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Spring Dance Brings Millepied, Ratmansky Premiers: N.Y. Weekend

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Robert Fairchild and Wendy Whelan
Principal dancers Robert Fairchild and Wendy Whelan in the world premiere of "Namouna, A Grand Divertissement" at the David Koch Theater in New York. The work by Alexei Ratmansky is danced to a score by Edouard Lalo. Photographer: Paul Kolnik/NYCB via Bloomberg

May 8 (Bloomberg) -- New York City Ballet has reclaimed Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater from its poor relation, the City Opera.

The message couldn’t have been clearer last week, when a gala crowd filed into what was once the depressing New York State Theater, now transformed by dance nut Koch’s many millions into a welcoming place with comfortable seating, two new aisles and a Valkyrie-sized pit.

Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins smartly seized the moment to push ahead with a premiere-studded season featuring top choreographers, composers, dancers and a star architect, Santiago Calatrava (designer of the winged transportation hub to be built at ground zero).

Not that the company’s two giants, George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, are being snubbed; 29 of the 40 ballets on the schedule are from their repertories.

Opening night featured two world premieres: Benjamin Millepied’s “Why am I not where you are” and Alexei Ratmansky’s “Namouna, A Grand Divertissement.” Five more new works follow.

Here’s our list of highlights, starting with this weekend.

Friday Evening

Tonight is all Robbins, with “2 and 3 Part Inventions,” set to Bach; “Opus 19/The Dreamer,” set to Prokofiev and the enchanting “I’m Old Fashioned,” set to Morton Gould’s variations on Jerome Kern’s tune.

Saturday Matinee

This afternoon, the ballet offers a “Dreamer” sandwich, with Balanchine’s Mozart-inspired “Divertimento No. 15” on one side and his “Symphony in Three Movements” on the other.

Saturday Evening

The “Divertimento” returns Saturday evening, paired with “Namouna.” Ratmansky, who rejected the company’s offer of a residency two years ago, returns in high spirits with the set-less “Namouna,” which proves to be exactly as advertised.

With an Edouard Lalo score that captures a breathless array of quickly shifting moods, “Namouna” has the entire company on its toes in a grand pastiche of styles that Balanchine, Robbins and their spawn made company signatures.

A fancy-free sailor, a bevy of copper-toned bathing beauties and a chorus of Louise Brooks wannabes all make their appearances. Wendy Whelan and Robert Fairchild play push-me-pull-you, along with five other principal dancers. It goes on too long, but what fun.

Sunday Matinee

For Mother’s Day, the Ratmansky is paired with Robbins’s “I’m Old Fashioned.”

Looking Ahead

Calatrava’s elegant set for Millepied’s “Why am I not where you are” reappears on Saturday, May 22. It looks like a glinting, double-arced Slinky. Dancers enter through a mouse hole, urged on by Thierry Esaich’s pounding, pulse-quickening score. There are plenty of chances to see teeny, exquisite Kathryn Morgan looking fretful in white.

June 22 brings a new dance by Martins, set to an Esa-Pekka Salonen violin concerto, for which Calatrava also designed the set.

On May 29 the prodigal Christopher Wheeldon has a world premiere, with music by Alberto Ginastera. Devotees should also take note that the same night, Balanchine’s landmark 1972 “Danses Concertantes” returns, after more than a decade, courtesy of American Express.

Mother’s Day

On Mother’s Day -- or any Sunday -- try the amazing brunch at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s elegant and affordable Nougatine, adjacent to his namesake restaurant at Columbus Circle.

City Ballet’s spring season runs through June 27 at the Koch Theater, Broadway at 63rd Street. Information: +1-212-870-5570; http://www.nycballet.com.

Nougatine is at 1 Central Park West; +1-212-299-3900.

(Jeremy Gerard is an editor and critic for Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer of this column: Jeremy Gerard in New York at jgerard2@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.

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