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SPAC to Host Live, Limited-Capacity ‘On and Off Stage’ Performances by New York City Ballet

The series, which will take place in SPAC's amphitheater from July 14–17, will be in lieu of an upcoming NYCB summer season.

New York City Ballet dancers performing Jerome Robbins' 'The Concert,' which will be part of the upcoming 'On and Off Stage' series. (Rosalie O’Connor)

After the Saratoga Performing Arts Center canceled its entire classical season for the first time in 53 years last year, Saratogians were hoping for a mulligan in 2021. While there’s no word yet on the fate of the Philadelphia Orchestra season, the nonprofit arts organization, in a joint statement with the New York City Ballet (NYCB), announced that the full ballet company would not be returning for its regularly scheduled annual summer residency until July 12–16, 2022, due to ongoing health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, not all is lost. A small group of NYCB dancers and musicians will be making the trip up from the Big Apple to Saratoga Springs in July to present “NYCB On and Off Stage,” an intimate, in-person series, featuring selected excerpts from the company’s repertory of ballets. The series will feature six shows from July 14–17, and feature two special presentations with repeat performances of each at SPAC. All shows will be hosted by a NYCB principal dancer, who will introduce the excerpts and provide insights on each ballet.

The special presentations will follow current COVID guidelines, with all attendees  required to show either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within 72-hours of the event.

“Bringing this group of incomparable artists from New York City Ballet back to SPAC for this intimate presentation marks an emotional and historic moment for us and our community,” says Elizabeth Sobol, president and CEO of SPAC. “Not only are we thrilled to once again see live dance on our stage, but we also have the opportunity to experience highlights from the company’s repertory in a completely fresh and new way for the first time in our 55 years together. Our devoted ballet fans and newcomers alike, will delight in seeing excerpts from Balanchine’s most iconic works and some of the company’s beloved story ballets, alongside unique commentary directly from the NYCB principal dancers.”

NYBC’s On and Off Stage series will comprise two distinct programs for audiences of all ages, including an “All Balanchine” presentation, illuminating the expansive repertory of its founding choreographer, George Balanchine, with excerpts from masterworks like Apollo, The Four Temperaments, Agon, Jewels and Who Cares?. The other program, entitled “Short Stories,” explores narrative ballets such as Firebird, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Western Symphony, Fancy Free and The Concert. The pair of programs will feature an ensemble of 15 NYCB dancers, in costume, performing excerpts from its repertory, with live musical accompaniment provided by pianists from NYCB. Each program will be hosted by a NYCB principal dancer, who will be retiring from the company during the 2021-22 New York season, with Gonzalo Garcia hosting the All Balanchine presentation; and Maria Kowroski, the Short Stories presentation, respectively.

“While we will miss the big, lush productions for which City Ballet is renowned, the safety of the artists, audience members and staff is our greatest priority,” noted Sobol. “When thinking about SPAC and reopening, in addition to considering the audience members in our public spaces, we also have to make certain that the backstage, dressing rooms, rehearsal spaces and stage are all safe. This would not be possible with the complete NYCB organization of nearly 100 dancers, 62 orchestra members in the pit and the many production crew members and staff members backstage, as is necessary for a full-scale NYCB engagement. Bringing this new format to SPAC for 2021 ensures that we will be able to effectively create a safe environment for all. We are grateful to the company for their collaboration and work with us to ensure that City Ballet could have a presence in Saratoga this summer.”

NYCB’s artistic director, Jonathan Stafford, who has been coming to SPAC for more than 20 years with the ballet, said that while “it is very disappointing not to be able to bring the entire company to SPAC this season, I am thrilled that we are able to offer these unique presentations, which will provide Saratoga audiences with an intimate, inside look at some of NYCB’s wonderful artists and repertory.”

The schedule is as follows:
Wednesday, July 14 at 7:30pm – “Short Stories”
Thursday, July 15 at 2pm – “All Balanchine”
Thursday, July 15 at 7:30pm – “Short Stories”
Friday, July 16 at 7:30pm – “All Balanchine”
Saturday, July 17 at 2pm – “Short Stories
Saturday, July 17 at 7:30 pm – “All Balanchine”

Each presentation will last approximately 75 minutes with no intermission. All programs and casting are subject to change.

SPAC members will get first dibs on tickets, depending on membership level, beginning on May 3. Tickets will then be opened up to the public on May 10. Designated pods of two will be allocated and reserved for ticket buyers in the amphitheater, while designed pods of two and four will be available on the SPAC lawn. Amphitheater tickets start at $80 per pod, which seats up to two people. Lawn tickets are available to purchase for $60 for a two-person pod, or $120 for a four-person pod. Single tickets will be extremely limited and available starting at $40 for the amphitheater and $30 for the lawn.

Advance ticket purchases are strongly advised as ticket availability will be limited. If available, tickets will be on sale on the day of, but are subject to an additional fee.

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Will Levith

Will Levith is Editorial Director at Saratoga Living and Capital Region Living magazine. He's a native Saratogian and graduate of Saratoga Springs High School. His work has been published by Esquire, Playboy, Condé Nast Traveler, Men's Health, RealClearLife and many others. He lives in Troy with his wife, Laura, and dog, Esopus.

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