Fearful Symmetries

Choreography by: Peter Martins

Music by: John Adams

Fearful Symmetries is an ever-changing cascade of dancers costumed in vibrant tones of red with a racing score by celebrated American composer John Adams.

Peter Martins has choreographed 11 ballets to the music of the prolific American composer John Adams since creating his first work to the composer’s music, The Chairman Dances, for New York City Ballet’s American Music Festival in 1988. Fearful Symmetries, choreographed in 1990 to the score of the same name, was the second ballet Martins made to music by Adams. The score was commissioned by the Orchestra of St. Luke's, and was first performed at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Hall in October of 1988.

In describing Fearful Symmetries, Adams has said, “It is for sure a seriously aerobic piece, a Pantagruel boogie with a thrusting, grinding beat that governs at least two-thirds of its length. Perhaps partly for this reason, it’s become my most choreographed work, with over a dozen different versions, including those by The Royal Ballet and the New York City Ballet. What appeals to me most about the piece is the timbre: It mixes the weight and bravura of a big band with the glittering, synthetic sheen of techno pop (samples and synthesizer) and the facility and finesse of a symphony orchestra.”


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Fearful Symmetries (1988)
May 3, 1990, New York City Ballet, New York State Theater
Original Cast
Merrill Ashley, Alexandre Proia, Heather Watts, Jock Soto, Margaret Tracey, Jeffrey Edwards

27 Min.
Costumes by
Steven Rubin
Lighting by
Mark Stanley