When George Balanchine Took the Stage at SPAC

The great choreographer George Balanchine not only created the New York City Ballet (NYCB) to rival the great companies in Europe, but he solidified its summer residency at SPAC in 1966. In 1977, he premiered his brand-new blockbuster hit Vienna Waltzes, first in NYC and then at SPAC in front of a packed house that included young ballet student Sue Jeffreys, who was on a date with her gramp, local celeb Joseph Tarantino, Sr. “It was magical,” she says. “When it ended, the audience stood and clapped through countless curtain calls. Finally, Balanchine came on stage with an uproar of even louder clapping.” The evening was one of many beloved NYCB memories for Jeffreys, who would swim at McGregor Country Club all day in July and hit SPAC with Tarantino at night. “My mom would put me in a pretty dress and white patent leather shoes with gloves—the whole thing,” she says. “Gramp would pick me up, and we’d park in the members lot, so it felt special. He would get tickets in the box in the balcony—the same exact one every season. By the time the 1990s came, Gramp was getting on in years and I was pregnant with my first child. During the performance, my son kicked me in my tummy as the music came on. It was the first time I had felt that, and my last memory of being at the ballet with my gramp.” Now a member of SPAC, Jeffreys still religiously goes to see NYCB when they’re in town, although nothing could rival the magical night of the Vienna Waltzes debut. “There were tears of joy and tingles,” she says. “We knew we had just experienced greatness.”

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