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With Balanchine and Bernstein

A highlight from NOBA's Stars of American Ballet will be the late American choreographer Jerome Robbins’ famous master choreography about the escapades of three footloose sailors on shore leave in Manhattan, Fancy Free (1944), the brilliant precursor to the full-length stage and screen productions of On the Town.

A highlight from NOBA's Stars of American Ballet will be the late American choreographer Jerome Robbins’ famous master choreography about the escapades of three footloose sailors on shore leave in Manhattan, Fancy Free (1944), the brilliant precursor to the full-length stage and screen productions of On the Town. Photo: Christopher Duggan

This Friday night, for one night only, some of the greatest dancers in today’s American dance world will be appearing at the Mahalia Jackson Theater. Stars of American Ballet, a glamorous evening of classical dance, brings to New Orleans a group of dancers hand-picked from the New York City Ballet and the Houston Ballet.

It’s the brain child of New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Daniel Ulbricht, who will perform along with NYCB principal dancers Teresa Reichlen, Amar Ramasar, Sterling Hyltin and Jared Angle, soloists Georgina Pazcoguin and Craig Hall and Houston Ballet principal Connor Walsh and soloist Lauren Strongin.

In a recent phone call before leaving for New Orleans, Daniel Ulbricht recalled how the Stars of American Ballet idea began.

“This all started a long time ago,” he said. “My mother was very ill and couldn’t come see me. So I decided to take a show to her and I fell in love with the process.”

While the group has danced many places, from Mobile to Mongolia, this is the first time they will perform in New Orleans. Designed as a chamber-sized ballet project, Ulbricht’s goal for the company is to bring the highest quality classical ballet to all communities, not only inspiring and entertaining audiences, but also providing master classes, lectures and community outreach programs.

Working with the artistic staff of the New Orleans Ballet Association (NOBA), Daniel worked out the program. “Basically I got to sit with them and kick around some things they were interested in presenting,” he said.

The end result is an evening of varied dance featuring NYCB super star Wendy Whelan, who bid farewell to a long career with NYCB on October 18 in front of a packed house that sold out within minutes. She will dance with Craig Hall.

“The first part of the evening is sort of a tasting menu,” Daniel said. It will include two Balanchine classics, Duo Concertant with music by Igor Stravinsky and The Man I Love, from Who Cares? to music of George and Ira Gershwin. Ulbricht himself will dance Tango, an extraordinary solo piece, with music by Astor Piazzolla.

The second half of the program will be Jerome Robbins beloved master work Fancy Free, about the escapades of three footloose sailors on shore leave in Manhattan. This first collaboration with the then up-and-coming composer Leonard Bernstein is the precursor of the full-length stage and screen productions of On the Town.

A pre-performance talk with director and dancer Daniel Ulbricht will be at 7 p.m. on Mezzanine M2 of the Mahalia Jacskson Theater.

For more information about Stars of the American Ballet or to purchase tickets, visit www.NOBAdance.com

Sharon Litwin is president of NolaVie. Email her at [email protected]