The New York City Ballet Comes to The Kennedy Center 3/26-31 & Interview with Dana Jacobson by Carolyn Kelemen

Do I hear a waltz?

A waltz is a waltz is a waltz unless, of course, it’s the New York City Ballet dancing the beautiful Vienna Waltzes this weekend at The Kennedy Center. Then it’s something special! The ballet, first danced in 1977, is more than the usual noteworthy George Balanchine creation. It’s a celebration of dance and a tribute to the grand waltz – imagine a New Year’s Eve Ball at the Vienna Opera House. At one point, the stage is filled with 16 swirling couples, dressed in silks and satins, delighting the audience with the beauty and grace of this classic dance.

Sara Mearns (Odette) and Jared Angle (Prince Siegfried) in 'Swan Lake.' Choreography by George Balanchine  © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Sara Mearns (Odette) and Jared Angle (Prince Siegfried) in ‘Swan Lake.’ Choreography by George Balanchine. © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

A standout among the waltzing dancers in the second program of the too short NYCB engagement at The Kennedy Center’s Opera House is Maryland’s own Dana Jacobson, a stunning 5 feet 9 inches tall ballerina. When she dances (she will perform in five ballets during the company’s six day run), she stretches her arabesques and lengthens her high-flying leaps to look even taller, at least 7 feet from the tips of her toes to the top of her long blond hair.

“I’m excited to be dancing at the Kennedy Center, so close to home,” Jacobson wrote. Following this brief visit in our area, the pretty ballerina will fly to Denmark (home of the NYCB Artistic Director Peter Martins). Then it’s back to Manhattan for the company’s spring season and the American Music Festival April 30-May 19th.

Dana Jacobson. Photo by Emma Fazzuoli.
Dana Jacobson. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

At age 11, Dana Jacobson became serious about dance as a profession and began training at The Washington School of Ballet.

“My parents were very supportive driving back and forth from Glenelg to DC for classes,” she said. “When I had the opportunity to dance in Mary Day’s full-lengthThe Nutcracker, I got my first real glimpse into the kind of life of a dancer.”

A year later, she started rigorous training with Patricia Berrend, a well-respected teacher at The Washington School of Ballet who opened a school in Olney, closer to Jacobson’s Howard County home. She credits Berrend for helping her progress at a faster rate.

“Dana has always been extremely focused and dedicated to her dance,” said Berrend. “At age 14, she was accepted to the Suzanne Farrell program at the Kennedy Center, and from that time on, Dana knew she wanted to be in the New York City Ballet.”

“I was intrigued with Balanchine’s choreography and instantly wanted to be part of that world,” said Jacobson, who joined the company in 2009. “Being tall and long limbed is a challenge to move at the speed that is a trademark of NYCB. But I love that challenge and the fact that there never seems to be a destination, just a path that keeps moving forward.”

Dana Jacobson.
NYCB dancer Dana Jacobson soars in Tchaikovsky Suite No. 3. Photo by Paul Kolnik.

Jacobson follows in the footsteps of local dancers who have leaped into the professional world of classical ballet, and represents the continuation of a connection between the city of Columbia and the New York City Ballet.

In its inaugural 1967 season, Merriweather Post Pavilion was the summer home of the New York City Ballet and Washington’s National Symphony Orchestra. NYCB founding director George Balanchine, himself, helped oversee the building of the stage, which still remains the best sight line for dance in an outdoor venue.

New York City Ballet left Columbia in 1969, nearly a quarter century before Dana Jacobson was born, but not without leaving a legacy. Balanchine’s Diamonds from his Jewels ballet locally debuted here the first season, two summers later Jerome Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering. Now Robbins’ Glass Pieces is slated at the Kennedy Center this weekend with Dana Jacobson dancing in the ensemble.

Balanchine created NYCB as a distinctly American company, forging a new style of movement that shaped 20th century dance. In honor of this history, the company performs two mixed repertory programs. Program A (March 26 & 27th evenings and a March 31st matinee) pays tribute to the composer Tschaikovsky in Balanchine’s rendition of Swan Lake, Allegro Brillante and Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3.  Program B highlights Christopher Wheeldon’s lovely (sweeping with waltzes) Carousel (A Dance) and the aforementioned Glass Pieces and Vienna Waltzes. Sigh!

 Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette in George Balanchine's 'Allegro Brillante.' Photo by Paul Kolnik.
Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette in George Balanchine’s ‘Allegro Brillante.’ Photo by Paul Kolnik.

The New York City Ballet performs at the Kennedy Center’s Opera House Tuesday through Sunday, March 26-31, 2013. Tickets can be found online as low as $25. Call 800-444-1324 or purchase tickets online. As part of the Kennedy Center’s ongoing education program, Performance Plus, there will be a free post-performance discussion with members of NYCB following the matinee on Saturday, March 30th.

Other related NYCB at the Kennedy Center events:

Ballet 360°: Walking and Waltzing Dance critic Alexandra Tomalonis uses video of well-known ballets to take us beyond the steps and into the fine craft of making a ballet.

Master Class: New York City Ballet This participatory, intermediate to advanced level class for adults (sorry, no observers allowed) is led by company members from New York City Ballet

Creative Movement with the New York City Ballet This creative movement class for non-dancers is led by New York City Ballet company members.


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