Carnival of the AnimalsMay 9, 2013 to May 12, 2013 Academy of Music
Carnival of the Animals
by Christopher Wheeldon, music by Camille Saint-Saëns
Ballo della Regina
by George Balanchine, music by Giuseppe Verdi
The Four Temperaments
by George Balanchine, music by Paul Hindemith
“There’s one problem with Pennsylvania Ballet’s utterly enchanting Carnival of the Animals: that it’s not longer.”
– City Paper
Let your imagination soar with Christopher Wheeldon’s charming Carnival of the Animals. The story follows the dream of a boy, asleep in the American Museum of Natural History. Wild creatures emerge, and hilarious antics ensue. With witty narration written by Tony-Award winning actor John Lithgow, Carnival unfolds to the well-known Camille Saint-Saëns score. Two Balanchine masterpieces open the evening: the joyous allegro of Ballo della Regina and The Four Temperaments.
Christopher Wheeldon was born in Yeovil, Somerset, England. He began his ballet training when he was eight years old at the East Coker Ballet School. At age 11, Mr. Wheeldon enrolled at The Royal Ballet School where he trained until he was 18. He joined England’s Royal Ballet in 1991, where he danced works by Aston, MacMillan and Balanchine. That same year, he won the Gold Medal at the Prix de Lausanne competition. In 1993, Mr. Wheeldon was invited to become a member of the New York City Ballet’s Corps de Ballet. He was promoted to the rank of Soloist in 1998.
Since joining the New York City Ballet, Mr. Wheeldon has appeared in many of the works in repertory, dancing featured roles in George Balanchine’s Chaconne, Divertimento No. 15, Donizetti Variations, The Four Temperaments, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Nutcracker (“Spanish” & “Candy Cane”), Scotch Symphony; Peter Martin’s The Sleeping Beauty (Europe); and Jerome Robbin’s The Concert, Dances At A Gathering, The Goldberg Variations and 2 & 3 Part Inventions. Mr. Wheeldon originated roles in Robbin’s Brandenburg and West Side Story Suite; Peter Martin’s Reliquary, Swan Lake and Symphonic Dances; Angelin Preljocaj’s La Stravaganza; and Richard Tanner’s Episodes & Sarcasms.
In addition to his dancing, Mr. Wheeldon has choreographed works for Boston Ballet, Carolina Ballet, The Colorado Ballet, Hamburg Ballet, New York City Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, The Royal Ballet, The Royal Ballet School, San Francisco Ballet and the School of American Ballet: the official school of the New York City Ballet. Mr. Wheeldon was one of six choreographers who presented new works as part of The Diamond Project throughout the New York City Ballet’s 1997 spring season. His ballet Slavonic Dances, set to music by Dvorak, had its world premiere in June, 1997. In 1999, he choreographed Scènes De Ballet (Stravinsky) for New York City Ballet’s Stravinsky Festival and School of American Ballet’s Workshop Performances. Mr.Wheeldon’s other choreographic credits include Firebird (Stravinsky) for Boston Ballet in 1999, Sea Pictures (Elgar) for San Francisco Ballet in 2000, Mercurial Manoeuvres (Shostakovich) for New York City Ballet’s spring 2000 Diamond Project, as well as the ballet sequence for the Columbia Pictures feature film Center Stage directed by Nicholas Hytner.
Mr. Wheeldon retired from dancing in the year 2000 to concentrate on his choreographic work. Chosen to be New York City Ballet’s first Artist in Residence, he was named Resident Choreographer in 2001 and went on to create Polyphonia (Ligeti) that premiered January 2001 and Variations Sérieuses (Mendelssohn) in May 2001. For the Hamburg Ballet he created VIII as part of their Benjamin Britten evening in July 2001. Mr. Wheeldon made his Broadway choreographic debut in the musical The Sweet Smell of Success that premiered March 14, 2002. He completed a choreographic cycle to Ligeti music by creating Continuum for the San Francisco Ballet and Morphoses for the New York City Ballet. Mr. Wheeldon’s new works include Tryst to the music of Scottish composer James MacMillan for the Royal Ballet, and for the New York City Ballet – four new works: Carousel (Rodgers), Liturgy (Pärt), Shambards (Mac Millian) and Carnival Of The Animals (Saint-Saëns) with original narration by John Lithgow and soon to be made into a feature film. In 2004, Mr. Wheeldon created his first work for Pennsylvania Ballet, the full-length Swan Lake.
He has been honored by numerous awards for his choreography including: Mae L. Wien Award from the School of American Ballet for choreography (1996), Martin E. Segal Award from Lincoln Center for promising newcomer in choreography (1997), the Brendan Gill Prize by the Municipal Art Society of New York for Mercurial Manoeuvres (2001), the London’s Critic’s Circle Award for best new choreography - Polyphonia (2001), he was honored as a Library Lion by The New York Public Library (2002) and most recently the Lawrence Olivier Award for Polyphonia. Mr.Wheeldon was honored by the Edinburgh International Festival 2003 with a showcase of his work featuring There Where She Loved (Chopin/Weill), Continuum and the premiere Rush (Martinu) presented by the San Francisco Ballet.
George Balanchine (1903-1983)
A major artistic figure of the twentieth century, Balanchine revolutionized the look of classical ballet. Taking classicism as his base, he heightened, quickened, expanded, streamlined, and even inverted the fundamentals of the 400-year-old language of academic dance. This had an inestimable influence on the growth of dance in America. Although at first his style seemed particularly suited to the energy and speed of American dancers, especially those he trained, his ballets are now performed by all the major classical ballet companies throughout the world.
Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Balanchine accepted the invitation of American arts patron Lincoln Kirstein to create a ballet company in the United States in 1933. At Balanchine's request, Kirstein was also prepared to support the formation of a ballet school that would eventually rival the long-established academies of Europe.
The School of American Ballet, founded in 1934, was the first product of the Balanchine-Kirstein collaboration. Several ballet companies directed by the partnership were created and dissolved in the years that followed, while Balanchine found other outlets for his choreography. Eventually, with a performance on October 11, 1948, the New York City Ballet was born. Balanchine served as its ballet master and principal choreographer from 1948 until his death in 1983.
Balanchine's more than 400 dance works include Serenade (1934), Concerto Barocco (1941), Le Palais de Cristal, later renamed Symphony in C (1947), Orpheus (1948), The Nutcracker (1954), Agon (1957), Symphony in Three Movements (1972), Stravinsky Violin Concerto (1972), Vienna Waltzes (1977), Ballo della Regina (1978), and Mozartiana (1981). His final ballet, a new version of Stravinsky's Variations for Orchestra, was created in 1982.
He also choreographed for films, operas, revues, and musicals. Among his best-known dances for the stage is Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, originally created for Broadway's On Your Toes (1936). The musical was later made into a movie.
Pennsylvania Ballet was founded 1963 by Balanchine student Barbara Weisberger, and continues to be a company steeped in Balanchine style and repertoire, in addition to being committed to new works that continue to contribute to the vitality of the art form.