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Balanchine’s Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 is an ebullient outpouring of classical technique with tiaraed tiers of corps de ballet dancers.
Balanchine first staged Tschaikovsky’s Second Piano Concerto for the American Ballet Caravan in May 1941. Under the sponsorship of the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs under the Roosevelt administration (Nelson A. Rockefeller, coordinator), the Caravan undertook a tour of South America, performing in every country except Paraguay and Bolivia.
It was felt that a classical ballet should be presented, but instead of reviving an existing ballet, Balanchine created a work in the style of Petipa and the Petersburg tradition. The decor, by Mstislav Dobuzhinsky, showed the Neva, with the Peter-Paul Fortress, framed in the Imperial blue and white of the Winter Palace.
Ballet Imperial was revived in 1964 by New York City Ballet with new decor by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, who followed a similar visual approach. In 1973, Balanchine felt that the allusion to Imperial Russia was outmoded, and that the ballet could stand in relation to the music alone. The title was changed, the decor eliminated, the costumes simplified, and some of the pantomime in the second movement altered—but the choreography as a whole remained the same.
For the 2019 Winter Season, NYCB Director of Costumes Marc Happel has redesigned the costumes. Created with the generous support of Swarovski, the costumes and headpieces feature thousands of Swarovski crystals.
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