On The Avenue

NYCB Tells a West Side Story

by Kelly Laffey Photographed by Julie Skarratt, Paul Kolnik and BFA
Thursday, February 8, 2018
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Sharks and Jets put aside their differences on Tuesday afternoon to pay tribute to West Side icon Jerome Roberts at the New York City Ballet Annual Luncheon on Tuesday. The benefit honored Roberts as a part of the Company’s centennial celebration of its co-founding choreographer.


The afternoon began with an awards presentation, as Harrison Coll received the The Janice Levin Dancer Award, an annual honor presented to one of the Company’s most promising corps de ballet dancers. Coll talked about how dancing gave him a home, a family, a voice and a purpose, receiving laughs from the crowd when he began warming up for his forthcoming dances during his speech. “I thought I had missed rehearsal,” he noted of when he received the impromptu phone call alerting him of the award, assuming he was in trouble. “I’m so honored. I have so much respect for the people who have received this award before me.”


Company members performed selections from Robbins’ most iconic pieces, interspersed with a panel discussion led by NYCB Board Member Donna Archer Bommer. Panelists included Tony Award-winning choreographer and director Warren Carlyle, former NYCB Principal Dancer Patricia McBride, former NYCB Soloist and current Ballet Master Jean-Pierre Frohlich and Tony Award-winning Broadway star Chita Rivera, the original Anita in West Side Story. The discussion gave context to the dances before they were performed, as well as insight into Robbins’ life and choreography style. Among his most iconic Broadway works were Fiddler on the Roof and West Side Story, and this spring, NYCB will once again bring West Side Story Suite to the stage.


A luncheon followed inside the David H. Koch Theater Promenade, where artist Jihan Zincirli has installed a massive balloon sculpture comprised of 50,000 whimsical, biodegradable balloons. The work will be up through March 4, with a newly inflated installation coming February 13.


“The luncheon has a great vibe,” said Danielle Taubman, one of the benefit chairmen. “It gives people an opportunity to have a personal experience with the dancers and the program, but in a more casual way.” The event was also co-chaired by Debra Martin Chase, Lauren Duff, Barbara Evans and Pauline Reyniak, all of whom were dressed by event sponsor Max Mara.


The event raised over $630,000 for the Company, particularly its wellness initiatives to support medical needs and injury prevention. 



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