Ballet Connoisseurship

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 was launched in January 2019 as part of the “SAB Open” division and features seminars exploring ballet history, technique, and choreographic masters.

2023 Spring Season

Ballet Connoisseurship is returning this spring 2023! Experience intimate deep-dives into iconic ballets, led by stars of dance. Learn about the history, creation, music, and other behind-the-scenes details of Balanchine’s Divertimento No. 15Episodes, and Scotch Symphony, all of which are part of the New York City Ballet 2022-2023 performance season. Each session is $50. Light refreshments and wine will be served before and after the event. Registration is now open! See below for details and register today.

There will be no live-streaming option for these programs. We cannot wait to welcome you to our studios for intimate in-person sessions. 

Balanchine’s Divertimento No. 15

Divertimento No. 15 at SAB’s 2013 Workshop Performances; Photo by Paul Kolnik

Wednesday, April 19, 2023
7:15-8:45 pm 

with Jonathan Stafford and Debra Austin

Balanchine considered Mozart’s Divertimento No. 15 the finest ever written. To compliment the sparkling score, he created a work of prodigious ingenuity featuring a regal cast of dancers. Jonathan Stafford and Debra Austin danced this ballet at different points in its history, and now they continue to shape its performances through their roles as Artistic Director of New York City Ballet and Ballet Master for Carolina Ballet.

Jonathan Stafford began his ballet training at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. After attending two summer courses at SAB, he enrolled full time in 1997. He joined New York City Ballet in 1999, was promoted to soloist in 2006 and principal dancer in 2007. Mr. Stafford joined SAB’s permanent faculty in 2007 and was named the School’s first Professional Placement Manager in 2015. After retiring from dancing in 2014, Mr. Stafford served as Ballet Master for New York City Ballet. In 2017, he led New York City Ballet’s four-person interim artistic leadership team and was named Artistic Director of both New York City Ballet and the School of American Ballet in February 2019.

Debra Austin received a scholarship to the School of American Ballet when she was 12 years old. Four years later, George Balanchine personally invited her to join New York City Ballet. Praised by The New York Times for her ability to “levitate…and remain suspended in the air,” Ms. Austin danced many principal roles with New York City Ballet in works choreographed by Balanchine, including Symphony in C, Divertimento No. 15, and Ballo della Regina, in which Balanchine created a solo for her.  She later joined the Zurich Ballet in Switzerland, where she danced principal roles (many with Rudolf Nureyev) in works by all of the major choreographers, including Myrtha in Heinz Spoerli’s Giselle. After her return to the United States, she joined Pennsylvania Ballet as a principal dancer under Artistic Director Robert Weiss. She currently serves as the Ballet Master for Carolina Ballet.

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Balanchine’s Episodes

Episodes at New York City Ballet, Photo by Paul Kolnik

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

with Jovani Furlan and Michael Trusnovec

Episodes was created in homage to Anton von Webern’s complete orchestral works. Balanchine invited modern dance titan Martha Graham to choreograph the first section for her company. Balanchine then choreographed the second section for New York City Ballet, with an additional solo for Paul Taylor, who was then a member of the Graham company and later developed his own technique and choreographic identity. Since 1961, NYCB has performed its section alone, without the solo created for Taylor.

In 2020, New York City Ballet principal dancer (then soloist) Jovani Furlan and, as guest artist, former Paul Taylor company member Michael Trusnovec brought the solo back to New York City Ballet. Furlan also performed the solo as a dancer at Miami City Ballet and Trusnovec performed it with the Paul Taylor Dance Company in 2019. In addition to leading a discussion of the full work, both Furlan and Trusnovec will speak to the process of learning and performing this iconic solo, comparing and contrasting the demands of the Taylor technique and Balanchine aesthetic.

Born in Joinville, Brazil, Jovani Furlan started dancing at the age of 11 at The Bolshoi Theater School in Brazil. In 2010 he participated in the International Ballet Competition in Jackson, Mississippi, and was offered a full scholarship to attend the Miami City Ballet School by Edward Villella. Mr. Furlan began his training at the MCB School in 2011 and joined Miami City Ballet in 2012. He was promoted to soloist in 2015 and was named an MCB principal dancer in 2017. In August 2019, Mr. Furlan joined NYCB as a soloist and in February 2022 he was promoted to principal dancer.

Hailed by the New York Times as “one of the world’s most luminous dancers,” Michael Trusnovec grew up dancing on Long Island and earned a BFA in Dance Performance from Southern Methodist University. For over two decades, Michael was a Principal Dancer with the Paul Taylor Dance Company, creating over 25 roles with, and appearing in more than 70 dances choreographed by Mr. Taylor. Additionally, Mr. Trusnovec was Associate Rehearsal Director, was featured in the 2004 PBS Great Performances: Acts of Ardor and the 2013 Paul Taylor in Paris, and served as Director of Worldwide Licensing and as a repetiteur of Mr. Taylor’s dances until 2021. He is currently Co-Director of Dance at The Metropolitan Opera.

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Balanchine’s Scotch Symphony

Scotch Symphony at SAB’s 2017 Workshop Performances; Photo by Paul Kolnik

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

with Katrina Killian and Sterling Hyltin
featuring live demonstrations by students of the School of American Ballet

Scotch Symphony is Balanchine’s homage to the grandeur and freshness of the Scottish highlands, set to Mendelssohn’s early romantic symphony inspired by the composer’s 1829 visit to Scotland. The ballet, featuring brisk footwork and a wistfully romantic pas de deux, held a significant role in Katrina Killian’s career at New York City Ballet. Recently retired New York City Ballet principal dancer Sterling Hyltin will join her in conversation, having performed the ballet several times over her career. SAB students will demonstrate some of the ballet’s most iconic sections to bring Killian’s and Hyltin’s discussion points to life.

Following early ballet study in Pennsylvania with Marcia Dale Weary, Katrina Killian began her SAB training with the 1977 Summer Course and was subsequently enrolled in SAB’s Winter Term from 1979 to 1981. Ms. Killian became a member of the New York City Ballet in 1981 and was promoted to Soloist in 1989. Her repertory included several principal roles in works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and Peter Martins. In 1997, she joined the School of American Ballet as a guest teacher upon retirement from New York City Ballet. She was appointed to the faculty in 1998.

Sterling Hyltin began her dance training at the age of six at the Dallas Metropolitan Ballet. After attending two  Summer Courses at SAB, she enrolled as a full-time student in the fall of 2000. In October 2002, Ms. Hyltin became an apprentice with NYCB, and in June 2003 she joined the Company as a member of the corps de ballet. She was promoted to soloist in March 2006, and in May 2007 she was named a principal dancer.

Ms. Hyltin’s vast repertoire includes principal roles in works by George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Peter Martins, Alexei Ratmansky, and Christopher Wheeldon. Ms. Hyltin was a Teaching Fellow during SAB’s 2014-15 and 2015-16 Winter Terms and joined the School’s permanent faculty in September 2016.

Register for this session now

Register Now

Register now for one or more spring sessions!  Each seminar is $50 each. (Note: the link below will redirect to a ticketing page outside of SAB’s web site.)

Ballet Connoisseurship On Demand

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 our library of 26 previously-recorded Ballet Connoisseurship sessions through Vimeo On Demand. This collection includes sessions from units exploring George Balanchine’s black and white ballets, Jerome Robbins’ unique choreography style, comedy in ballet, contemporary choreographers, and more.

View the full line up on our Ballet Connoisseurship On Demand page.