The National Ballet returns to The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. for the 2019/20 season. The company presents two programmes during its week-long appearance: The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude & Approximate Sonata & Petite Mort & Piano Concerto #1 from January 28 to 29, 2020 and The Sleeping Beauty from January 30 to February 2, 2020.
The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude is a short, but fiercely demanding work created by the William Forsythe in 1996 for his Ballet Frankfurt company. Set to the final movement of Schubert’s Ninth Symphony, it demonstrates, as the title suggests, the bracing excitement of pure classical technique, its rigour, focus and speed, and functions as an homage to traditional classical and neo-classical form as perfected by Petipa and Balanchine.
Approximate Sonata 2016 is more subdued Forsythe, a reflective, if no less vigorously athletic, assemblage of intricately shaped and continually surprising pas de deux, set to a hushed, minimalist piano score by Thom Willems.
Jiří Kylián originally created Petite Mort for the 1991 Salzburg Festival to mark the second centenary of the death of Mozart. The work, for six men and six women, is in many ways the quintessence of the great Czech choreographer’s style. Using movements from two of Mozart’s most famous piano concertos, the work masterfully evokes both the intense yearning and the latent eroticism of the music, with the cast dramatizing with both passion and vulnerability the famously ambiguous implications of the work’s title.
Piano Concerto #1 is the final section of Alexei Ratmansky’s magisterial Shostakovich Trilogy, a work that premiered in 2013. The ballet as a whole is an homage to the life and work of the renowned Soviet composer and his ceaseless struggles against the dictates of Stalinist ideology. The final section stands on its own as perhaps the most abstract and hopeful of the three segments, with some of the most dynamic and exuberant choreography Ratmansky has yet created.
Of all the full-length works in the repertoire, perhaps none embodies the unabashed exuberance, grace and technical virtuosity of classical ballet as does The Sleeping Beauty. Since its premiere in St. Petersburg in 1890, with a score by Tchaikovsky and choreography by Marius Petipa, the ballet has remained virtually the definitive expression of the western classical aesthetic in dance, casting a spell over generations of audiences, dancers and choreographers, all of whom have responded to its irresistible blend of strong narrative appeal and showstopping spectacle.
While many choreographers have adapted the ballet to their own purposes and visions over the decades, the version created by Rudolf Nureyev in 1966 stands out as being one of the most technically exciting and richly entertaining. Set on The National Ballet of Canada in 1972, it helped put the then still young company on the international ballet map, changing the fortunes and face of the company forever.
Since then, the ballet, with its natural ebullience and dramatic flair, its combination of consummate artistry and sheer showmanship, has always been an audience favourite. Restaged by Artistic Director Karen Kain in 2006, The Sleeping Beauty is one of the National Ballet’s most treasured works and holds a singular place in the company’s history and the affections of its audience.
“A brief, dazzling showcase of ballet technique that is nailed by its title: it’s all about verticality, virtuosity and precision – plus that frisson of danger as you sense that one wrong foot could bring the whole thing down.” — Bachtrack
“Classical ballet on fast-forward, a torrent of super-quick steps racing against the tempo of Schubert's music.” — Evening Standard
“The most showily balletic work Forsythe ever made.” — The Guardian
“Petite Mort posits sex and death as metaphysical equivalents, with the steel-etched duets. …Kylián’s choreography merges a quivering, slicing ferocity with a baroque vocabulary of entwining, coiling seduction” —The Guardian
“It’s short, sweet, and funny, a real crowd pleaser.” —Critical Dance
“Fascinating, poetic, enigmatic and bittersweet… powerfully charged” —The New York Times
“Extraordinary... Ratmansky is so fluent in the language of ballet that he makes us understand it better” —The Globe and Mail
“NBC’s Sleeping Beauty remains among its most fully accomplished productions.” —Pointe Magazine
“ ★★★★/4 With such dancing this Beauty never slumbers.” —Toronto Star
“dazzling… the National Ballet glitters in this gem of a production.” —The Globe and Mail
The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude
Franz Schubert, Allegro Vivace from Symphony No. 9 in C-Major, D944
Set and Lighting Design:
Lead philanthropic support for The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude is generously provided by Sandra Simpson, an anonymous friend of the National Ballet and The Estate of Douglas Gardner, with additional support from The Producers’ Circle.
Approximate Sonata 2016
Set and Lighting Design:
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Jiří Kylián, Joop Caboort (Realisation)
Piano Concerto #1
Lead philanthropic support for Piano Concerto #1 is provided by an anonymous friend of the National Ballet and The Producers’ Circle.
The Producers’ Circle: Gail & Mark Appel, John & Claudine Bailey, Inger Bartlett & Marshal Stearns, Gail Drummond & Bob Dorrance, The Thor E. and Nicole Eaton Family Charitable Foundation, Sandra Faire & Ivan Fecan, Kevin & Roger Garland, Ira Gluskin & Maxine Granovsky Gluskin, The William & Nona Heaslip Foundation, Anna McCowan-Johnson & Donald K. Johnson, O.C., Judy Korthals & Peter Irwin, Judith & Robert Lawrie, Mona & Harvey Levenstein, Jerry & Joan Lozinski, The Honourable Margaret Norrie McCain, C.C., Julie Medland, Sandra Pitblado & Jim Pitblado, C.M., Lynda & Jonas Prince, Susan Scace & Arthur Scace, C.M., Q.C., Gerald Sheff & Shanitha Kachan and Noreen Taylor, C.M. & David Staines, C.M., O.Ont.
The Sleeping Beauty
Produced, originally staged and with additional choreography:
Rudolf Nureyev, after Marius Petipa
Karen Kain, C.C.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Set and Costume Design:
The Sleeping Beauty is made possible by generous contributions from Margaret Fleck & Jim Fleck, C.C., The Catherine and Maxwell Meighen Foundation, Sandra Pitblado & Jim Pitblado, C.M., Gretchen Ross and Nancy Pencer & Michael Benjamin.
For more information, and to purchase tickets, please visit The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts website.
This timeless story is magnificently brought to life by the National Ballet's dancers. They relish rich roles like these to connect with audiences, showcase their talents and push themselves to even greater heights.
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