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Excerpts of Masterpieces by Balanchine at Lewis Center for the Arts. Former New York City Ballet Stars Heather Watts and Damian Woetzel Host Guest Artists from the New York City Ballet including Principal Dancers Wendy Whelan, Tiler Peck, Teresa Reichlen, Charles Askegard**, Robert Fairchild, Craig Hall and Daniel Ulbricht.


Steve Runk    
Director of Communications
Lewis Center for the Arts

(Princeton, NJ)  As part of the Lewis Center for the Arts’ Performance Central series, Princeton University’s Program in Dance will present Heather Watts and Damian Woetzel, former stars of the New York City Ballet on Monday, December 5 for “Genius UpClose: George Balanchine.”  Watts, a Visiting Lecturer at the university, and Woetzel will discuss the origin and evolution of works by the renowned ballet choreographer including Apollo*, Agon*, Prodigal Son*, and Jewels* among other works.  Excerpts of these ballets will be performed rehearsal-style by leading dancers from the New York City Ballet.  The lecture/performance will be held at 4:30 p.m. in the Roger S. Berlind Theatre, McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton.  The event is free and open to the public.

A major artistic figure of the twentieth century, Balanchine revolutionized the look of classical ballet.  Taking classicism as his base, he heightened, quickened, expanded, and streamlined the fundamentals of the 400-year-old language of academic dance.  His style – along with his founding of the School of American Ballet and New York City Ballet – has had significant influence on the growth of dance around the globe; all major classical ballet companies throughout the world perform his work.

Seven exceptional Guest Principal Dancers from New York City Ballet will perform excerpts from several of Balanchine’s seminal works in a rehearsal setting.  As the rehearsal unfolds, Watts and Woetzel will discuss these works as contextual examples of the balletic revolution Balanchine led.  Guest artists performing in this open rehearsal include: Wendy Whelan, Tiler Peck, Teresa Reichlen, Charles Askegard, Robert Fairchild, Craig Hall and Daniel Ulbricht. The dancers are all major dance stars who perform these ballets regularly at New York City Ballet.  Cameron Grant, principal pianist at New York City Ballet, will accompany the rehearsal on piano.

This lecture/performance is presented in conjunction with a Dance Program course co-created and co-taught this semester by Watts, Class of ’32 Visiting Lecturer, and Senior Lecturer Rebecca Lazier.  Entitled,” George Balanchine Repertory and Choreographic Adaptations,” the course is the first of its kind.  Watts and Lazier have collaborated to develop a new model for teaching dance in a liberal arts setting.  Students are learning excerpts of Balanchine Repertory from the 1920s to 1980s and selected students will perform in the Lewis Center’s Spring Dance Festival on February 24 through 26 at the Roger S. Berlind Theatre.  “This rare opportunity to see a professional rehearsal in action,” notes Lazier, “will heighten and deepen the students’ understanding and appreciation of the musical genius of Balanchine’s work.”

“We are so very fortunate to have international dance artists of the caliber of Heather and Damien working with us this semester at the Lewis Center,” states Susan Marshall, Director of the Program in Dance, adding, “Heather is an amazing teacher.  Having worked so closely with George Balanchine, she has been able to provide extraordinary insight for our students and a rare opportunity to glimpse inside the creative mind of an artistic genius.”

Watts joined New York City Ballet in 1970 and was a Principal Dancer until her retirement in 1995.  Watts worked closely with George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins at New York City Ballet and was an acclaimed international star.  She taught academic courses in 2006 and 2007 on Balanchine’s life and work at Harvard University and received two Derek Bok awards for distinguished teaching.  She has taught master classes worldwide and was the Director of the New York State Summer School of the Arts from 1982 to 1994.  Watts is a contributing cultural editor at Vanity Fair, has served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts, and serves on the Committee for the Kennedy Center Honors.

Woetzel was also a Principal Dancer at New York City Ballet from 1989 until his retirement from the stage in 2008 where he had works created for him by such notables as Jerome Robbins, Eliot Feld, Twyla Tharp, Susan Stroman, and Christopher Wheeldon.  Woetzel frequently performed internationally as a guest performer and was a visiting artist with numerous companies including the Kirov Ballet and American Ballet Theatre.  He has choreographed a number of works for New York City Ballet, among numerous other companies, and is the recipient of a Choo San Goh award for new choreography.  He works with Yo-Yo Ma on his Silk Road Connect program in the New York City Public Schools and is the director of both the Vail International Dance Festival and of Arts Programs at the Aspen Institute.  Woetzel serves on the President’s Committee for the Arts and Humanities, the Committee of the Kennedy Center Honors, and helped create and direct the Jerome Robbins Foundation's New Essential Works Program.

* Choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust
** Charles Askegard retired from New York City Ballet in October 2011

Publicity photo:
Photo caption 1:  New York City Ballet dancers Wendy Whelan and Craig Hall performing “Episodes” choreographed by George Balanchine
Photo credit 1:  Paul Kolnik
Photo caption 2:  Portrait of master choreographer George Balanchine circa 1950
Photo credit 2:  Photographer unknown

The Lewis Center for the Arts is part of a major initiative announced by President Shirley M. Tilghman in 2006 to fully embrace the arts as an essential part of the educational experience for all who study and teach at Princeton University. The Lewis Center for the Arts will have a significant impact on the University and the larger community it serves. The public is welcomed to a full range of lectures, exhibitions, concerts and performances at the Center. Many of the Center’s events are free or charge a nominal admission fee.

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