An Autumnal Tour de Force

American Ballet Theatre offers short performances long on talent and grace.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock

The fall season at American Ballet Theatre is like a smorgasbord of dance. Each performance combines a few one-act works, 15 to 40 minutes each, giving you a little taste of different musical compositions and choreographers’ styles. (It’s also perfect for those with short attention spans!) Whether you’re a die-hard ballet fan who knows the difference between a plié and a tendu or a newcomer who hasn’t seen anything besides The Nutcracker, we know you’ll be wowed by anything you choose to see this season.

“I love the fall season [at ABT] because there’s an extreme variety of things we get to do, from neoclassical Balanchine to extremely contemporary works,” says James Whiteside, a principal dancer with the company, which is widely regarded as one of the finest in the world. “As someone who appreciates many different styles of dance, I really identify with it. It’s very unusual, and often a mix of some of the ‘greatest hits.’ It’s a great introduction for younger people, young professionals, students—really, anyone who is flirting with ballet but has yet to take the plunge.”

Be on the lookout for world premieres by artist in residence Alexei Ratmansky, as well as choreographers Jessica Lang and Benjamin Millepied. Artistic director Kevin McKenzie says, “I’ve selected works by choreographers working today that extend ABT’s repertoire with fresh ideas on what the art form can say. Alexei Ratmansky, Jessica Lang, and Benjamin Millepied are among the freshest and most innovative voices in dance, and yet they continue to honor the great masters who have come before.”

We don’t yet know the titles of Lang’s and Millepied’s world premieres—gotta love that element of surprise! Ratmansky’s piece, meanwhile, is a collaboration with Russian composer Leonid Desyatnikov, with whom Ratmansky has previously worked. It will feature 12 dancers along with guest soloist Alexei Goribol on the piano. Ratmansky was the talk of the town just this summer, when his ballet Whipped Cream premiered at ABT; The New Yorker‘s Joan Acocella called it “an extravaganza for the eyes and ears” and The New York Times‘s Alastair Macaulay called it “a Candyland triumph.”

Misty Copeland and James Whiteside in Symphonic Variations. Photo: Marty Sohl.

Whiteside also recommends checking out Ratmansky’s Serenade After Plato’s Symposium, which debuted at ABT last year and features colorful contemporary costumes and music by Leonard Bernstein. “It’s an extraordinary showcase, particularly of ABT’s male dancers,” he says.

Another title to look for is Daphnis and Chloé, choreographed by Millepied to music by 20th-century French composer Maurice Ravel. The work is based on a second-century novel by Greek writer Longus. Daphnis and Chloé are lovers who are separated when Chloé is kidnapped by pirates. She must be rescued by divine intervention, so naturally there are nymphs wearing pale, flow-y dresses; there is also an exquisite flute solo. The scenery, by French artist Daniel Buren, consists of minimal geometric shapes in vibrant colors. Critics have called it a classical ballet that feels contemporary.

Why You Should Go: Rather than one long story ballet, ABT’s fall season consists of many one-act works performed in sequence. Some are hits from the past, while others are brand-new and innovative. With world premieres all over the schedule, you may see something that will have the whole world talking!

American Ballet Theatre
David H. Koch Theater
20 Lincoln Center Plaza (at West 62nd Street), Upper West Side
Wednesday, October 18–Sunday, October 29
Tickets start at $25

Spend an evening—or several—with one of the world’s most prestigious dance companies.

Return to our Fall Guide 2017