New York City Ballet Celebrates its 75th Anniversary With a Rousing Lineup at SPAC

New York City Ballet will hit the SPAC stage July 9-13 for its annual summer residency—and this year, the dancers’ arrival also marks an opportunity to skip down memory lane. That’s because the world-famous company—founded in 1948 by famed choreographer George Balanchine and impresario Lincoln Kirstein—is celebrating its diamond anniversary.

“Saratoga is going to be a nice culmination of this 75th anniversary year,” says Artistic Director Jonathan Stafford. “We’re going to bring lots of energy. It’s been such a special year for us, and we can’t wait to be up there in front of those great audiences in Saratoga.”

Stafford, who was also a principal dancer and ballet master at the company, joined NYCB in 1998 and has been coming here for almost as long. 

“My wife and I went on our first date in Saratoga,” he says of Brittany Pollack, a NYCB soloist. “So it’s been a special place for us for many years. I’ve gone up to Saratoga every summer since 1999. I have not missed one, including during Covid—my wife and I drove up here to go to all of our favorite spots. We walked around the grounds just so I could keep my streak intact. I love seeing the people who’ve been coming to the ballet for many, many years who I’ve gotten to know. We all have a great love and appreciation for the community here and love reconnecting every year.”

NYCB’s contemporary works feature Justin Peck’s ‘The Times are Racing’ sneaker ballet, among others. (Photography by Erin Baiano)

Dancing outside on the SPAC stage always comes up while chatting with performers, who have in the past reminisced about magical moments such as seeing fireflies while dancing Midsummer Night’s Dream. Stafford, however, falls for the more passionate side of Mother Nature. “I have a memory of performing in a severe thunderstorm and how fun that was because of the drama of the thunder and lightning in the background while we’re doing a dramatic piece on stage. Another time I was dancing Emeralds in Jewels. It was a hot and hazy night, and with the scenery, I felt like I was in the forest—it didn’t feel like that when dancing inside in the theater! It was such a cool experience.”

We’ll see what the weather does this year—the company is bringing back Jewels, plus crowd favorite Swan Lake, Stars and Stripes, Steadfast Tin Soldier, and scenes from Coppélia, which will feature 24 local children. The contemporary program includes the SPAC debut of Gustave le Gray No. 1, the dynamic Red Angels, and Justin Peck’s The Times are Racing.

“I hope people come out and see us, and enjoy one, two, three evenings at the ballet,” Stafford says. “We’re really excited about the programming we’re offering for this special year. And then let’s just hope it’s not too hot!”  

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