NEW YORK -- Where can you catch some dance these days in New York? Actually, where can you NOT? This is high dance season. Both major ballet companies, New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, are deep into their Lincoln Center runs, and a myriad of smaller companies are displaying their stuff.
But for the most avid ballet fans, there's been another special treat at Lincoln Center: the annual School of American Ballet workshop performances, at the Juilliard School's Peter Jay Sharp Theater.
To those unfamiliar with SAB, co-founded by George Balanchine in 1934 to feed his New York City Ballet, this may sound like the unpolished sort of school production you'd go see your niece in. But SAB is the premier ballet school in the nation, and there's nothing unpolished about these shows, which ended Tuesday evening. Not only is there stellar talent on display, but there's always the fun of guessing who'll become tomorrow's stars.
This year, it was especially heartening that one of those future stars was male. Everyone knows that the late, great Balanchine loved his ballerinas. City Ballet, unlike ABT, is still generally better known for its women than its men.
But Silas Farley, a tall and handsome 18-year-old from Charlotte, N.C., commanded the stage at the first workshop performance over the weekend, in Balanchine's "Cortege Hongrois." Farley has elegant lines, a sense of grandeur, a light jump, a pleasing smile, and a way of effortlessly drawing one's attention while not hogging it, either.
Balanchine created "Cortege Hongrois," which mixes ethnic Hungarian dance with classical ballet to the music of Glazounov, as a parting gift in 1973 for one of his stars, Melissa Hayden, when she announced her retirement. It was performed here by 36 dancers, with two main couples – the "character" couple, in boots, and the "classical" couple, Farley and Mikayla Lambert. Lambert's grace and maturity occasionally brought to mind a current NYCB star, Sara Mearns.
Farley has also been, according to SAB, a choreographer since the age of 11, creating ballets for the school's workshops the last two years. He also was one of four dancers awarded this year's Mae L. Wien Awards for outstanding promise – clearly a sign of great things to come for this young man.
Opening the bill was "Twinkliana," a sweet creation by former NYCB faculty member Sean Lavery, who retired last year. Set to Mozart, it featured seven young dancers – six girls and a boy – all from SAB's children's and intermediate divisions. The girls were not yet dancing on pointe, though ribbons on their ankles evoked toe shoes.
In the middle was "Les Petits Riens," by Peter Martins, the man who took over from Balanchine, of course, to run City Ballet. The four couples here danced with impressive panache, especially the girls, with quicksilver turns and delicate footwork. In all, it was striking how many high-quality dancers SAB was able to display in one afternoon. The future at City Ballet felt secure.