Ballet Connoisseurship On Demand

SAB’s Ballet Connoisseurship is an educational offering for adults providing seasoned ballet goers, patrons, students, scholars, and newcomers alike with knowledge and perspectives that will enhance their appreciation of ballet. Ballet Connoisseurship features seminars exploring ballet history, technique, and choreographic masters. Throughout Covid, Ballet Connoisseurship sessions were held virtually via Zoom and recorded live. We returned to in-person sessions this past spring, which were streamed live and recorded.

We are pleased to offer access to a library of 26 previously-recorded Ballet Connoisseurship sessions through Vimeo On Demand. Each session is available to rent for $20. And now through the end of the year, you can rent all 26 episodes for only $125! Choose what you’d like to watch, when you’d like to watch it. To complete a rental, you’ll need to create (or login to) a Vimeo account. The process is quick and easy. Be sure to check the box on our Vimeo On Demand page to receive updates, or complete this form to sign up for our mailing list. We’ll let you know when we have new live sessions or more On Demand offerings.

View more information about each one of our On Demand sessions below.

See the Music: Choreographer-Composer Pairings

1. Stravinsky and Balanchine

‘Agon’ choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust; photo by Paul Kolnik

Simon Morrison, a music historian specializing in 20th-century music with a focus on dance, speaks about the unique, long artistic partnership between George Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky. Referencing archival performance footage, Morrison highlights Balanchine’s and Stravinsky’s complimentary implementation of abstraction in their work, and how works like Agon are true masterpieces from both a movement and musical perspective.

Recorded on May 23, 2022.

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2. Bach and Robbins

Photo by Paul Kolnik

Cameron Grant, former solo pianist for the New York City Ballet Orchestra, and Christine Redpath, NYCB Ballet Master and former soloist dancer, speak about Jerome Robbins’ unique use of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music. They take a close look at Goldberg Variations on the heels of New York City Ballet’s performances of this large-scale work.

Recorded on May 16, 2022.

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3. Tschaikovsky and Balanchine

‘Mozartiana’ choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust; photo by Paul Kolnik

Gino Francesconi, former Archivist for Carnegie Hall, and Dena Abergel, former New York City Ballet dancer, SAB faculty, and Children’s Repertory Director, speak about Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky, his music, and some of Balanchine’s choreography to his scores, including George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® and Mozartiana. SAB students demonstrate excerpts of Mozartiana, one of Balanchine’s ballets which, like his production of The Nutcracker, features uniquely sophisticated roles for children. Gino Francesconi offers historical background on Tschaikovsky, including his performances at the opening of Carnegie Hall and how his trip to New York City spurred his composition of the music for The Nutcracker.

Recorded on May 9, 2022.

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Balanchine’s Jewels: Design, Movement, and Music

4. Balanchine’s Jewels: The Music

Jewels choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust; photo of Emeralds by Paul Kolnik, Rubies and Diamonds by Erin Baiano

Andrews Sill, Associate Music Director of New York City Ballet, and Gonzalo Garcia, recently-retired New York City Ballet principal dancer, speak about the music for Jewels and the way each piece, each by a different composer, creates a new atmosphere for each section. They also speak to different dancer interpretations, with Sills providing his take from the orchestra pit and Garcia his perspective as a dancer.

Recorded on April 20, 2022.

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5. Balanchine’s Jewels: The Choreography

Jewels choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust; photo of Emeralds by Paul Kolnik, Rubies and Diamonds by Erin Baiano

Suki Schorer, former New York City Ballet star dancer and SAB faculty member for 50 years, and Daniel Ulbricht, NYCB Principal dancer, take a close look at Balanchine’s choreography for Jewels. Ms. Schorer was in the original cast of Balanchine’s Emeralds and shows patrons how some of that section has changed over the years, using rarely-seen footage of herself and Violette Verdy to illuminate the conversation. SAB students demonstrate excerpts from the ballet.

Recorded on April 13, 2022.

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6. Balanchine’s Jewels: Design and Culture

Jewels choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust; photo of Emeralds by Paul Kolnik, Rubies and Diamonds by Erin Baiano

Marc Happel, Director of Costumes at New York City Ballet, and Olivier Bernier, an art historian and author who has delivered sold-out lectures at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and an array of art institutions across the country, take a close look at the costume and set design for Jewels. This discussion also covers some other ballets where the costumes play a particular importance in the concept as well as costume and design preservation.

Recorded on April 6, 2022.

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Conversations on Choreography

7. Lauren Lovette ​in conversation with Unity Phelan

The Shaded Line photo by Erin Baiano

Choreographer and New York City Ballet Principal dancer Lauren Lovette speak about her choreographic career and inspirations and how she continually balances her work as choreographer and as dancer. NYCB soloist Unity Phelan joins the conversation. Phelan shares a strong creative relationship with Lovette, both as fellow dancer and as a dancer in her works. As Lovette says, “In one studio, you are the clay, and then in another studio, you are the sculptor.” Lovette has created three works for New York City Ballet, For Clara (2016), Not Our Fate (2017), and The Shaded Line (2019), and has also choreographed for the Vail Dance Festival and the American Ballet Theater Studio Company. While she will continue dancing and choreographing, Lovette will be retiring from New York City Ballet this Fall. Her Farewell performance is October 9, 2021.

Recorded on September 1, 2021.

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8. Justin Peck in conversation with Harrison Coll

In Creases photo by Jon Chema

Justin Peck speaks about his work as New York City Ballet Resident Choreographer, creating and setting work on other ballet companies, and choreographing for film. Peck identifies collaboration as an important part of his process; he illuminates how working with other artists has shaped his work. New York City Ballet dancer Harrison Coll also joins the conversation, shedding light on what it is like having danced a broad variety of Justin Peck works. Peck’s newest work for NYCB leads the 2021-22 Season’s New Combinations program, an annual tradition celebrating the anniversary of Founder George Balanchine’s birth date with the premiere of new choreography.

Recorded on August 25, 2021.

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9. Christopher Wheeldon ​in conversation with Craig Hall

After the Rain photo by Paul Kolnik

English choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, in conversation with New York City Ballet master Craig Hall, speaks about his international choreographic career which has brought him, similarly to Mr. Balanchine himself, from ballet to Broadway. Wheeldon began choreographing for New York City Ballet in 1997, while still dancing with the Company. In 2000, he retired from dancing to focus more on his choreography. In addition to working closely with Wheeldon and performing his works as a member of New York City Ballet, Hall danced with Wheeldon’s company MORPHOSES/The Wheeldon Company. NYCB is set to perform Wheeldon’s work throughout the 2021-22 Season, the first of which are performances of the After the Rain Pas de Deux on Opening Night and Ask La Cour Farewell programs (September 21 and October 5, respectively). His latest Broadway production, MJ the Musical, premieres in February 2022.

Recorded on August 24, 2021.

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10. Sidra Bell

pixelation in a wave (Within Wires); photo by Paul Kolnik

Sidra Bell, award-winning choreographer and Artistic Director of Sidra Bell Dance New York, speaks about her career in the dance world, her choreographic voice, and her work for New York City Ballet. Bell is the first Black woman to create original work for New York City Ballet. She choreographed the site-specific work pixilation in a wave (Within Wires) for NYCB’s New Works Festival, the company’s Fall 2020 digital season. Her second work for NYCB premieres as part of the Fall 2021 season.

Recorded on July 21, 2021.

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11. Cunningham’s Summerspace

New York City Ballet rehearsal of Summerspace with Merce Cunningham; photo by Martha Swope © The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

Summerspace was first performed by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company on August 17, 1958 at the American Dance Festival at Connecticut College. On April 14, 1966, Cunningham staged the work on New York City Ballet. In this seminar, we hear from Jean Freebury, Kay Mazzo, and Emilie Gerrity to get multifaceted perspectives on the piece and its history, working with Merce Cunningham, and approaching the Cunningham Technique® as a Balanchine-trained NYCB dancer. Freebury danced with the Merce Cunningham Company from 1992-2003, currently teaches on the faculty of SUNY Purchase and The Juilliard School, and sets Cunningham work. She set Summerspace on New York City Ballet for the company’s 2019 revival of the work. Mazzo, SAB’s Chairman of Faculty and former principal dancer with New York City Ballet, was a member of the original NYCB 1966 Summerspace cast. Gerrity, a Soloist with NYCB, performed a solo in the 2019 performances of Summerspace. NYCB performs Summerspace again in January and February 2022 as part of its ‘New Combinations’ program.

Recorded on July 14, 2021.

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12. Kyle Abraham in conversation with Wendy Whelan

The Runaway photo by Erin Baiano

In this Ballet Connoisseurship event, award-winning choreographer Kyle Abraham sits down with artistic collaborator and New York City Ballet Associate Artistic Director Wendy Whelan to discuss Abraham’s work: his career path and creative drive, his choreography for ballet dancers, his choreographer-dancer collaborations with Whelan, and his work for New York City Ballet. This discussion covers the process, music, and designs for The Runaway, Abraham’s piece for NYCB which premiered at the 2018 Fall Fashion Gala and was recognized as a “Best Dance of 2018” by The New York Times.

Recorded on July 7, 2021.

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Pure Dance

13. Robbins' Other Dances

Other Dances photo by Martha Swope © The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

Jerome Robbins created Other Dances in 1976 for a New York Public Library for the Performing Arts benefit. The pas de deux, set to four mazurkas and a waltz by Chopin, was specifically crafted to display Mikhail Baryshnikov and Natalia Makarova’s legendary technique and artistry. Adrian Danchig-Waring, New York City Ballet principal dancer and former Jerome Robbins Dance Research Fellow, explores the ballet in conversation with former New York City Ballet star Patricia McBride. Other Dances is part of New York City Ballet’s Fall 2021 Season.

Recorded on March 31, 2021.

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14. Balanchine's Chaconne

Chaconne choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust; photo by Paul Kolnik

A chaconne is a dance, built on a short phrase in the bass, that was often used by composers of the 17th and 18th centuries to end an opera in a festive mood. While having roots in earlier opera productions, Chaconne is pure dance. The opening pas de deux and following ensemble are lyrical and flowing. The second part has the spirit of a court entertainment, with formal divertissements, bravura roles for the principal dancers, and, of course, a concluding chaconne. New York City Ballet principal dancer Russell Janzen and dancer writer and former New York City Ballet dancer Faye Arthurs speak about the ballet’s history, choreography, and their experiences performing it. Chaconne is part of New York City Ballet’s Fall 2021 Season.

Recorded on March 24, 2021.

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15. Balanchine's Walpurgisnacht Ballet

Walpurgisnacht Ballet choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust; photo by Paul Kolnik

In 1925, Balanchine choreographed dances for a production of Gounod’s Faust given by the Opéra de Monte-Carlo; they were danced by Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Walpurgisnacht Ballet was choreographed for a 1975 production of Faust by the Théâtre National de l’Opéra, danced by the Paris Opéra Ballet. The 1980 New York City Ballet premiere was the first presentation of the choreography as an independent work. James Steichen, music scholar and author of Balanchine and Kirstein’s American Enterprise, and former New York City Ballet star Kyra Nichols speak about this ballet, the opera production for which it was originally created, and Gounod’s score. Walpurgisnacht Ballet is part of New York City Ballet’s Winter 2022 Season.

Recorded on March 17, 2021.

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Dance and the Visual Arts

16. When Design and Dance Fly Together: Artistic Collaborations & Inspirations of Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and the Ballet Firebird

Firebird choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust; photo by Paul Kolnik

Diaghilev, Fokine, Balanchine, Matisse, Golovin, Chagall, Bakst, Karinska…there are so many legendary artists whose work has been deeply influenced by Diaghilev’s productions for The Ballets Russes. In this presentation, Olivier Bernier, art historian and lecturer, explores how ballet informs art and design in both the era of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes and today. Maria Kowroski, New York City Ballet principal dancer who has danced the title role in Firebird for many seasons, talks about the the look and choreography of Balanchine’s production of this ballet which was originally produced by Diaghilev with choreography by Fokine.

Recorded on March 10, 2021.

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17. Creating Dance for Film

Photo by Emily Kikta and Peter Walker

Perhaps today more than ever, dance is being produced for film. What is or could be different about making dance for the stage versus making dance for film? This event explores these concepts with Emily Kikta and Peter Walker, New York City Ballet dancers and choreographers who have focused their choreographic careers and research around dance for film, and Ezra Hurwitz, film director and choreographer who recently produced the work for the NYCB Fall 2020 Digital Season.

Recorded on March 3, 2021.

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18. Ballet in Hollywood

Photos: Center Stage by Columbia/Photofest © Columbia Pictures, Red Sparrow and Black Swan © Disney, The Turning Point © Disney/20th Century Fox, Courtesy Kurt Froman (main image)

Kurt Froman, former New York City Ballet dancer and ballet coach for movie, television, and Broadway, explores the representation of ballet in major motion pictures. He speaks about common themes in ballet’s representation on the big screen, from The Red Shoes to The Goldwyn Follies, Howling III to Black Swan and Red Sparrow. Froman also speaks about coaching Natalie Portman for the 2010 film Black Swan and Jennifer Lawrence for the 2018 film Red Sparrow, staging the movement for their dance doubles, and more.

Recorded on February 24, 2021.

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Comedy in Ballet

19. Robbins’ The Concert (Or, the Perils of Everybody)

Photo by Paul Kolnik

Jerome Robbins’ The Concert (Or, the Perils of Everybody) is a one-of-a-kind comedic ballet portraying a cast of quirky characters at a piano recital. Chopin’s music sets the scene for the laugh-out-loud antics as the recital attendees lose themselves in the music. New York City Ballet principal dancer and SAB faculty member Sterling Hyltin and former New York City Ballet principal Stephanie Saland talk about portraying the “mad ballerina” in this ballet. Saland also shares insights from working with Jerome Robbins directly.

Recorded on October 7, 2020.

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20. Balanchine's Le Bougeouis Gentilhomme, Bourrée Fantasque, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Bourrée Fantasque choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust; photo by Paul Kolnik

This event explores two lesser-known Balanchine ballets, along with a fan favorite. In Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, the romantic adventures and comic misadventures of Cléonte, Moliére’s 17th century dancing master, provide the impetus for this elaborately costumed ballet set in a fashionable Parisian mansion. The ballet was created for a 1979 New York City Opera production, featuring Rudolph Nureyev alongside New York City Ballet dancers, including Patricia McBride. With Bourrée Fantasque, Balanchine puts his wit and encyclopedic knowledge of dance forms on display. The ballet takes comic aim at many of the conventions that typify the classical dance while providing glimpses of such popular dances such as the can-can and tang.

Patricia McBride speaks about Le Bougeouis Gentilhomme, and former New York City Ballet soloist and SAB faculty member Susan Pilarre speaks about Bourrée Fantasque. They also discuss Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, set to the beautiful music of Felix Mendelssohn, which premiered in 1962. This delightful work was the first wholly original evening-length ballet Balanchine choreographed in America.

Recorded on September 30, 2020.

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21. Balanchine's Coppélia

Coppélia choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust; photo by Paul Kolnik

Coppélia is considered one of the greatest comic ballets of the 19th Century and has remained one of the best-loved classical works in the ballet repertory. Originally choreographed by Arthur St. Léon in 1870, restaged by Petipa in 1884, and revised by Cecchetti in 1894, it has been performed regularly since then. None of St. Léon’s original choreography remains in today’s productions, and although Acts I and II have retained his ideas and story, the nature of some of the roles has changed. New York City Ballet’s version was staged by Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova — who was considered a definitive Swanilda.

In this Ballet Connoisseurship event, former NYCB dancer and dance educator and scholar Silas Farley leads us through the history of the ballet, and Patricia McBride, Balanchine’s original Swanilda, illuminates the staging process and the nuances of bringing the delightful characters of the ballet to life.

Recorded on September 23, 2020.

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Celebrating NYC, Jerome Robbins Style

22. Robbins' West Side Story

Photo by Paul Kolnik

West Side Story took Broadway by storm in 1957, when it ushered in a new era in musical theater. Jerome Robbins had the idea to update Romeo and Juliet, setting it in modern-day New York, and he engaged composer Leonard Bernstein, playwright Arthur Laurents, and lyricist Stephen Sondheim as collaborators. The musical played for two years on Broadway, then toured the U.S. and ran for nearly three years in London, and has since been staged in cities around the world. The movie followed in 1961, winning 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director (for co-directors Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins), as well as a special award presented to Robbins for his choreography.

Actress Nancy Ticotin, one of the guest speakers for this Ballet Connoisseurship event, portrayed the role of Consuela in the 1980 Broadway revival, working with Jerome Robbins directly. In 1995, she guest-starred in the Robbins’ original staging of West Side Story Suite, the version of the work created for New York City Ballet. At the time, this event’s other guest speaker, former New York City Ballet principal dancer Jenifer Ringer, was in the corps of New York City Ballet. Ringer later went on to dance Anita in West Side Story Suite.

Recorded on September 16, 2020.

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23. Robbins' Fancy Free

Photo by Paul Kolnik

Adrian Danchig-Waring, New York City Ballet principal dancer and former research fellow at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Jerome Robbins Dance Division, leads a discussion with Daniel Duell, former New York City Ballet principal dancer and Artistic Director of Ballet Chicago, about Jerome Robbins’ 1944 piece Fancy Free.

Evoking the Great White Way, Fancy Free is the precursor to Broadway’s On the Town, presenting three sailors and their escapades on shore leave in Manhattan. It was Fancy Free that put Robbins on the map as someone who had a clear eye for creating compelling movement, a deft hand at telling a story, and a creative vision that was unique in the world of theater.

Recorded on September 2, 2020.

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Balanchine Black & White

24. Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco

Concerto Barocco choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust; photo by Paul Kolnik

We take an in-depth look at Concerto Barocco, one of George Balanchine’s early ballets, with former New York City Ballet dancer and dance writer Faye Arthurs. Ms. Arthurs was a senior dancer in the New York City Ballet corps de ballet, and Concerto Barocco is exceptional in the way that it challenges and utilizes its 8-woman corps as much as its principal roles.

Recorded on May 6, 2020.

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25. Balanchine's Black and White in the Studio

Apollo choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust; photo by Paul Kolnik

Suki Schorer, Brown Foundation Senior Faculty Chair at SAB and former principal dancer with New York City Ballet, illuminates the technical aspects behind some of Balanchine’s iconic black and white ballets in conversation with Silas Farley, dance history scholar. The discussion includes Ms. Schorer’s personal experiences performing the role of Calliope in Apollo.

Recorded on April 29, 2020.

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26. Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments

The Four Temperaments choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust; photo by Paul Kolnik

Former principal dancer Merrill Ashley and dance history scholar Silas Farley speak about George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, including the work’s history, her experience dancing a principal role in the ballet, and the ideas and coaching Balanchine shared with his dancers in the studio.

Recorded on April 22, 2020.

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Ballet Connoisseurship is made possible in part by a grant from The Pierre and Tana Matisse Foundation.