New York City Ballet is releasing a series of behind-the-scenes videos. Here the company’s Ballet Master in Chief, Peter Martins, talks proudly of his dancers and all the collaborators who make a performance happen, with backstage glimpses filmed by Nick Bentgen.
We are the largest ballet company in America; we dance more performances in the course of a year than any other ballet company earth; we have close to 200 ballets in our entire repertoire! That requires a tremendous amount of concentration from everybody… Somehow it is a fantastically smooth running machine.
A number of things separates the New York City Ballet, one of the most important things is that the music is always the predominant factor. So with everything we do, music is our guide. The New York City Ballet orchestra is tuned in to playing a repertory that most other symphony orchestras don’t play: they do Stravinsky, they do Schoenberg, they do Webern, so we don’t try and alter the music to accommodate ourselves, and consequently our dancers can dance probably faster than any other dancers in the world. The articulation of movements is so much more precise here than it is elsewhere.
Martins knows that his dancers work hard: morning, class; afternoon, rehearsals; evening, performances.
It’s a very rigorous schedule, but what it does is that the dancers are so versatile they can do anything: they can do the great classics, and they can do all the contemporary works. They are like clay, they love to be choreographed ‘on’ as we say.
We have twelve ballet masters and they prepare the ballets; many of them worked under Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. One of the greatest things about New York City Ballet is that the dancers were all trained at our affiliate school so everyone has the same approach to music, the same approach to movement, they all address energy in a certain way that I don’t see elsewhere. Yes, I’m biased, however I think that it’s conventional wisdom that this is what makes us different.
You know it’s beginning to seem a cliché: ‘the New York City Ballet family’, but we all perform one function which is to further the art-form… we’re all in service to something larger. But it is alive, it is vital, it is not complacent, it’s what you can wish for, only we have it.
See other mini-documentaries by the NYCB here.