Who Cares? (ballet)

Last updated

Who Cares?
Erica Pereira and Daniel Ulbricht in Who Cares%3F.jpg
North Carolina Dance Theatre's Anita Pacylowski and Hernan Justo dancing "The Man I Love " in Who Cares?
Choreographer George Balanchine
Music George Gershwin
PremiereFebruary 5, 1970 (1970-02-05)
New York State Theater
Original ballet company New York City Ballet
Design Karinska
Jo Mielziner
Ronald Bates
Genre Neoclassical ballet

Who Cares? is a ballet choreographed by George Balanchine to songs by George Gershwin that were orchestrated by Hershy Kay. The ballet is split in two parts, the first danced by an ensemble, and the second focuses on four principal dancers. Who Cares? premiered on February 5, 1970, at the New York State Theater, danced by the New York City Ballet.



On Who Cares?, original cast member Karin von Aroldingen described, "You think it's so unlike Balanchine, it's so jazzy. One would think he'd just make a jazz ballet out of it, like everyone else, a dance like Broadway, but he put it on pointe – it's sort of like a tap dance on pointe." [1]

The ballet features seventeen songs by Gershwin. The first eight songs are danced by fifteen women and five men. Dance critic Zoe Anderson wrote that this half of the ballet is "staged as a suite of classical dances... with some hoofer steps and showgirl poses." [2] The second half of the ballet focuses on three women and a man. Anderson commented that "the mood turns late-night and more romantic" Each of the dancers has their own solos, and the man dances duets with all three women. [2] This is followed by a quartet, before the full cast returns for the finale. [3]

Music and original cast

SongsDancers [3]
"Strike Up the Band"ensemble
"Sweet and Low Down"ensemble
"Somebody Loves Me"Deborah Flomine, Susan Hendl, Linda Merrill, Susan Pilarre, Bettijane Sills
"Bidin' My Time"Deni Lamont, Robert Maiorano, Frank Ohman, Richard Rapp, Earle Sieveling
"'S Wonderful"Susan Pilarre, Richard Rapp
"That Certain Feeling"Deborah Flomine, Deni Lamont, Bettijane Sills, Earle Sieveling
"Do Do Do"Susan Hendl, Frank Ohman
"Lady Be Good"Linda Merrill, Robert Maiorano
"The Man I Love" Patricia McBride, Jacques d'Amboise
"I'll Build a Stairway to Paradise" Karin von Aroldingen
"Embraceable You"Marnee Morris, Jacques d'Amboise
"Fascinatin' Rhythm"Patricia McBride
"Who Cares?"Karin von Aroldingen, Jacques d'Amboise
"My One and Only"Marnee Morris
"Liza"Jacques d'Amboise
"Clap Yo' Hands"Karin von Aroldingen, Patricia McBride, Marnee Morris, Jacques d'Amboise
"I Got Rhythm"full cast

The rest of the corps de ballet consist of Rosemary Dunleavy, Suzanne Erlon, Elise Flagg, Gloriann Hicks, Deborah Kooligh, Leslie Peck, Christine Redpath, Polly Shelton, Marilee Stiles and Virginia Stuart. [4]


In his book Balanchine's Complete Stories of the Great Ballets, Balanchine wrote that he became familiar with Gershwin's works while he was still living in Europe in the late 1920s and 1930s. He believed he would not have done musical comedy works in his early choreographic career if it had not been for Gershwin's works. [3] Balanchine and Gershwin worked together on the 1938 film The Goldwyn Follies . While working on the film, Gershwin gave Balanchine a book of his songs arranged in the way he performed them in concerts. [1] [3] During the production of the film, Gershwin died from a brain tumor at age thirty-eight. [5]

Balanchine wrote that he conceived the ballet while playing the songs on the Gershwin songbook, "and thought to myself, Beautiful, I'll make a pas de deux . Then I played another, it was just as beautiful and I thought, A variation! And then another and another and there was no end to how beautiful they are." [3] The title of the ballet came from the eponymous song also used in the ballet, that was written for the musical Of Thee I Sing . [6]

The first section Balanchine choreographed was the titular pas de deux originated by Karin von Aroldingen and Jacques d'Amboise. [7] :499 It was the first role Balanchine made for von Aroldingen. [8] Patricia McBride recalled that Balanchine choreographed both her solo and duet quickly. [1] For the "Fascinatin' Rhythm" solo, she said Balanchine, who was 65, demonstrated all the steps, and danced it better than she could. [7] :446 She rehearsed the solo with a tape recorder many times so she could dance it without counting and "really have fun with it." [1]

Hershy Kay was commissioned to orchestrate the score. [3] The lyrics, all by Ira Gershwin, are not included in the ballet. [4] However, when the ballet premiered, Kay only completed the first song "Strike Up the Band" and the last song "I Got Rhythm", as he was also working on a musical. Therefore, most songs were played on a piano at the premiere, with the exception of "Clap Yo' Hands", using 1926 recording of Gershwin playing the song. [3] [9] The orchestration is complete by May 1970, few months after the ballet's premiere. [10] However, the Gershwin recording of "Clap Yo' Hands" was still used. [3] "Clap Yo' Hands" was removed from the ballet in 1976, [11] but was added back in 2010. [9]

The original costume and lighting were designed by Karinska and Ronald Bates respectively. [2] In November 1970, a New York skyline backdrop designed by Jo Mielziner is added to the ballet. [3] The costumes had since been redesigned several times. [11] [12] [13]


Who Cares? premiered on February 5, 1970, at the New York State Theater. [2] Since the orchestration of the score was incomplete, Gordon Boelzner played the songs on the piano. [4] Before the premiere, Balanchine was presented the Handel Medallion, New York City's highest cultural award, by mayor John Lindsay. [14]

Other ballet companies that had perform Who Cares? include English National Ballet, [15] Zürich Ballet, [11] San Francisco Ballet, [16] Pacific Northwest Ballet, [11] Atlanta Ballet, [17] Charlotte Ballet (formerly North Carolina Dance Theatre), [18] [19] Sarasota Ballet, [20] Los Angeles Ballet, [21] Cincinnati Ballet, [22] Colorado Ballet and Ballet Chicago. [23] [24] It was also performed on Mikhail Baryshnikov's tour Baryshnikov & Friends. [25] The School of American Ballet, the affiliated-school of the New York City Ballet, had include the ballet in its annual workshop performances. [26]

In 2014, when original cast member Patricia McBride received the Kennedy Center Honor, excerpts of Who Cares? were included in the tribute to McBride. "Fascinatin' Rhythm" was danced by New York City Ballet principal dancer Tiler Peck, and "I Got Rhythm" was danced by four members of Charlotte Ballet, Peck, and other dancers who participated in other segments of the tribute. [18]

Critical reception

Clive Barnes of the New York Times commented, "The ballet is not likely to be regarded as one of Balanchine's major works although it does, not unexpectedly, have some extraordinarily lovely passages in it." [4]


In 1971, excerpts of Who Cares? was televised by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, featuring original cast members Karin von Aroldingen, Patricia McBride and Marnee Morris, as well as Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux. [11]

Excerpts of Who Cares? had also been televised through PBS, including the 1983 Great Performances episode "A New York City Ballet Tribute to George Balanchine", [27] the 1993 Live from Lincoln Center broadcast "The Balanchine Celebration", [28] and the 2004 "Balanchine 100", also on Live from Lincoln Center. [29]

In 1989, a concert performance of Who Cares? was also included in the PBS Dance in America program "Baryshnikov Dances Balanchine With American Ballet Theatre." However, it was danced by the tour Baryshnikov & Friends rather than the American Ballet Theatre. In this program, only half of the ballet is danced, and the corps de ballet is removed. The four lead dancers are Baryshnikov, Christine Dunham, Leslie Browne and Deirdre Carberry. [25]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mikhail Baryshnikov</span> Latvian-American dancer (born 1948)

Mikhail Nikolayevich Baryshnikov is a Latvian-American dancer, choreographer, and actor. He was the preeminent male classical dancer of the 1970s and 1980s. He subsequently became a noted dance director.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">New York City Ballet</span> American ballet company

New York City Ballet (NYCB) is a ballet company founded in 1948 by choreographer George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein. Balanchine and Jerome Robbins are considered the founding choreographers of the company. Léon Barzin was the company's first music director. City Ballet grew out of earlier troupes: the Producing Company of the School of American Ballet, 1934; the American Ballet, 1935, and Ballet Caravan, 1936, which merged into American Ballet Caravan, 1941; and directly from the Ballet Society, 1946.

Hershy Kay was an American composer, arranger, and orchestrator. He is most noteworthy for the orchestrations of several Broadway shows, and for the ballets he arranged for George Balanchine's New York City Ballet.

<i>Apollo</i> (ballet) 1927–1928 ballet by Igor Stravinsky

Apollo is a neoclassical ballet in two tableaux composed between 1927 and 1928 by Igor Stravinsky. It was choreographed in 1928 by twenty-four-year-old George Balanchine, with the composer contributing the libretto. The scenery and costumes were designed by André Bauchant, with new costumes by Coco Chanel in 1929. The scenery was executed by Alexander Shervashidze, with costumes under the direction of Mme. A. Youkine. The American patron of the arts Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge had commissioned the ballet in 1927 for a festival of contemporary music to be held the following year at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

<i>Stars and Stripes</i> (ballet) Ballet by George Balanchine

Stars and Stripes is a neoclassical ballet choreographed by George Balanchine to music by John Philip Sousa, orchestrated by Hershy Kay. The ballet was made as a tribute to the United States, Balanchine's adopted country. It premiered on January 17, 1958, at the City Center of Music and Drama, danced by the New York City Ballet. It is dedicated to Fiorello La Guardia, former mayor of New York City. The ballet had been revived by multiple ballet companies, and at different special occasions.

John Taras was an American ballet master, repetiteur, and choreographer.

Tarantella is a ballet choreographed by George Balanchine to Grande Tarantelle by Louis Moreau Gottschalk, arranged by Hershy Kay. The ballet premiered on January 7, 1964, at the New York City Center, performed by New York City Ballet's Patricia McBride and Edward Villella.

<i>Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux</i> Ballet by George Balanchine

Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux is a ballet choreographed by George Balanchine to a composition by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky originally intended for act 3 of Swan Lake. With costumes by Barbara Karinska and lighting by Jack Owen Brown, it was first presented by New York City Ballet at the City Center of Music and Drama, New York, on 29 March 1960. Robert Irving conducted the New York City Ballet Orchestra. The dancers were Violette Verdy and Conrad Ludlow.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Patricia McBride</span>

Patricia McBride is a ballerina who spent nearly 30 years dancing with the New York City Ballet. McBride joined the New York City Ballet in 1959. She became a principal in 1961, becoming the company's youngest principal. She danced with the company for 30 years, including roles created for her by choreographers George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Karin von Aroldingen</span> German ballet dancer

Karin Anny Hannelore Reinbold von Aroldingen was a German ballet dancer. She danced as a soloist at the Frankfurt Opera Ballet before joining the New York City Ballet in 1962 after receiving a personal invitation from George Balanchine. She was named as one of Balanchine's main beneficiaries in his will. Von Aroldingen retired from New York City Ballet in 1984, having reached the rank of principal dancer in 1972. In her later life, she worked as a répétiteur for the Balanchine Trust, for which she was also a founder, staging his ballets for various companies.

Circus Polka: For a Young Elephant was written by Igor Stravinsky in 1942. He composed it for a ballet production that the choreographer George Balanchine did for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. The ballet was performed by fifty elephants and fifty ballerinas. In 1944, Stravinsky published an orchestration of the piece, which is now part of the repertoire of many orchestras.

In the Night is a ballet choreographed by Jerome Robbins to four nocturnes by Frédéric Chopin. It premiered on January 29, 1970 at the New York State Theater, performed by the New York City Ballet.

Union Jack is a ballet made by New York City Ballet co-founder and founding choreographer George Balanchine to traditional British tunes, hornpipe melodies and music-hall songs, ca. 1890–1914, adapted by Hershy Kay. The premiere took place on 13 May 1976, at the New York State Theater, Lincoln Center, to honor British heritage in the United States its bicentennial with costumes by Rouben Ter-Arutunian, original lighting by Ronald Bates and current lighting by Mark Stanley. At the finale the ensemble spells out "God Save the Queen" in semaphore code and the Union Jack unfurls. Principal dancer Jock Soto included an excerpt from Union Jack in his farewell performance in June 2005.

Liebeslieder Walzer is a two-part neoclassical ballet choreographed by George Balanchine to Johannes Brahms' Liebeslieder Waltzes, Op. 52 and Neue Liebeslieder, Op. 65, with original sets and lighting designed by David Hays, and costumes designed by Barbara Karinska. The ballet premiered on 12 November 1960 at the New York City Center, performed by the New York City Ballet.

Ivesiana is a ballet choreographed by George Balanchine to compositions by Charles Ives. The ballet premiered on September 14, 1954, four months after Ives's death, at the City Center of Music and Drama, performed by the New York City Ballet. Balanchine made several changes to the ballet since, including adding and removing sections of the ballet, and the final version of Ivesiana consists of Central Park in the Dark, The Unanswered Question, In the Inn and In the Night.

The Steadfast Tin Soldier is a ballet choreographed by George Balanchine to Bizet's Jeux d'enfants, based on Hans Christian Andersen's 1838 fairytale of the same name of the love between a tin soldier and a paper-doll ballerina. The ballet premiered on July 30, 1975, at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, with New York City Ballet's Patricia McBride and Peter Schaufuss.

Scherzo à la Russe is a ballet choreographed by George Balanchine to Stravinsky's music of the same name. The ballet was created for New York City Ballet's Stravinsky Festival, a tribute to the composer after his death, and premiered on June 21, 1972, at the New York State Theater, with the two lead roles originated by Karin von Aroldingen and Kay Mazzo.

Stravinsky Violin Concerto, originally titled Violin Concerto, is a neoclassical ballet choreographed by George Balanchine to Stravinsky's Violin Concerto. Balanchine had previously choreographed another ballet to the concerto in 1941 for the Original Ballet Russe, titled Balustrade, though it was not revived following a few performances. He then reused the concerto for New York City Ballet's Stravinsky Festival in 1972, a tribute to the composer following his death. The ballet premiered on June 18, 1972, at the New York State Theater.

Duo Concertant is a ballet choreographed by George Balanchine to Stravinsky's score of the same name. The ballet was created for New York City Ballet's Stravinsky Festival, a tribute to the composer a year after his death, and premiered on June 22, 1972, at the New York State Theater, danced by Kay Mazzo and Peter Martins.

Kammermusik No. 2 is a ballet choreographed by George Balanchine to Paul Hindemith's music of the same name. The ballet premiered on January 26, 1978, at the New York State Theater, danced by the New York City Ballet.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Reynolds, Nancy (1977). Repertory in Review: 40 Years of the New York City Ballet. pp. 268–270. ISBN   9780803773684.
  2. 1 2 3 4 Anderson, Zoë (May 29, 2015). The Ballet Lover's Companion. p. 245. ISBN   9780300154290.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Balanchine, George; Mason, Francis (1977). Balanchine's Complete Stories of the Great Ballets. pp. 678–679. ISBN   9780385113816.
  4. 1 2 3 4 Barnes, Clive (February 6, 1970). "His Newest Work, a Tribute to the City, Is Unveiled". New York Times.
  5. Taper, Bernard (1987). Balanchine: A Biography. ISBN   9780520060593.
  6. "Two Premieres Due At City Ballet". New York Times. December 23, 1969.
  7. 1 2 Mason, Francis (1991). I Remember Balanchine: Recollections of the Ballet Master by Those who Knew Him. ISBN   9780385266109.
  8. Tracy, Robert; DeLano, Sharon (1983). Balanchine's Ballerinas: Conversations with the Muses. p. 169. ISBN   9780671461461.
  9. 1 2 Kourlas, Gia (January 7, 2010). "Opposites Onstage, Opening a Season". New York Times.
  10. Barnes, Clive (May 24, 1970). "Dance: City Troupe's Sweet Integrity". New York Times.
  11. 1 2 3 4 5 Carnovale, Nobert (2000). George Gershwin: A Bio-bibliography. pp. 84–85. ISBN   9780313260032.
  12. Kisselgoff, Anna (January 16, 1983). "City Balet: 'Who Cares?' In a New Production". New York Times.
  13. Harss, Marina (May 2, 2013). "New York City Ballet – Who Cares?, Ivesiana, Tarantella, Stars & Stripes – New York". DanceTabs.
  14. Hunter, Charlayne (February 6, 1970). "Choreographer Is Awarded City's Handel Medallion". New York Times.
  15. Veale, Sara (January 18, 2020). "Going Platinum". Fjord Review.
  16. Howard, Rachel (February 1, 2022). "How Helgi Tomasson reshaped S.F. Ballet to world-class renown". San Francisco Chronicle.
  17. Hellwig, Rachel (May 8, 2018). "Atlanta Ballet closes season with George Balanchine set to the music of Gershwin". ArtATL.
  18. 1 2 Khadarina, Oksana (December 16, 2014). "Patricia McBride Honoured at The 37th Annual Kennedy Center Honours". DanceTabs.
  19. Giffin, Glenn. "Touring's an elixir for troupe". Denver Post.
  20. Seidman, Carrie (November 21, 2020). "Dance Review: Sarasota Ballet offers sampler of abbreviated Balanchine hits". Sarasota Herald-Tribune.
  21. Segal, Lewis (March 12, 2017). "Review: L.A. Ballet's ambitious all-Balanchine program leads to missteps, but also one big triumph". Los Angeles times.
  22. Lyman, David (May 19, 2016). "Review: Ballet's 'Wild Sweet Love' cheerful, jaunty". Cincinnati Enquirer.
  23. Giffin, Glenn. "Choreographers give contrived story a leg up". Denver Post.
  24. Smith, Sid (May 21, 2010). "Ballet Chicago takes on Balanchine's 'Who Cares?'". Chicago Tribune.
  25. 1 2 Segel, Lewis (January 13, 1989). "TV DANCE REVIEW : Baryshnikov & Friends Offer Pastiche on PBS". Los Angeles Times.
  26. Macaulay, Alastair (June 9, 2011). "The Balanchine Way, Imprinted". New York Times.
  27. "Great Performances: A Lincoln Center Special: A New York City Ballet Tribute to George Balanchine {Live from Lincoln Center}". Paley Center for Media. Retrieved April 2, 2022.
  28. Krafft, Rebecca; O'Doherty, Brian (1991). The Arts on Television, 1976-1990: Fifteen Years of Cultural Programming. p. 39. ISBN   9780160359262.
  29. Kisselgoff, Anna (May 7, 2004). "Dance Review; Artists of All Disciplines Celebrate an Exhilarating Forerunner". New York Times.