New York City is a big place with a big appetite for the arts, but you wouldn’t think that Lincoln Center by itself could accommodate two of the nation’s most prestigious ballet companies peaceably. And yet that is the case: The New York City Ballet (NYCB) is headquartered at the David H. Koch Theater (long known as the New York State Theater) and American Ballet Theater (ABT) at the Metropolitan Opera House. Both are venerable institutions dating back to the 1940s, each with a long list of the dance world’s most stellar names among its alumni. How do they manage to coexist within two adjacent marble temples to the Muses?
Maybe the arrangement works because NYCB settles in for a good long season at home, taking its show on the road for only its summer season at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, while ABT limits its annual tenure at the Met to eight weeks, and the rest of the time brings its offerings to the doorsteps of dance-lovers all across America. ABT likes to brag that it is the only major US cultural institution to do what it does: tour the country performing for more than 600,000 people annually. It has also made more than 30 international tours to 42 countries. The dancers must wear out a lot of toe shoes on that long trek, but it’s a great public service: providing priceless opportunities for the masses to be exposed to the art of ballet at the highest level of mastery – people who might otherwise never get to see anything like it, except on the small screen via PBS. Perhaps that’s why the US Congress in 2006 officially designated ABT “America’s National Ballet Company.”
One of the stops on ABT’s annual rounds for the past couple of years has been the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts on the Bard College campus, and the company is coming back for a third visit this weekend. The program to be presented, in a variety of mixes over four performances, will focus exclusively on dances by the cream of American choreographers that appear in the company’s repertoire, rather than the classic European standbys. That means that mid-Hudson audiences will get a rare chance to see major works of Merce Cunningham, Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp and Martha Clarke and her collaborators Robert Barnett and Felix Blaska. Best of all, the Fisher Center will host a world premiere: Demis Volpi’s latest work, Private Light.
Since 1992, ABT has functioned under the leadership of artistic director Kevin McKenzie. Principal dancers for the Bard engagement will include Herman Cornejo, Marcelo Gomes, Paloma Herrera, Julie Kent, Gillian Murphy, Veronika Part, Xiomara Reyes and Cory Stearns.
ABT will perform on Friday and Saturday, November 4 and 5 at 8 p.m. and on Saturday and Sunday, November 5 and 6 at 2 p.m. Tickets go for $25, $35, $45 and $55. To purchase tickets or view the specific program for each performance, call the Fisher Center box office at (845) 758-9000 or visit fishercenter.bard.edu.