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ABT City Center digital program On Demand


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American Ballet Theatre returns to New York City Center for digital program filmed live on stage

Four works by ABT Artist in Residence Alexei Ratmansky; including a World Premiere created in a ballet bubble

Available on demand March 23  April 18 $25 Digital Access on sale March 1 at Noon

Patrick Frenette, Skylar Brandt, and Tyler Maloney
in 
Bernstein in a Bubble. Photo by Christopher Duggan Photography

February 26, 2021 (New York, NY)  New York City Center President & CEO Arlene Shuler today announced a new digital program, ABT Live from City Center | A Ratmansky Celebration, featuring American Ballet Theatre (ABT) premiering Tuesday, March 23 at 7 PM, and available on demand through Sunday, April 18. Filmed live on the City Center stage, the program marks ABT’s much anticipated return to the historic theater for their first full evening program at City Center since 2012.

 

Co-presented by American Ballet Theatre and New York City Center, the program will feature many of the company’s renowned dancers in works by acclaimed choreographer and ABT Artist in Residence Alexei Ratmansky. Hosted by author and American Ballet Theatre Co-Chair of the Trustees Emeriti Susan Fales-Hill, highlights include excerpts from The Seasons (2019), Seven Sonatas (2009), and The Sleeping Beauty (2015), and Bernstein in a Bubble, a World Premiere set to the music of legendary composer Leonard Bernstein. The new work, Ratmansky’s first since March 2020, was created in January and February of this year during a quarantined “ballet bubble in Silver Bay, New York. The program features ABT dancers Aran Bell, Isabella Boylston, Skylar Brandt, Herman Cornejo, Patrick Frenette, Carlos Gonzalez, Blaine Hoven, Catherine Hurlin, Tyler Maloney, Luciana Paris, Devon Teuscher, Cassandra Trenary, and James Whiteside.

The program will also feature a special intermission conversation with Ratmansky and the curator of the Jerome Robbins Dance Division at the New York Public Library, Linda Murray. Together, they discuss the program’s four pieces, including Ratmansky’s approach to choreographing in a bubble.

City Center has been a valuable creative home to ABT throughout the company’s history—hosting them first in the 1940s, shortly after both institutions were founded,” said Arlene Shuler, New York City Center President and CEO. “We’re delighted to be presenting the company as part of our digital season of great artists and companies performing back on our stage.”

“We’re so pleased to return to this beloved stage at City Center and to do so with a program that celebrates the artistic imagination and range of Alexei Ratmansky,” said Kevin McKenzie, ABT Artistic Director. “The program reflects ABT’s mission of preserving the classics—as exemplified by Alexei’s re- staging of Petipa’s The Sleeping Beautyand extending the repertoire with his newest work, Bernstein in a Bubble. This digital presentation allows us to reach an even wider audience.”

American Ballet Theatre’s relationship with New York City Center began in 1947, headlined by the world premiere of George Balanchine’s masterpiece Theme and Variations, created for Ballet Theatre luminaries Alicia Alonso and Igor Youskevitch. Over its 81-year history, ABT’s performances at City Center have featured more than 30 World Premieres, 30 Company Premieres, and seven major revivals

created by leading choreographers of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Agnes de Mille, William Forsythe, Jiří Kylián, Lar Lubovitch, Kenneth MacMillan, Alexei Ratmansky, Jerome Robbins, Twyla Tharp, Antony Tudor, and Christopher Wheeldon. In 1997, after an absence of more than two decades, ABT returned to City Center for regular fall seasons through 2012. ABT’s City Center engagements came to be known as a place to see new choreography and established repertoire in an intimate setting. The Company performed in City Center’s first Fall for Dance Festival in 2004 and has been a proud participant throughout the festival’s celebrated history. Most recently, ABT appeared in Balanchine: The City Center Years as part of City Center’s 75th Anniversary Season 2018-2019.

Digital access for ABT Live from City Center starts at $25 and goes on sale at noon on March 1, online at NYCityCenter.org. The program premieres on Tuesday, March 23 at 7 PM ET and will be available on demand through Sunday, April 18.

Produced by American Ballet Theatre, New York City Center, and Nel Shelby Productions.

New York City Center is located at 131 West 55th Street between 6th and 7th Avenues. For information call 212.581.1212 or visit NYCityCenter.org. Programming subject to change.

ABT Live from City Center | A Ratmansky Celebration Mar 23  Apr 18
Digital access $25

“Rose Adagio” from The Sleeping Beauty
Choreography by Marius Petipa, with staging and additional choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, assisted by Tatiana Ratmansky
Music by Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky
Staging by Nancy Raffa
Costume Design by Richard Hudson, inspired by Léon Bakst
Lighting Design by James F. Ingalls
Featuring Skylar Brandt, Aran Bell, Patrick Frenette, Blaine Hoven, and Tyler Maloney

Originally choreographed by Marius Petipa, The Sleeping Beauty received its world premiere by the Imperial Ballet at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg on January 15, 1890. ABT’s present production was reconstructed from the notations of Petipa’s original choreography by ABT’s Artist in Residence

Alexei Ratmansky. With steps and style reflecting the original 19th century production, Ratmansky brought the iconic classic to life for modern audiences.

Seven Sonatas Second Movement
Choreography by 
Alexei Ratmansky
Music by Domenico Scarlatti (“Sonata in E Minor K. 198”)
Staging by Nancy Raffa, with special assistance from Stella Abrera
Costume Design by Holly Hynes
Lighting Design by Brad Fields
Featuring Herman Cornejo, Luciana Paris, Carlos Gonzalez, Devon Teuscher

Seven Sonatas was the second ballet that Ratmansky choreographed as Artist in Residence with ABT. Created in 2009 and set to piano sonatas by Domenico Scarlatti, the work presents six dancers in various solos, pas de deux, and group sections. In the second movement of the ballet, four of the dancers follow each other in a series of solos that demonstrate Ratmansky’s distinctive compositional style and innate musicality.

The Seasons Pas de Deux
Choreography by 
Alexei Ratmansky
Music by Alexander Glazunov (The Seasons) Coaching by Irina Kolpakova
Costumes by Robert Perdziola
Lighting Design by Mark Stanley
Featuring Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside

In 2019, as a gift to ABT on the occasion of his tenth anniversary with the company, Ratmansky created The Seasons to the rich and romantic ballet score by Alexander Glazunov. The main pas de deux, danced to the Petit Adagio from the Autumn Section of the music, is a tender duet towards the end of the ballet that unfolds with the warmth and ease of a late summer day.

Bernstein in a Bubble World Premiere Choreography by Alexei Ratmansky
Music by Leonard Bernstein (Divertimento) Lighting Design by Brad Fields

Featuring Aran Bell, Skylar Brandt, Patrick Frenette, Blaine Hoven, Catherine Hurlin, Tyler Maloney, and Cassandra Trenary

Four years after the success of his first work to Leonard Bernstein’s iconic music, the critically acclaimed Serenade after Plato’s Symposium, Ratmansky’s new work explores the artistic personas of ABT’s world- class dancers. Inspired by the variety, charm, and quintessentially American spirit of Bernstein’s Divertimento, this piecechoreographed in a quarantined bubble residency in upstate New Yorkis an exciting reflection of artistic creativity in these challenging times.

Major support for digital dance programs at New York City Center is provided by Bloomberg Philanthropies.

Additional major support is provided by the Howard Gilman Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the JL Greene Arts Access Fund in the New York Community Trust, and the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.

American Ballet Theatre launched The Ratmansky Project in 2016 to foster the artistry of Artist in Residence Alexei Ratmansky and his creation of new works for the Company. We are grateful to the following donors for their commitment to this endeavor.

Lead Gifts for The Ratmansky Project have been provided by Avery and Andrew F. Barth, the Blavatnik Family Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Hamilton E. Jones, and The Ted and Mary Jo Shen Charitable Gift Fund. Pacesetting gifts have been made by Linda Allard, Sarah Arison, The Susan and Leonard Feinstein Foundation, Lloyd E. Rigler - Lawrence E. Deutsch Foundation, The H. Russell Smith Foundation/Stewart R. Smith and Robin A. Ferracone, and Martin and Toni Sosnoff Foundation. Major gifts have been provided by Dr. Joan Taub Ades, Steven Backes, Mark Casey and Carrie Gaiser Casey, Lisa and Dick Cashin, William Gillespie†, Brian J. Heidtke, Caroline and Edward Hyman, The Marjorie S. Isaac/Irving H. Isaac Fund, Pearl T. Maxim Trust, Robin Chemers Neustein, Howard Paley†, John Rallis and Mary Lynn Bergman-Rallis, Bernard Schwartz, Elizabeth Segerstrom, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, John Leland Sills and Elizabeth Papadopoulos-Sills, Melissa A. Smith, Sutton Stracke, and Sedgwick A. Ward.

ABT gratefully acknowledges the Lead Sponsor of The Sleeping Beauty, David H. Koch† with additional leadership support provided by the Lloyd E. Rigler - Lawrence E. Deutsch Foundation. Linda Allard is recognized for her generous gift toward the costumes for The Sleeping Beauty. Special thanks to Avery and Andrew F. Barth, The Susan and Leonard Feinstein Foundation, Caroline and Edward Hyman, Howard S. Paley†, Linda and Martin Fell, Mr. and Mrs. Austin T. Fragomen, The Ted and Mary Jo Shen Charitable Gift Fund, Michael and Sue Steinberg for their major gifts.

The Sleeping Beauty and Seven Sonatas are generously supported through an endowed gift from The Toni and Martin Sosnoff New Works Fund. Additional support for Seven Sonatas was provided by Leila and Mickey Straus.

ABT’s Choreographic Innovation and Inspiration and Inclusion programs are generously supported by the Blavatnik Family Foundation. Additional major support of ABT’s Innovation and Inclusion programs is provided by Mark Casey and Carrie Gaiser Casey, the Ford Foundation, The Ted and Mary Jo Shen Charitable Gift Fund and through an endowed gift from the Toni and Martin Sosnoff New Works Fund.

Champion support for the ABT Women’s Movement is provided by Jenna Segal. Special thanks to Denise Littlefield Sobel for her leadership gifts to: ABT's Media Fund, advancing the Company's digital endeavors; and ABT RISE, fueling the Company's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

ABT gratefully acknowledges Lead Foundation donors: Bloomberg Philanthropies, Ford Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, The Hearst Foundation, Inc., Rockefeller Brothers Fund, The Shubert Foundation, Leila and Mickey Straus Family Foundation, and Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation.

Bank of America -- Lead Corporate Partner of ABT Studio Company
LG Signature, The Global Electronics Partner of American Ballet Theatre American Airlines is the Official Airline of American Ballet Theatre

ABT is supported, in part, with public funds from the National Endowment for the Arts; the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.

AMERICAN BALLET THEATRE is one of the great dance companies in the world. Few ballet companies equal ABT for its combination of size, scope, and outreach. Recognized as a living national treasure since its founding in 1940, ABT annually tours the United States, performing for more than 300,000 people, and is the only major cultural institution to do so. For 81 years, the Company has appeared in a total of 45 countries and has performed in all 50 states of the United States. ABT has recently enjoyed triumphant successes with engagements in Paris, Singapore, and Hong Kong. On April 27, 2006, by an act of Congress, American Ballet Theatre became America’s National Ballet Company®.

NEW YORK CITY CENTER (Arlene Shuler, President & CEO) has played a defining role in the cultural life of the city since 1943. The distinctive neo-Moorish theater welcomes over 300,000 annual visitors to experience internationally acclaimed artists on the same stage where legends like George Balanchine, Leonard Bernstein, and Barbara Cook made their mark. Its landmark 75th Anniversary Season (2018 – 2019) paid tribute to this rich history and celebrated the institution’s singular role in the arts today. City Center’s Tony-honored Encores! series has celebrated the tradition of American musical theater for over 25 years. In 2013, City Center launched the Encores! Off-Center series, which brings today’s innovative artists into contact with groundbreaking musicals from the more recent past. Dance has also been integral to the theater’s mission from the start and programs like the annual Fall for Dance Festival, with all tickets $15, remain central to City Center’s identity. Home to a roster of renowned national and international companies including Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (City Center’s Principal Dance Company) and Manhattan Theatre Club, New York City Center is Manhattan’s first performing arts center, founded by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia with the mission of making the best in music, theater, and dance accessible to all audiences. That mission continues today through its dynamic programming, art exhibitions, studio events, and master classes, which are complemented by education and community engagement programs that bring the performing arts to over 11,000 New York City students, teachers, and families each year. NYCityCenter.org

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Well, at least the ABT Digital program will be available to view repeatedly over several weeks (an improvement over the Australian stream, which can only be viewed once, as I understand). But the selections are pretty skimpy -- two PdD, one movement of Seven Sonatas, and one new thing. And not necessarily my first choice for casting. But it's something. (The complete Symphony #9 is on the SFB digital subscription next month, which I'm really, really looking forward to.)

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On 3/1/2021 at 12:28 PM, California said:

Tickets are for sale on the City Center site, not ABT: https://www.nycitycenter.org/pdps/2020-2021/abt-live-from-city-center/

I'm glad to see it will be available for almost four weeks of repeated viewings. 

 

 

On 2/26/2021 at 1:12 PM, California said:

Well, at least the ABT Digital program will be available to view repeatedly over several weeks (an improvement over the Australian stream, which can only be viewed once, as I understand). But the selections are pretty skimpy -- two PdD, one movement of Seven Sonatas, and one new thing. And not necessarily my first choice for casting. But it's something. (The complete Symphony #9 is on the SFB digital subscription next month, which I'm really, really looking forward to.)

Give ABT credit for quarantining a strong group to work on a new piece in a bubble during the height of the pandemic; and it is set to interesting music. It may not be a full length ballet, but that would have been tough to do during a pandemic.  Like you said, it is a start; a glimmer of light.

On 2/26/2021 at 1:12 PM, California said:

Well, at least the ABT Digital program will be available to view repeatedly over several weeks (an improvement over the Australian stream, which can only be viewed once, as I understand). But the selections are pretty skimpy -- two PdD, one movement of Seven Sonatas, and one new thing. And not necessarily my first choice for casting. But it's something. (The complete Symphony #9 is on the SFB digital subscription next month, which I'm really, really looking forward to.)

 

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I thought it was a great digital offering overall -- high-quality filming and production thanks to City Center. Worth the $25. Dancers looked fantastic considering how long they've been away from a stage. I wish we could have seen Brandt do the Aurora birthday-party solos as well as the rose adagio. Looking forward to seeing the Bernstein ballet live at some point -- great technical showpiece (especially for Brandt) and also very unique and whimsical. The music almost made it feel like a Jerome Robbins work but the choreography was very Ratmansky.

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I really enjoyed the program, especially the new Ratmansky. Definitely worth the price. I was not familiar with this particular Bernstein score, but it had a very familiar feel and, as JuliaJ noted, it felt like it would work for Robbins. Definitely want to see it in the theater -- not just a throw-away bit of fluff, like some of the pandemic/bubble pieces we've seen in the past year.

Brandt is the queen of the long balances and the rehearsal clip of Rose they posted recently is also worth another look. The excerpts were mostly reassuring that dancers are in shape. 

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I saw the performance and I was very pleased with the production of all four, considering the circumstances.  I thank ABT for getting something new out there.  My understanding is that the dancers went into a 1 or 2 weak bubble to learn the new piece near Lake George.  I very much enjoyed the new piece -- the Times had perhaps an unfairly mixed response highlighting that the filming has some spotty abrupt changes and some unwarranted close ups, but isn't that also a possible advantage -- to see from different perspectives?  What I did agree with in the Times is that there is no substitute for the energy offered by an audience, and dancers need the audience.  So, film is ok, but being there and them knowing you are there is critical.   The music that was written by Bernstein for the BSO is a celebration of artists and I believe Ratmansky's direction focused on letting the artists celebrate a return to dance with something that seemed fun... I liked the different tones -- blues, waltz (very catchy...in an off meter of sorts -- it was whimsical and thought it was interesting he had the guys dance that).  I also found Ratmansky emphasized traits of the dancers that show their particular strengths .. ... Congrats to Brandt  and her debut of sorts, performing the Rose Adagio scene ( perhaps due to her prolific balances shown recently on ABT's social media and debut deferred section of their site).  Welcome back ABT.

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Traveling Ballerina, I thought you write a splendid review.  Clearly I liked the Bernstein piece a great deal,  but the things that distract you with the filming is completely understandable.  Some of the creative ideas, contrasting music and technical difficulty of the B in the Bubble piece really resonated with me and made me happy for the dancers and I found myself smiling and even giggling. I do think some of it was comical (and technically difficult -- especially for some of the ladies).  The three males doing the off tempo (not 3/4) waltz, the scene with the two males spinning and lifting a seeming surprised and humorous Brandt, the somewhat more traditional ballroom-ish interlude with Hurlin and Bell, the frenzied yet still coordinated ensemble work... I think you will see this again IMO. Cheers. 

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This distinction between filming a dance from one set perspective  vs a film in which the filmmaker is changing the nature of what you see and how to see it and from what angle is very interesting.  I have been extremely frustrated too by the focus of the lens and perspective, when it is not what I want to see. But I also feel that it is the nature of the beast.  And, agree on Skylar Brandt in terms of her believability in the iconic Rose Adagio scene and her astonishing ease at which she handles the difficult technique.  Back to filming dance; How do you film anything without making some decisions on how far back you will be from the dancers and from what angle will you see it from above, slightly below stage or even with it.  In the end there is no adequate substitute for live, in theatre viewing.  It may be that you (and the Times for that matter) may not adore the B in Bubble piece as I did and that is perhaps because I prefer chocolate and you like well, what you like.  I point out that the Times criticized the piece on two main basis, none of which is really a fault of the piece itself; 1. it was filmed with imposition by the filmmaker and 2. that there was lacking the energy derived from an audience.  This is not a knock on the choreography or the dancing, and certainly not the music; all of which was solid and creative (and for the gals, especially, tough to do).  PS I favored your review to that of the NY Times. 

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35 minutes ago, TheAccidentalBalletomane said:

This distinction between filming a dance from one set perspective  vs a film in which the filmmaker is changing the nature of what you see and how to see it and from what angle is very interesting.  I have been extremely frustrated too by the focus of the lens and perspective, when it is not what I want to see. But I also feel that it is the nature of the beast.  And, agree on Skylar Brandt in terms of her believability in the iconic Rose Adagio scene and her astonishing ease at which she handles the difficult technique.  Back to filming dance; How do you film anything without making some decisions on how far back you will be from the dancers and from what angle will you see it from above, slightly below stage or even with it.  In the end there is no adequate substitute for live, in theatre viewing.  It may be that you (and the Times for that matter) may not adore the B in Bubble piece as I did and that is perhaps because I prefer chocolate and you like well, what you like.  I point out that the Times criticized the piece on two main basis, none of which is really a fault of the piece itself; 1. it was filmed with imposition by the filmmaker and 2. that there was lacking the energy derived from an audience.  This is not a knock on the choreography or the dancing, and certainly not the music; all of which was solid and creative (and for the gals, especially, tough to do).  PS I favored your review to that of the NY Times. 

I know I've harped on the often poor cinematography choices made for dance films, so for me, it's good to see someone in a highly visible position (like Gia Kourlas) call out these problems. It may be the only way to get the film/video communities to start addressing the issue - or at least start having a conversation about it.

Edited by pherank
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Not to belabour the point...  😉

In the NYT article about McKenzie's upcoming retirement there's a statement that relates to the 'dance on film' discussion:

'Although he had been thinking about retiring, McKenzie said, the pandemic influenced his decision “to some degree.” When it hit, he realized that creative activity would move online. “We are dealing with a medium that I don’t really like,” he said, “but which we are going to have to rely on a lot in the future.”

He added: “It needs someone who likes the medium and believes in its value.”'

It wouldn't surprise me if most every sitting A.D. at the large companies has little interest in digital media. But unfortunately that tends to mean that these A.D.'s are not very good advocates for their own art form when forced to work with videographers. They don't know how to defend their turf, and are more than willing to compromise and hold their tongues when camera shots, edits, audio, lighting, even locals, are not presenting a ballet in the best way possible. It's common to hear statements like, "what we're doing here is a collaborative work". Unfortunately, those "collaborative" projects so often seem to skew towards the visual art effects, and the fact that there is a dance to present merely becomes a "point of departure". I guess I'm just surprised that the A.D. never seems to have lists of MUST HAVES and DON'T DO's - after all, the dance company is paying for the project.

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When Francia Russell did post-performance Q&A's at PNB, she would often tell the audience that the company didn't have 10K to replace the camera they used for their own archival purposes.

PNB kickstarted it's media presence when, enough time later, PNB got a grant that focused on digital and social media.  

I suspect that, going forward, where there is grant money, the amount that is available for digital projects will expand, even if it's the same amount distributed differently.  One thing that companies have learned this year, along with what the Met and Vienna Opera already knew, is that there is a national and worldwide audience, even for companies that charge for digital admissions tickets.   If they can continue to leverage this as incremental income going forward, we'll all be better of, in my opinion.

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A lot of companies had to think on their feet this pandemic year. What we learned was that what we were previously told was "impossible" because of all the permissions and the unions actually became possible. 

I think ABT's streaming offerings have been extremely thin compared to other companies.

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Canbelto, full length classical ballet is almost impossible to pull off during a pandemic but I agree some companies were better able to get out content for us to enjoy.  Pherank, I also noted McKenzie's reluctant acknowledgment of digital media in ballet -- it has to be a difficult thing for a classical AD to navigate, let alone even accept.  It would have been nice if ABT had some good quality footage of past performances it would have been willing to share with its audiences during the pandemic.   I hope in the future, companies carefully and with high quality camera work and sound capture live performances in good times, especially with works they are particularly proud of, which can be streamed in the future, whether live stream like the Met Opera or in other ways.  I am concerned though with the artistic liberties taken by those making the videos because they change everything and not having an audience also detracts greatly from the experience.  When there is no awareness of an audience, energy is lost.  I am ok with some liberties taken in a new a contemporary work with consent and collaboration with the choreographer, but with classical ballet I think it is distracting and waters down the sanctity of what a classic should be. 

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