Virtual Workshop Performance Celebration
The School of American Ballet’s annual Workshop Performances have been a celebrated rite of passage for some of the most promising ballet students in the nation for the past 55 years and a treasured opportunity for ballet aficionados to spot “the stars of tomorrow”. While the coronavirus pandemic has forced the cancellation of the live Workshop Performances that had originally been scheduled to take place this spring, we are pleased to present a collection of outstanding performances from the past four years. Our special celebration will include commentary and introductions by SAB’s Artistic Director Jonathan Stafford and Chairman of Faculty Kay Mazzo, distinguished alumni Justin Peck and Maria Kowroski, and SAB’s senior faculty member Suki Schorer. This special event will also include the public announcement of the 2020 Mae L. Wien Awards for Outstanding Promise, a distinction awarded to three senior students who show significant potential for high professional achievement.
Agon (pas de deux)
Music by Igor Stravinsky
Choreography by George Balanchine
2019 Workshop Performance
Circus Polka was performed at the 2018 Workshop Performances in celebration of the Jerome Robbins Centennial. The charming ballet for 48 young girls was choreographed by Robbins for New York City Ballet’s 1972 Stravinsky festival to music that George Balanchine had commissioned years before for his “ballet of the elephants” for Ringling Brothers. In 2018, the role of the Ring Master was performed by SAB faculty member Arch Higgins with children ranging in age from 9 to 13 playing his charges. Higgins and his fellow SAB faculty member Dena Abergel, who also serves as New York City Ballet’s Children’s Ballet Master, staged the ballet for Workshop in 2018.
The appearance of In Creases on the Workshop program marked a full circle moment for Justin Peck, who trained at the School as a teenager before starting his career at New York City Ballet. Peck’s journey to becoming one of the dance world’s most acclaimed and in-demand choreographers for ballet, stage, and screen can be traced to his first efforts in dance making while a student for SAB’s 2005 Student Choreography Workshop. In Creases, which premiered in 2012, was Peck’s first work for New York City Ballet. He has since choreographed more than 30 ballets for companies ranging from New York City Ballet to San Francisco Ballet and Paris Opera Ballet. His choreography will take over the big screen in the Steven Spielberg-directed remake of West Side Story in theaters later in 2020. Peck, now the Artistic Advisor and Resident Choreographer of New York City Ballet, returned to SAB in 2018 to oversee the staging of In Creases alongside NYCB ballet master and SAB faculty member Craig Hall, and recounts this experience in a special introduction during the Virtual Workshop Celebration.
The pas de deux from Balanchine’s landmark work Agon was performed at SAB’s 2019 Workshop Performance Benefit in tribute to the legendary SAB alumnus Arthur Mitchell, who died in 2018. Created for Mr. Mitchell and Diana Adams in 1957, this sinuous, acrobatic dance to a commissioned score by Igor Stravinsky had never been performed at Workshop. It was staged by NYCB principal dancers Maria Kowroski and Tyler Angle, both of whom perform the work at New York City Ballet. In her special introduction to the ballet for the Virtual Workshop Celebration, Kowroski recounts her own SAB Workshop experiences, reminisces about her association with Arthur Mitchell, and describes the challenges of teaching this very mature work to SAB’s students. The dancers featured in this performance are Savannah Durham and LaJeromeny Brown. Durham is currently an apprentice at New York City Ballet, and Brown is now a member of NYCB’s corps de ballet.
Until the 2017 Workshop Performances, Scotch Symphony had never been performed by SAB’s students—despite the towering presence of George Balanchine’s ballets in SAB’s Workshop repertoire. Balanchine’s 1952 homage to Scotland was made for legendary ballerina Maria Tallchief during the height of her stardom at New York City Ballet. The principal cast for this performance featured 16-year-old Mira Nadon in Tallchief’s role. Critics hailed Nadon’s Workshop performance as marking the arrival of a major new talent, and after starting her dance career at New York City Ballet, she was named one of 2019’s “Biggest Breakout Stars” by The New York Times. Nadon’s partner in Scotch Symphony, Davide Riccardo, is also now a member of New York City Ballet. SAB faculty members Suki Schorer and Susan Pilarre jointly staged the ballet for the 2017 Workshop, with Ms. Schorer coaching the principal couple and soloist, and Ms. Pilarre overseeing the corps de ballet. In her remarks introducing Scotch Symphony for the Virtual Workshop Performance Celebration, Ms. Schorer, will recount the moment in 1973 when George Balanchine tapped her to prepare his ballets for the Workshop stage, which until that date had never featured his choreography.