one of the first American composers to be recognized in Europe. His syncopated rhythms and jagged melodic lines incorporating elements of folk dancing foreshadowed the work of other American composers later in the 19th century.

The waltz became popular in the late 1700's. It was banned at first by some authorities who thought it immoral for couples to dance so closely, but by the mid-1800's, it was accepted everywhere. The faster Viennese form, characterized by swift, gliding turns, expressed the vivacity and brilliance of the Hapsburg court. The waltz was a dance form Balanchine revisited and explored often over his career, but never on as grand a scale as the 1977 Vienna Waltzes. Vienna Waltzes — Balanchine's homage to the pleasures and delights of an age that epitomized imperial grandeur — transforms from sylvan forest glen to sassy dance hall to glittering society cafe to, at last, a majestic mirrored ballroom through Rouben Ter-Arutunian's evolving scenery. The music selected for each section of the ballet is associated with the transformation of the waltz across society and over the years. The many elaborate costumes designed by Karinska are the last she created for New York City Ballet. For most of this century, first in Paris, and after 1938, in New York, Karinska, who left Russia after the October Revolution, designed and created many legendary costumes for Broadway, ballet and opera. As one of Balanchine's long-time collaborators, she was for many years New York City Ballet's principal costume-maker.

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