Jerome Robbins Festival: Circus Polka, The Concert (or, The Perils of Everybody), and Dances at a Gathering

PNB kicks off the 2018-2019 season with a festival dedicated to the 100-year anniversary of Jerome Robbins’ birth. We wanted to make it BIG, so we’re performing two alternating programs. It’s something we haven’t done in years, and we’re excited to share the experience with our audiences!

Let’s dive a little deeper into Program B, which you can catch on September 22, 27 and 28 at 7:30 PM or September 29 at 2:00 PM. This program features three of Jerome Robbins’ ballets: Circus Polka, The Concert (or, The Perils of Everybody), and Dances at a Gathering.


Circus Polka

Time: 5 minutes
Premiere: 1972 at New York City Ballet
Inspiration: George Balanchine first created Circus Polka on 50 elephants and 50 girls in 1942 for Ringling Brothers. In 1972 (after hundreds of performances of the original), Jerome Robbins re-created it for 48 young female ballet students and a ringmaster.
Themes: Featuring the largest number of dancers onstage in this rep, Circus Polka is a kaleidoscope of movement and a showcase for so many sprouting tiny dancers enrolled at PNB School. At the end of the piece, a floor pattern spells out an anagram, initials, numbers, or whatever else holds significance to the performance. What will it be this time? JR? 100? Come find out!
Why we’re excited about it: Each time PNB presents Circus Polka, we find a local celebrity guest to play the role of the ringmaster. We can’t wait to see who wrangles all 48 cast members this year!


The Concert (or, The Perils of Everybody)

Time: 31 minutes
Premiere: 1956 at New York City Ballet
Inspiration: Have you ever felt your mind drift during a live concert? Has the music inspired imaginary scenes in your head? That’s what Robbins imagined for The Concert: Stragglers enter a live classical performance, each stuck in their own world.
Themes: Said to be the funniest ballet of all time, The Concert is a comic spoof of a classical music concert. It goofs on classical music, classical ballet, and a few charming imperfections of human relationships.
Why we’re excited about it: We’ve seen Sarah Ricard Orza in the studios donning her fuzzy hat, meaning she’ll likely be reprising her role as the Mad Ballerina. This starring role was created on George Balanchine’s wife, Tanaquil Le Clerq, and has been joyously executed through the years by prima ballerinas, including Seattle dance teacher and former NYCB star Stephanie Saland.

Stephanie’s tip for ballerinas taking on the role? “The comedic aspects only work when we do not play to the joke, but believe her thoroughly.”


Dances at a Gathering

Time: 58 minutes
Premiere: 1969 at New York City Ballet
Inspiration: This was Robbins’ first ballet after a 12-year stint on Broadway, working on such hits as West Side Story, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Funny Girl, and Fiddler on the Roof. You can tell he’d been itching to get back to classical technique; this might be Robbins’ magnum opus.
Themes: Robbins famously called Dances a “revolt from faddism,” a return to Romanticism via Chopin’s lovely music. It’s a joyous piece, and that’s exactly what he was going for. “What’s the matter with celebrating positive things?” he said about Dances.
Why we’re excited about it: Word on the street is that Peter Boal scheduled four performances of Program B (and only three of Program A) because he really wants audiences to see Dances at a Gathering. Stagers from NYCB just wrapped up their work with PNB dancers, and after peeking in the studios for the past few weeks, we can’t wait to see the final product onstage.