CULTURE

The New York City Ballet in Athens

The Greek National Opera Orchestra will be conducted by Richard Moredock. The magical tradition of Neoclassical ballet and George Balanchine come to the Herod Atticus theater tomorrow and Wednesday with two exceptional performances by the New York City Ballet. This is the renowned Company’s second appearance in Greece – the first one dating back to 1965 – with both performances co-produced by the Hellenic Festival and the American Community Schools (ACS) as part of continuous efforts for the creation of an American-Hellenic Arts Center in Halandri. Ballet beautiful Since its birth in Italy in the 15th and 16th centuries, the art of ballet developed gracefully throughout the years, making its way into various European courts – such as the one ruled by ballet’s great aficionado Sun King Louis XIV – traveling from Sweden and Denmark to Russia and Great Britain. In the United States it was Lincoln Kirstein, a grand patron of the arts, who first envisioned an American ballet where young native dancers would be trained under the guidance of the field’s greatest masters. His vision was also of performing a fresh repertory. He met the right man in George Balanchine in London in 1933. A man of the great Russian ballet, Balanchine had graduated from the Imperial School of Ballet in St. Petersburg at the age of 17. At 20 he left the newly created Soviet Union for the West and it was Serge Diaghilev who invited the young choreographer to join his Monte Carlo-based Ballets Russes. A few years later, Balanchine accepted Kirstein’s invitation to go to America. In the ensuing years, the going was rough, right from the start with the school’s first performance which was postponed due to rain. Disagreements arose with the Metropolitan Opera, where the Company was acting as its official ballet, while various companies were formed and dissolved. World War II saw Kirstein in the army and Balanchine back at the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. After the war, the dedicated duo formed the Ballet Society. Following a performance at New York City’s Center for Music and Drama, Morton Baum, then chairman of City Center’s Finance Committee, suggested that he transform the ensemble into the New York City Ballet. The company’s success at what became known as Neoclassical Ballet, however, is used to describe the style developed by Balanchine. In 1948, Balanchine invited young choreographer Jerome Robbins to join the newly founded company as Assistant Artistic Director. Following Balanchine’s death in 1983, Robbins and Martins shared the title of Ballet Master in Chief. Since 1990, Martins has taken over as head of all the company’s operations. Currently the company has approximately 90 dancers and an active repertory of over 150 works, principally choreographed by Balanchine, Robbins and Martins. The company is also the first ballet institution in the world with two permanent homes; the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, New York. The New York City Ballet at the Herod Atticus Theater tomorrow and Wednesday. Performances start at 8.30 p.m. Herod Atticus Theater, Dionysiou Areopagitou, tel 323.2771, 323.5582. Tickets available from the Hellenic Festival box office, 4 Stadiou, in the Spyrou Miliou Arcade, tel 322.1459. An evening with the stars For its Athens performances, the New York City Ballet will perform the following works: Ballo della Regina (Dance of the Queen), with music by Giuseppe Verdi with selections from the opera Don Carlos, choreography by Georges Balanchine, costumes by Ben Benson, lighting by Ronald Bates and Mark Stanley. Dancers: Yvonne Borree, Peter Boal, Amanda Edge, Pauline Golbin, Rachel Rutherford, Jennifer Tinsley. Dances at a Gathering with music by Frederic Chopin, choreography by Jerome Robbins, costumes by Joe Eula and lighting by Jennifer Tipton. Dancers: Helene Alexopoulos, Yvonne Borree, Maria Kowrosky, Jennifer Ringer, Rachel Rutherford, James Fayette, Sebastien Marcovici, Benjamin Millepied, Philip Neal and Damian Woetzel. Cameron Grant at the piano. Symphony in C, music by Georges Bizet, choreography by George Balanchine, costumes by Karinska, lighting by Mark Stanley. Dancers: Margaret Tracey, Nilas Martins, Wendy Whelan, Charles Askagard, Jennie Somogyi, Nikolaj Hubbe, Jennifer Tinsley and Albert Evans.