The first time the scope of Balanchine’s Stravinsky Festival hit me, it was physical; I recognized it in my dancing body. I was learning the finale of “Divertimento from ‘Le Baiser de la Fée,’” an infrequently performed work I had never seen, and, as if by fairy-kiss magic, I already knew many of the steps. Sweaty and panting on a five, I asked Rosemary Dunleavy, the senior repertory director who was teaching the ballet, why there were so many of the same steps—but out of order—from the Five Couples' dances in “Symphony in Three Movements” (which we performed frequently). She laughed and said, “because they were choreographed the same week! He was running out of time and recycling!” This incident made me realize the whirlwind accomplishments of the 1972 Stravinsky Festival, which premiered twenty new ballets in one week. The New York City Ballet is celebrating the 50th anniversary of that event this season with four different programs honoring the composer. I caught the fourth and final tribute program.
Sterling Hyltin and Andrew Veyette in “Rubies” by George Balanchine. Photograph by Paul Kolnik