When George Balanchine arrived in the U.S. in the early 1930s after leaving Russia and spending nearly 10 years in Europe, it was expected that something amazing might unfold. Not only had the son of a composer excelled at choreography and—having studied music—forged a deep connection between music and dance, he’d been handpicked by an American patron to establish a school that would rival those in Europe.
But the way he revolutionized ballet and influenced 20th-century dance was nothing short of mind-blowing, a merging of the past and future—the old world and the new—that would elevate the discipline into another realm with its feet still planted in tradition. It was as if his first piece written in America, “Serenade,” was some sort of announcement: This is what I’m going to do here.
On November 7 and 8, Nevada Ballet Theatre presents A Balanchine Celebration, which, in addition to “Serenade,” (set to “Serenade for Strings in C” by Tchaikovsky, to whose music Balanchine felt a deep connection) includes “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue” (Rodgers and Hart) and “Who Cares?” (Gershwin).
It’s a program that demonstrates the breadth of the late choreographer’s interests-- “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue,” originally choreographed for the musical comedy, On Your Toes, was the first of Balanchine’s collaborations with Rodgers and Hart. But for Balanchine junkies, the program actually begins 45 minutes prior to the performance with a conversation in the Troesh Theater between Balanchine’s longtime personal assistant, Barbara Horgan, and former New York City Ballet principal dancer Heather Watts, who worked with Balanchine.
Featuring live music by members of the Las Vegas Philharmonic, A Balanchine Celebration stands out from the rest of the season’s lineup. Of the four programs that Nevada Ballet Theatre will present at Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall for its 2015-16 season, three (including The Nutcracker in December) are story ballets, breaking the company’s recent tradition of introducing more contemporary numbers and somewhat avant-garde programming.
Among the lineup is the return of Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet in May, which in 2013 was the first story ballet, aside from Nutcracker, that NBT had presented since Giselle in 2008. The other is a February production of Prokofiev’s Cinderella just in time for Valentine’s Day.
A Balanchine Celebration November 7, 7:30 p.m.; November 8, 2 p.m., $29-$139. Smith Center’s Reynolds Hall, 702-749-2000