|Carnival of the Animals|
|Premiere||May 14, 2003|
New York State Theater
|Original ballet company||New York City Ballet|
|Setting||American Museum of Natural History|
Carnival of the Animals is a ballet choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon to the Le Carnaval Des Animaux by Saint-Saëns, with narrations written by John Lithgow, costumes and sets designs by Jon Morrell and lighting designed by Natasha Katz. It premiered on May 14, 2003 at the New York State Theater, performed by the New York City Ballet.The ballet is about a little boy who falls asleep at the American Museum of Natural History and dreams of people he knew as animals.
Oliver Pendleton Percy III, a little boy, falls asleep during a visit to the American Museum of Natural History.In his dream, people he knows are transformed to animals, such as his great aunt who is also a former ballerina as the swan, the librarian as a kangaroo who dreams of being a mermaid, his teacher as the lion, and his worried parents as cuckoos. The narrator appears as the school nurse who transforms into a female elephant.
Christopher Wheeldon and John Lithgow met in 2002 when the two worked on the musical Sweet Smell of Success as choreographer and actor respectively. After that, Wheeldon invited Lithgow, who is also an author, to write the narrations and perform in his ballet Carnival of the Animals.When the ballet premiered, Lithgow appeared as the narrator, school nurse and a female elephant. Jon Morrell designed the costumes and sets, and Natasha Katz designed the lighting.
The ballet is set in the American Museum of Natural History, which Wheeldon visits frequently due to its "amazing mix of the grotesque and the wonderful".Wheeldon had said that since the start of the creative process, it was determined that the performers are "people first, then animals", and he "wanted to move away from the clichéd bunny ears and fluffy tails", therefore the animal characteristics are only subtly implied.
Lithgow returned for the New York City Ballet's appearance at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in July 2003,and at the 2005 revival, for which he took time off from the musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to do so. He also appeared in the Houston Ballet and Pennsylvania Ballet productions in 2007 and 2008 respectively. In the 2013 New York City Ballet revival, actor Jack Noseworthy provided the narrations.
Lithgow's children book and accompanying CD of the same name was released in 2004.
The original cast includes Lithgow, appearing as the school nurse and an elephant, and School of American Ballet student P.J. Verhoest, who plays Oliver Pendleton Percy III. The rest of the cast are New York City Ballet dancers, with the principal roles originated by:
The Carnival of the Animals is a humorous musical suite of fourteen movements by the French Romantic composer Camille Saint-Saëns. The work was written for private performance by an ad hoc ensemble of two pianos and other instruments, and lasts around 25 minutes.
The Joffrey Ballet, based in Chicago, Illinois, is a premier dance company. The Joffrey regularly performs classical ballets, including Romeo & Juliet and The Nutcracker, and modern dance pieces. Many choreographers have worked with the Joffrey, including Paul Taylor, Twyla Tharp, George Balanchine, and founders Gerald Arpino and Robert Joffrey. Founded as a touring company in 1956, it was based in New York City until 1995 when it moved to Chicago. The company's headquarters and dance academy are in Joffrey Tower, and it performs its October–May season at the Auditorium Theatre. In 2020 the company will move its performance venue to Chicago's Civic Opera House through an arrangement with the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
The Boston Ballet is an American professional classical ballet company based in Boston, Massachusetts. The company, founded in 1963 by E. Virginia Williams, and Sydney Leonard, was the first professional repertory ballet company in New England. Boston Ballet’s national and international reputation developed under the leadership of Artistic Directors Violette Verdy (1980–1984), Bruce Marks (1985–1997), and Anna-Marie Holmes (1997–2000). Current Artistic Director Mikko Nissinen was selected to lead Boston Ballet in September 2001. Mikko Nissinen leads the company, and there is also Boston Ballet School, the largest ballet school in North America, The Executive Director is Meredith (Max) Hodges.
Joaquín De Luz is a Spanish ballet dancer. He was formerly with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), and a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet (NYCB). He is currently director of Spanish National Dance Company.
Alberta Ballet was founded by Muriel Taylor and Dr. Ruth Carse in 1958 and became a professional company in 1966. The company is a resident company of both the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Edmonton, Alberta and the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary, Alberta and performs its full season in both venues.
Sara Webb was an American professional ballet dancer and a principal dancer with the Houston Ballet (1997–2018).
Damian Woetzel is the 7th President of The Juilliard School.
Christopher Peter Wheeldon OBE is an English international choreographer of contemporary ballet.
Natasha Katz is a lighting designer for the theatre, dance, and opera.
John Arthur Lithgow is an American actor, musician, poet, author, and singer. Lithgow is best known for his work in theater, television, and film.
Wendy Whelan is an American ballet dancer. She was principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and performed with the company for 30 years, and toured in U.S., Europe, and Asia. Whelan has also been an influential guest artist with Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company. In 2019, Whelan was named Associate Artistic Director of New York City Ballet.
Miami City Ballet is an American ballet company based in Miami Beach, Florida, led by artistic director Lourdes Lopez. MCB was founded in 1985 by Toby Lerner Ansin, a Miami philanthropist. Ansin and the founding board hired Edward Villella, former New York City Ballet principal dancer to be the founding artistic director.
Sarah Van Patten is an American ballet dancer. She is currently a principal dancer at San Francisco Ballet. She had previously danced at the Royal Danish Ballet, and was the youngest ever dancer to receive a contract at the company.
Maria Kowroski is an American ballet dancer. She is a principal dancer at the New York City Ballet.
Yvonne Borree is a former principal dancer at New York City Ballet. She was raised in Norfolk, Virginia, where she began her dance studies with the Tidewater Ballet Association at four years of age.
An American in Paris is a one-act ballet choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon, to the eponymous music by George Gershwin, costumes designed by Holly Hynes, sets designed by Adrianne Lobel and lighting designed by Natasha Katz. The ballet premiered on May 4, 2005 at the New York State Theater. Wheeldon later directed and choreographed the musical adaptation of the An American in Paris film.
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a two-act ballet choreographed by George Balanchine to Felix Mendelssohn's music to Shakespeare's play of the same name. In addition to the incidental music, Balanchine incorporated other Mendelssohn works into the ballet, including the Overtures to Athalie, Son and Stranger, and The Fair Melusine, the "String Symphony No. 9 in C minor" and The First Walpurgis Night. A Midsummer Night's Dream, Balanchine's first completely original full-length ballet, premiered at New York City Ballet on 17 January 1962, with Edward Villella in the role of Oberon, Melissa Hayden in the role of Titania, and Arthur Mitchell in the role of Puck. They were joined by Francisco Moncion in the role of Theseus- Duke of Athens. The ballet employs a large children's corps de ballet. Act I tells Shakespeare's familiar story of lovers and fairies while Act II presents a strictly classical dance wedding celebration. The ballet dispenses with Shakespeare's play-within-a-play finale. A Midsummer Night's Dream opened The New York City Ballet's first season at the New York State Theater in April, 1964.
Polyphonia is a one-act ballet choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon to music by György Ligeti, costumes designed by Holly Hynes, and was created for the New York City Ballet. It premiered on January 4, 2001 at the New York State Theater. It is regarded as Wheeldon's breakthrough, and won the Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production in 2003.
The Winter's Tale is a ballet in three acts choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon to a commissioned score by Joby Talbot. The ballet is the play of the same name by William Shakespeare, with scenery and costumes designed by Bob Crowley, lighting designed by Natasha Katz, and special stage effects designed by Daniel Brodie and Basil Twist, it was a co-production of the Royal Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada and was first presented at the Royal Opera House, London, on 10 April 2014. The North American premiere occurred the following year.
Aesha Ash is an American ballet dancer and teacher. She had danced at the New York City Ballet, where she was the only African American woman at the time, then at the Béjart Ballet and Alonzo King LINES Ballet. Following her retirement in 2008, she founded The Swan Dreams Project in 2011, and became the first African American female faculty member at the School of American Ballet in 2020.