New York City Ballet and Orchestra
George Balanchine does Mozart; Christopher Wheeldon does Ligetti, Jerome Robbins does Bernstein
Kennedy Center Opera House
Tonight through Sunday
THE COMPANY — The Russan-born Balanchine had a vision of what American dance should be: breezy, athletic and fast. He blended the rich heritage of classical ballet he learned at the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg with the zest and energy of his adopted country to create a new way of dancing and a new company, the New York City Ballet.
THE PROGRAM — Three great ballets are on tonight, to be repeated tomorrow evening: Mr. Balanchine’s heavenly setting of Mozart’s “Divertimento No. 15”; Mr. Wheeldon’s acclaimed “Polyphonia” to the spiky music of Gyorgy Ligetti; and Mr. Robbins’ “West Side Story Suite” to the jazzy score of Leonard Bernstein. It’s a dream program.
THE HISTORY — Mr. Balanchine choreographed “Divertimento” for his company in 1956. Mr. Wheeldon made “Polyphonia” for NYCB just after being named its choreographer-in-residence in 2000. Mr. Robbins created the smash Broadway musical “West Side Story” with Leonard Bernstein in 1957. (The two had their first hit in the ‘40s with the ballet “Fancy Free.”) Three years before his death in 1998 Mr. Robbins reworked the “West Side” material into a ballet. The dashing Nikolaj Hubbe both danced and sang at the premiere; he’s scheduled to repeat the role tonight.
WHY YOU SHOULD GO — To see the first big talent to have emerged in this new century — Christopher Wheeldon and the ballet that put him on the map. To watch the adagio in Mr. Balanchine’s “Divertimento” that boasts one of the most fine-spun, soaring passages in all of ballet. To enjoy the spirited combination of Robbins and Bernstein capturing the swagger and grit of New York City.
— Jean Battey Lewis