A Look Back at our Spring Showcase and Workshop Benefit

SAB students doing an arabesque on the Koch Theater stage - 2021 Workshop Benefit Filming
Advanced students on stage at the David H. Koch Theater. Photo by Erin Baiano

Before our 2020-2021 Winter Term came to a close, our Advanced Division students began polishing variations in their regular daily classes in preparation for a performance opportunity at Damrosch Park at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in collaboration with the Lincoln Center Restart Stages initiative. Additionally, in an effort to give the students a chance to dance on a major dance stage after a year of remote learning, they also performed the variations at the David H Koch Theater—without an audience but captured on film and shared with the performing students, their parents, and attendees of our Workshop Performance Benefit.

After an unprecedented year that included a hybrid of Zoom classes, in-person classes, dancing in masks, and social distancing, these end of the year performances were truly a celebration of all our dancers have accomplished and showed just how dedicated and resilient they’ve been through all the challenges faced in 2020. As they first took the stage at Damrosch Park after patiently waiting through rain delays (an unavoidable reality with outdoor venues) they all appeared right at home, as if they hadn’t spent the majority of the past year taking classes in cramped bedrooms or dark basements. They simply lit up the stage!

One of our evening outdoor Showcase performances at Damrosch Park. Photo by Erin Baiano

Mere hours before their first of three showings at Damrosch Park, the students had a single stage rehearsal, where our faculty members braved the mid-day sun and heat to give the dancers their last-minute notes.

The third performance at Damrosch Park served as our annual Workshop Performance Benefit and also gave SAB the opportunity to honor our outgoing Chairman of the Board of Directors, Barbara M. Vogelstein, as well as announce the student recipients of this year’s Mae L. Wien Award Awards for Outstanding Promise. The School also honored long-time SAB faculty member Jeffrey Middleton with his second Mae L. Wien Award for Distinguished Service. Mr. Middleton joined SAB’s faculty 35 years ago, and he is the architect of our current musical education program for our Intermediate and Advanced students. He retired from teaching at the close of this year’s Winter Term.

With outdoor “pod” seating and snack boxes, the benefit certainly was different from past years, yet it was a hopeful step forward towards our usual Workshop Benefit festivities and a fabulous time was had by all.

SAB Board Vice Chairman Suzanne Allen Redpath on stage with SAB’s leaders and the 2021 Mae L. Wien Award honorees. Photo by Erin Baiano
Advanced students performing an excerpt from Balanchine’s Who Cares? at Damrosch Park. Photo by Erin Baiano; choreography by George Balanchine ©️ The George Balanchine Trust.

For the filming inside the Koch Theater (which featured the added logistical challenge of COVID-19 testing and additional health and safety protocols), students got a taste of what it’s like to perform for a multi-camera shoot on the same stage where New York City Ballet performs.

Our Direct Narrative production team setting up their shot. Photo by Erin Baiano

Many of them had only ever seen the stage as audience members, while others had not been on this stage since performing in George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker® as little kids.

“It was really a full-circle moment for me,” one of our advanced dancers shared. “I know I’ll remember this experience as definitely one of my favorite moments at SAB.”

Advanced students performing a variation from Divertimento No. 15 on stage at the Koch Theater. Photo by Erin Baiano;  choreography by George Balanchine ©️ The George Balanchine Trust.
Advanced students performing the male variation from Tschaikovsky Pas De Deux on stage at the Koch Theater. Photo by Erin Baiano; choreography by George Balanchine ©️ The George Balanchine Trust.

The variations, danced in groups to maximize the number of students we could feature, were mostly works by George Balanchine along with  one ballet excerpt by Jerome Robbins. Perfectly chosen to highlight our students’ training and technique, the variations were rehearsed and staged by members of our faculty, with New York City Ballet’s roster of talented pianists providing live musical accompaniment. Once the music stopped and the director yelled “Cut!”, our dancers took the opportunity to snap some photos in the stunning space.

All in all, our Spring Showcase and Workshop Performance Benefit felt like a triumphant end to a turbulent year, and we are thrilled that our faculty, administrators, supporters, students, and parents were able to share what is sure to be a memorable moment in our School’s history.