On Wednesday 11 October 2023 at sunset, the Empire State Building's Tower Lights will be lit in ‘Balanchine Blue' to mark the 75th Anniversary of New York City Ballet.
Seventy-five years earlier, on 11 October 1948, 21 blocks north of the Empire State Building on West 55th Street at the City Center for Music and Drama, New York City Ballet gave its first performance, which consisted of three ballets – Concerto Barocco, Orpheus, and Symphony in C – choreographed by George Balanchine.
The most influential choreographer of the 20th century transformed created two of New York City's most important cultural institutions – New York City Ballet and The School of American Ballet, both of which he co-founded with Lincoln Kirstein, the writer and arts patron, who was a towering figure in the cultural life of New York City during the 20th century.
‘Balanchine Blue' is also known as ‘Rosenthal Blue' after the late Jean Rosenthal, New York City Ballet's first lighting designer and a pioneer in the world of lighting design, is the signature backdrop colour that accompanies countless ballets choreographed by Balanchine. Works that feature “Balanchine Blue” include Agon, Apollo, Concerto Barocco, The Four Temperaments, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Symphony in C, and Symphony in 3 Movements, among many others.
We are honoured to partner with the Empire State Building – said NYCB Executive Director Katherine Brown – in this momentous anniversary year. The Empire State Building is a beacon of the New York City skyline, and an iconic symbol of the city that New York City Ballet has always called home. It will be a thrill to see the famous Tower Lights lit in our signature ‘Balanchine Blue'.
On 11 October, New York City Ballet will recreate its historic first program at the David H. Koch Theater at the Lincoln Center, its current home. The theatre was built for NYCB and opened as the New York State Theater in 1964.
New York City Ballet's 75th Anniversary Season opened on 19 September 2023 with a week of performances of Balanchine's Jewels, including a moving tribute on opening night with more than 250 alumni dancers joining the Company's current 95 dancers onstage at the close of the performance for a celebratory bow.
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.