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Empire State Building to be lit in honor of New York City Ballet’s 75th anniversary

Sara Mearns of NYCB in George Balanchine's 'Symphony in C'. Photo by Erin Baiano.
Sara Mearns of NYCB in George Balanchine's 'Symphony in C'. Photo by Erin Baiano.

On Wednesday, October 11, at sunset, the Empire State Building’s world-famous Tower Lights will be lit in “Balanchine Blue” to mark the 75th Anniversary of New York City Ballet (NYCB).

Seventy-five years earlier, on October 11, 1948, just 21 blocks north of the Empire State Building on West 55th Street at the City Center for Music and Drama, NYCB gave its first performance, which consisted of three ballets – Concerto Barocco, Orpheus and Symphony in C – choreographed by George Balanchine, the legendary co-founder of NYCB.

Widely regarded as the most influential choreographer of the 20th century, Balanchine transformed the world of ballet, creating two of New York City’s most important cultural institutions – NYCB and The School of American Ballet, both of which he co-founded with Lincoln Kirstein, the writer and arts patron, who was a towering figure in the cultural life of New York City during the 20th century.

“Balanchine Blue,” also known as “Rosenthal Blue” for the late Jean Rosenthal, NYCB’s first lighting designer and a pioneer in the world of lighting design, is the signature backdrop color that accompanies countless iconic ballets choreographed by Balanchine. Works that feature “Balanchine Blue” include Agon, Apollo, Concerto Barocco, The Four Temperaments, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Symphony in C and Symphony in 3 Movements, among numerous others.

“We are honored to partner with the Empire State Building in this momentous anniversary year,” said NYCB Executive Director Katherine Brown. “The Empire State Building is a beacon of the New York City skyline, and an iconic symbol of the city that New York City Ballet has always called home. It will be a thrill to see the famous Tower Lights lit in our signature ‘Balanchine Blue’ on October 11 as we celebrate the 75th Anniversary of NYCB’s first-ever performance.”

On October 11, NYCB will recreate its historic first program at its current home at Lincoln Center, the David H. Koch Theater, which was built for NYCB and opened as the New York State Theater in 1964.

NYCB’s 75th Anniversary Season opened on September 19, with a week of performances of Balanchine’s masterpiece Jewels, including a moving tribute on opening night with more than 250 alumni dancers joining the Company’s current 95 dancers onstage at the close of the performance for a celebratory bow.

The Company’s 75th Anniversary Season continues through summer 2024 showcasing the Company’s extraordinary heritage and continuing contributions to creating a new ballet repertory with performances of more than 60 ballets and more than 25 weeks of performances. Tickets for NYCB’s performances start at $40 and are available at nycballet.com, by calling 212-496-0600, or at the David H. Koch Theater box office, located at West 63rd Street and Columbus Avenue.

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