The New York City Ballet opened their week long summer residency at The Saratoga Performing Arts Center, Tuesday, July 8. We were in the audience for “Balanchine’s Journey,” four lovely and varied ballets spanning the great choreographer’s career, concluding with the jaunty and romantic music of Gershwin and “Who Cares?” There’s something very special about seeing ballet performed in an open air theater. It’s as if, lacking walls, an expansiveness pervades even the most disciplined of the dancers’ movements. A steady rain fell throughout most of the performance, only adding to the wild, delicious feel of seeing and hearing great dance and music, basically in the woods!
The closing night ballet gala was themed “A Tribute to Great Britain.” The SPAC lawn welcomed the usual tents, candelabra and picnic spreads, with the addition this year of Union Jacks everywhere! There were even a couple of London phone booths and quite a few patrons in go go boots and hip, Sixties, British togs.
Two ballets by British choreographers, Christopher Wheelden and Liam Scarlett, were on the program, which concluded with Balanchine’s colorful, UK tribute, “Union Jack.” Wheelden’s “After the Rain” pas de deux, heart stoppingly beautiful, as it is, was given even more emotionality as it marked Wendy Whelan’s final performance on the SPAC stage before her retirement this fall. Whelan, ever gracious and down to earth, spoke briefly to the audience before the curtain opened on the night. She was treated to a lengthy standing ovation then, and also at the conclusion of her performance, when she was presented with an enormous bouquet of flowers and a huge standing floral arrangement.
Following Union Jack, fireworks exploded the sky to invite all to celebrate late into the night with live music, dancing and more merriment. The 49th New York City Ballet summer season at Saratoga was compact but glowing. With the 50th season once again expanding to two weeks next year, we’re looking forward to even more elegance, tradition, and all around fine entertainment!