New York City Ballet choreographers Robert La Fosse, Peter Martins and Christopher Wheeldon found inspiration for dance in the beloved work of Richard Rodgers (Carousel) and his less-performed works (Jumbo, Me and Juliet, Allegro) for the dance company's Nov. 26 opening-night gala.
For one night, the New York State Theatre at Lincoln Center will echo with the waltzes and show music of Rodgers, whose centenary has been celebrated throughout 2002. Rodgers has a unique link to the New York City Ballet Company: During the 1930s, the ballet's co-founder, George Balanchine, created the dances for the Rodgers and Hart musicals, On Your Toes, Babes in Arms, I Married an Angel and The Boys From Syracuse.
Rodgers, more than any other American composer, brought ballet and dance music to a wider public than it had ever known, via his musicals from the 1930s to the 1950s.
Broadway performers Debbie Gravitte (Jerome Robbins' Broadway) and Jonathan Dokuchitz (The Boys From Syracuse) perform with NYCB at the gala.
Martins' work is set to a suite of classic Rodgers tunes. The piece is just a preview of a longer work, set to premiere Jan. 22, 2003. Gravitte and Dokuchitz will perform a medley alongside a jazz trio and a full orchestra. Wheeldon sets his world premiere work to the famous "Waltz" and "Ballet" music from Carousel in an original arrangement by William Brohn (a Tony Award winner for Ragtime).
La Fosse, a former principal dancer for NYCB, has crafted his world premiere dance around music from some of Rodgers' less-performed musicals, Jumbo, By Jupiter, Allegro, Me and Juliet, Pipe Dream and No Strings. La Fosse, who left NYCB this year after 16 years with the company, will also dance a role in his ballet.
Respected Broadway musical director Paul Gemingani will conduct the evening, which features orchestrations by Don Sebesky and set design by Robin Wagner.
Tickets to the benefit are $30-$100. The New York State Theatre is located in Lincoln Center at Broadway and 63rd Street. For reservations, call (212) 307-4100. New York City Ballet is on the web at http://www.nycballet.com.
— By Christine Ehren
and Kenneth Jones