Press Room

New York City Ballet’s “Architecture of Dance” boasts four new scores

As the centerpiece of its 2010 spring season, New York City Ballet presents “Architecture of Dance – New Choreography and Music Festival.”  To celebrate the company’s long tradition of commissioning new music, which dates back to George Balanchine’s collaborations with Stravinsky and Hindemith, four new scores have been commissioned for the festival.  Scores by Thierry Escaich, Jay Greenberg, and Bruno Moretti will receive world premieres, and Esa-Pekka Salonen’s powerful Violin Concerto will have its New York premiere, with the composer conducting and the concerto’s dedicatee Leila Josefowicz as soloist.  All seven of the ballets in Architecture of Dance are world premieres, with new choreography by Melissa Barak, Mauro Bigonzetti, Peter Martins, Wayne McGregor, Benjamin Millepied, Alexei Ratmansky, and Christopher Wheeldon.  Five of the ballets – including all four of those with new music – feature designs by preeminent architect Santiago Calatrava.  Besides the festival, New York City Ballet’s 2010 spring season, which runs from April 29 through June 27 at Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater, pays tribute to the company’s extraordinary repertory, with 29 performances of ballets by founding choreographers Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.

One of the world’s foremost dance companies, the New York City Ballet was founded in 1948 by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein, both of whom shaped the history of 20th-century dance.  With approximately 90 dancers, today the company is the largest dance organization in America.  It has an active repertory of more than 150 works, principally choreographed by Balanchine, Robbins, and Martins.  Currently under the artistic direction of Ballet Master in Chief Martins, New York City Ballet remains dedicated to the preservation of Balanchine’s ideals.

Martins found inspiration for the Architecture of Dance festival in New York City Ballet’s roots and in its history of extraordinary commitment to new work.  Beginning with Stravinsky’s Orpheus in 1948, Balanchine, Kirstein, and Martins have commissioned more than 30 scores, including works by Paul Hindemith, Leonard Bernstein, Hershey Kay, Georges Auric, Michael Torke, Charles Wuorinen, John Adams, Richard Danielpour, James MacMillan, and Bright Sheng.  As Martins explains:

“The impetus for this festival was the 50th anniversary of Lincoln Center.  Since all the constituents were asked to do something in honor of this occasion I started to think about what really distinguishes New York City Ballet from the other constituents on the plaza, and that is our history of commissioning and creating new work.  I took this lead from Balanchine and want to continue that tradition of creating, as it’s the engine of this company.  It drives everything.”

The four new scores commissioned for the festival represent as many nations, and this was, as Martins relates, deliberate:

“The original idea was to have a number of world premieres: different choreographers with as many commissioned musical scores as possible.  I wanted the festival to be international, so I thought to pair French and French, Spanish and Spanish, etc., and this idea remains in several of the seven final commissions.”

Thus Italian composer Bruno Moretti worked with Italian choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti, his long-time collaborator; French composer and organist Thierry Escaich worked with his fellow countryman Benjamin Millepied; American teen prodigy Jay Greenberg created a score for his compatriot Melissa Barak’s ballet; and the legendary Finnish composer/conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen composed his Violin Concerto for the world premiere by fellow Scandinavian Peter Martins, who is Danish.

A fifth new ballet features music by another living composer: British sensation Thomas Adès, whose recent violin concerto Concentric Paths is now coupled with choreography – by Wayne McGregor, resident choreographer of London’s Royal Ballet – for the first time.  The remaining new ballets pair the music of Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera with choreography by British-born Christopher Wheeldon, and that of French Romantic Édouard Lalo with choreography by Alexei Ratmansky, former artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet.

In keeping with the festival’s architectural theme, five of the new ballets – all four of those set to commissioned scores (Bigonzetti/Moretti, Millepied/Escaich, Barak/Greenberg, Martins/Salonen, and the new ballet by Wheeldon – feature scenic designs by leading architect Santiago Calatrava.  Best known for his dazzling public projects, such as bridges, stadiums, and train stations, Calatrava is currently designing the new transit hub at the World Trade Center site in lower Manhattan.  Architecture of Dance marks the first time he has designed for the theater.

Except where otherwise noted, all of the new ballets will be conducted by New York City Ballet’s Music Director, Fayçal Karoui.  One of France’s leading young conductors, Karoui is also the Music Director of the Orchestre Philharmonique de Pau, a position he has held since 2001; there his repertory ranges from classical and Romantic symphonic works to new works by contemporary composers. Appointed to that post when he was just 30 years old, Karoui had been awarded a number of prestigious conducting prizes in his native France, and served as an assistant to Michael Plasson at the Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse.

Karoui made his NYCB debut as a guest conductor in January 2006 with Martins’ full-length production of Swan Lake, and he was selected to become the company’s fifth Music Director later that year.  Since his appointment, Karoui has worked closely with Martins on all aspects of NYCB’s musical repertory, including the creation of Martins’ new full-length production of Romeo + Juliet in 2007, as well as a major revival of Robbins’ Les Noces, to Stravinsky’s monumental score, in 2008.  Karoui has also conducted much of the company’s landmark Balanchine and Robbins repertory, as well as numerous contemporary scores that Martins has been instrumental in bringing to the NYCB repertory.  Reviewing a performance of Balanchine’s full-length Jewels, the New York Times said, “Conductor Fayçal Karoui provided firm tempos and clear orchestral playing, so that the music…was central to the experience.”


Architecture of Dance: the seven world-premiere ballets


Commissioned score by Thierry Escaich; new ballet by Benjamin Millepied
World premiere: Thursday, April 29 at 7pm
additional performances: Sat, May 22 at 2pm and 8pm; Wed, May 26 at 7:30pm; Thurs, May 27 at 8pm; Thurs, June 3 at 8pm

French composer and organist Thierry Escaich is currently the composer in residence for the Orchestre National de Lyon.  Although he has composed more than 100 works, many for organ, and won numerous awards, including first prize at the International George Enescu Composition Competition, the NYCB commission marks the first time that Escaich has written a ballet.

Benjamin Millepied, a native of Bordeaux, France, is a principal dancer with NYCB, as well as a choreographer who has created works for American Ballet Theatre, Paris Opera Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Mikhail Baryshnikov, and Grand Théatre de Genève, among others.  The new ballet will be his second work for the company, and will feature designs by Calatrava.


Score by Édouard Lalo; new ballet by Alexei Ratmansky
World premiere: Thursday, April 29 at 7pm
additional performances: Wed, May 5 at 7:30pm; Sat, May 8 at 8pm; Sun, May 9 at 3pm; Wed, May 12 at 7:30pm

French Romantic composer Édouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known for his orchestral music, especially his beloved violin concerto titled Symphonie espagnole.  Written in 1881, Namouna is his only ballet; although hailed by Debussy as a “masterpiece,” it received harsh criticism after its Paris Opera premiere, and fell into long disuse.  It was only in 2002 that David Robertson’s recording with the Monte Carlo Philharmonic finally helped rekindle interest in the unjustly neglected rarity.  For the New York City Ballet revival, 16 of Namouna’s 21 original numbers will be performed.

Born in St. Petersburg in Russia, and trained at the Bolshoi Ballet School, Alexei Ratmansky is one of the world’s leading choreographers.  Currently serving as artist-in-residence at American Ballet Theatre, he is the former artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet.  As a choreographer he has also worked with companies including the Mariinsky Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet, and has previously created two works for NYCB: Russian Seasons (2006) and Concerto DSCH (2008).


Score by Thomas Adès; new ballet by Wayne McGregor
World premiere: Friday, May 14 at 8pm
additional performances: Sat, May 15 at 8pm; Tues, May 18 at 7:30pm; Thurs, May 20 at 8pm; Fri, May 21 at 8pm

Renowned as both composer and performer, Britain’s Thomas Adès works regularly with the world’s leading orchestras, opera companies, and festivals.  In September 2005 he directed violinist Anthony Marwood and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe in premiere performances of his violin concerto, Concentric Paths, at the Berliner Festspiele and at London’s BBC Proms.  An EMI disc of the work, with the same forces, was just issued on March 23.  Now the New York City Ballet presents Concentric Paths with choreography for the first time, with NYCB co-concertmaster Kurt Nikkanen as soloist.

British choreographer Wayne McGregor was appointed resident choreographer of London’s Royal Ballet in December 2006, and is also the artistic director of Wayne McGregor/Random Dance, a resident company of London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre.  The new ballet will be McGregor’s first work for NYCB, and will also mark the first time that he has created an original piece for an American company.


Score by Alberto Ginastera; new ballet by Christopher Wheeldon
World premiere: Saturday, May 29 at 8pm
additional performances: Tues, June 1 at 7:30pm; Fri, June 4 at 8pm; Sun, June 6 at 3pm; Fri, June 11 at 8pm

Born in Buenos Aires in 1916, Alberto Ginastera is widely regarded as one of the most important and original South American composers of the last century.  His composing career consists of three creative periods, the first being what he called “Objective Nationalism,” in which he incorporated Argentinean folk songs and melodies into his works.  The most famous work from this period was his ballet Estancia (1941), a four-movement suite about life on a cattle ranch, commissioned by NYCB co-founder Lincoln Kirstein, who hoped that Balanchine would choreograph the score.

However, it is only now, nearly 70 years later, that the score enters the repertory of the New York City Ballet. A former dancer and resident choreographer for NYCB, British-born Christopher Wheeldon has created more than 20 previous works for the company, as well as choreographing works for companies including the Bolshoi Ballet, the Royal Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet.  The new commission is the fifth ballet to feature scenic design by Calatrava, and will be conducted by NYCB Orchestra conductor Clotilde Otranto.


Commissioned score by Jay Greenberg; new ballet by Melissa Barak
World premiere: Saturday, June 5 at 8pm
additional performances: Wed, June 9 at 7:30pm; Sun, June 13 at 3pm; Thurs, June 24 at 8pm

American prodigy Jay Greenberg’s work first became known in 2004 when – at just 13 – he was featured on a 60 Minutes segment.  Artists who have since performed his music include Joshua Bell, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, and the Pittsburgh Symphony.  The London Symphony Orchestra’s recording of his Fifth Symphony was released by Sony Classical, with which Greenberg is the youngest composer ever to sign an exclusive contract.  The new commission will be his first ballet.

An equally youthful talent, Melissa Barak at 22 became the youngest choreographer ever commissioned by New York City Ballet.  Currently a member of the Los Angeles Ballet, Barak is a former NYCB dancer, and has previously created If By Chance (2002) and A Simple Symphony (2009) for the company.  The production features scenic design by Calatrava and costumes by famed fashion designer Gilles Mendel of J. Mendel.


Commissioned score by Bruno Moretti; new ballet by Mauro Bigonzetti
World premiere: Thursday, June 10 at 8pm
additional performances: Sat, June 12 at 2pm and 8pm; Fri, June 18 at 8pm; Sat, June 19 at 2pm

Italian composer Bruno Moretti specializes in ballet music, although he is also a veteran of stage and screen.  He met his long-time collaborator, choreographer Mauro Bigonzetti, when the two were colleagues at the Rome Opera Ballet, working as pianist and dancer respectively.  Their partnership has produced numerous ballets, of which this will be the fourth for New York City Ballet alone.  Moretti’s score for the most recent of these collaborations for the company was pronounced “effective and evocative” by the New York Times.

The former Artistic Director of Italy’s Aterballeto, where he is now principal choreographer, Mauro Bigonzetti has choreographed three works for NYCB –Vespro (2002), In Vento (2006), and Oltremare (2008) – all to music by Moretti.  The new ballet is one of those to feature Calatrava’s scenic designs.


Commissioned score by Esa-Pekka Salonen; new ballet by Peter Martins
World premiere: Tuesday, June 22 at 7:30pm
Additional performances: Wed, June 23 at 7:30pm; Sat, June 26 at 2pm and 8pm

Finland’s Esa-Pekka Salonen is internationally recognized as both composer and conductor, and has won major international awards in both capacities, including France’s Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres.  The new ballet score is a violin concerto co-commissioned by NYCB, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where it premiered in April.  Performing the violin solo for the premiere was Canadian virtuoso Leila Josefowicz, for whom the concerto was written.  The premiere was rapturously received, and Mark Swed described it in the Los Angeles Times as “pure, euphoric poetry with a singular sound and voice.”  For all performances of the new ballet, Salonen himself will conduct the NYCB Orchestra with Josefowicz as soloist once again.

Danish-born Peter Martins began his association with New York City Ballet in 1967, performing as a guest artist for three years before joining the company as a Principal Dancer in 1970.  He began his career as a choreographer in 1977 with Calcium Light Night, set to music by Charles Ives.  Primarily for NYCB, Martins has since created more than 80 ballets, set to music by composers as diverse as Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Bernstein, Stravinsky, and Michael Torke.  His new ballet will feature Calatrava’s scenic designs.


Architecture of Dance: the seven world-premiere ballets

Commissioned score by Thierry Escaich
new ballet by Benjamin Millepied
World premiere: Thursday, April 29 at 7pm
Sat, May 22 at 2pm and 8pm
Wed, May 26 at 7:30pm
Thurs, May 27 at 8pm
Thurs, June 3 at 8pm
Score by Édouard Lalo
new ballet by Alexei Ratmansky
World premiere: Thursday, April 29 at 7pm
Wed, May 5 at 7:30pm
Sat, May 8 at 8pm
Sun, May 9 at 3pm
Wed, May 12 at 7:30pm
Score by Thomas Adès
new ballet by Wayne McGregor
World premiere: Friday, May 14 at 8pm
Sat, May 15 at 8pm
Tues, May 18 at 7:30pm
 Thurs, May 20 at 8pm
Fri, May 21 at 8pm

Score by Alberto Ginastera; new ballet by Christopher Wheeldon
World premiere: Saturday, May 29 at 8pm
Tues, June 1 at 7:30pm
Fri, June 4 at 8pm
Sun, June 6 at 3pm
Fri, June 11 at 8pm
Commissioned score by Jay Greenberg
new ballet by Melissa Barak
World premiere: Saturday, June 5 at 8pm
Wed, June 9 at 7:30pm
Sun, June 13 at 3pm
Thurs, June 24 at 8pm
Commissioned score by Bruno Moretti
new ballet by Mauro Bigonzetti
World premiere: Thursday, June 10 at 8pm
Sat, June 12 at 2pm and 8pm
Fri, June 18 at 8pm;
Sat, June 19 at 2pm
Commissioned score by Esa-Pekka Salonen
new ballet by Peter Martins
World premiere: Tuesday, June 22 at 7:30pm
Wed, June 23 at 7:30pm
Sat, June 26 at 2pm and 8pm


Ticket purchases

Subscription tickets for the 2010 spring season are available through the NYCB web site, by mail, and by phone from the NYCB subscription office at 800-580-8730.  Single tickets will be available beginning April 5 through Center Charge at 212-721-6500, through the NYCB web site, and at the theater’s box officeTicket prices range from $15 to $125.

All performances will take place at the David H. Koch Theater, which is located on the Lincoln Center Plaza at Columbus Avenue and 63rd Street.  For general information on tickets for any New York City Ballet performance, call 212-870-5570, or visit

# # #

© 21C Media Group, April 2010

Return to Press Room