American Ballet Theatre marks 75 years with the premiere of its sumptuous new Sleeping Beauty in… drumroll, please…Orange County.
Turn out! The pièce de résistance of ABT’s diamond jubilee will be the longawaited production of The Sleeping Beauty at Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center for the Arts in March.
In the world of ballet, youth reigns supreme. But for its 75th anniversary, American Ballet Theatre is rejoicing in its advanced age with a yearlong celebration. Taking its role as “America’s national ballet company” to heart, the organization is fêting its birthday with bicoastal performances, multimedia retrospectives, and a diamond anniversary gala.
The celebration kicked off last October in New York City with a program highlighting what ABT Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie describes as “seminal works that gave us our identity as ‘ballet theatre’”— Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free and Antony Tudor’s Jardin aux Lilas. The schedule also included newer works from 21st-century choreographers like Liam Scarlett, The Royal Ballet’s artist-in-residence, who premiered With a Chance of Rain on October 24.
Since then, an exhibit titled “American Ballet Theatre: Touring the globe for 75 years” traveled from the Library of Congress to the Walt Disney Concert hall, where it will be on view from March until August. and, of course, the Metropolitan Opera house’s star-studded annual gala will take place on May 18
But lucky for Californians, the pièce de résistance of the diamond jubilee happens on ABT’s West Coast pirouetting grounds—Costa Mesa’s Segerstrom Center for the arts. On March 3, ABT artist-in-Residence Alexei Ratmansky will present an all-new, full-length production of The Sleeping Beauty. “It is an iconic ballet of the classical canon that ABT has yet to claim as definitive,” says McKenzie. “having the genius of Ratmansky to realize this seemed the right thing at the right time.”
Set to Tchaikovsky’s enduring score, the performance is constructed from notes by choreographer Marius Petipa, the ballet master known as the “father of classical ballet.” The scenery and costumes, designed by Tony award-winning designer Richard hudson, are also influenced by the seminal version of The Sleeping beauty for the Ballets Russes in 1921; they are reconstructions of original designs from Léon Bakst.
The performance is one of many programming highlights in the 27-year relationship between ABT and the Segerstrom Center. From the world premiere of Mikhail Baryshnikov’s Swan Lake in 1988 to the co-commission of Twyla Tharp’s Rabbit and Rogue in 2008, the institutional marriage has been prolific. “[Segerstrom Center] remains very interested in helping us realize new works by providing stage time for technical rehearsals,” McKenzie explains. “The ballet world gets no preview period, so extra time in the theater before an opening is invaluable.”
Segerstrom Center for the Arts will host ABT’s diamond jubilee as part of its ongoing “marriage” with the ballet company.
Segerstrom Center president Terrence W. Dwyer is also proud of the partnership. “We’re bringing new classics into the community,” he says, citing not only Segerstrom’s ABT programming but also the center’s annual Off Center Festival of contemporary dance and its ever changing roster of Broadway musicals. “We want to make sure there is a really rich mix, so the community can experience all sorts of different examples of great performing art.”
In September, Segerstrom Center and ABT will grow their artistic footprint in the community with the launch of the american Ballet Theatre William J. Gillespie School, an on-site ballet school for children ages 3–14. ABT’s first academy outside of Manhattan, the school is named after Bill Gillespie—an ABT board member since 1999, Orange County resident, and visionary dance philanthropist who has also helped create dance scholarships at UC Irvine. almost two years in the making, the academy utilizes ABT’s national teaching curriculum and gives students the ability to attend master classes with the world’s greatest dancers.
For the Segerstrom Center, the Gillespie School is a compliment to the center’s existing community outreach programs, including its performance workshops for Camp Pendleton Marines and their families and the Disney Musicals in Schools program, which brings musical theater into low-income community classrooms.
For ABT, the school is an investment in another 75 years of world-class performance. Says Dwyer: “We’re committing to developing future dancers, master artists, and future audiences.” The Sleeping Beauty runs from March 3–8; tickets from $49. Segerstrom Center for the Arts, 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa, 714-556-2787