You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

What to Expect & 9 Other Things To Know About The New York City Ballet

TheTravel logo TheTravel 2/20/2023 Eva O'Mara
© Provided by TheTravel

The New York City Ballet (NYCB) is one of the most renowned dance companies in the world, and that's not an exaggeration. Headquartered in New York City, its namesake, performances by the NYCB are a must-see for dance fans worldwide, as well as tourists looking to add a richer experience to their time in The Big Apple. After all, New York City is not all about food, restaurants, and rooftop bars with views and party vibes.

Even for those not quite into traditional ballet, let alone ballet, the New York City Ballet offers visitors much more than just a dance performance. There are the costumes, the lights, the music, and, of course, the drama! Plus, with modern and contemporary works being put on now and again, there truly is something for everyone.

Keen to attend a performance? Here's what to expect at one of the world's most famous ballet companies, plus 9 other things visitors should know about the New York City Ballet (before they go to a performance).

What to Expect At The New York City Ballet

While ballet is still considered by many to be a posh person's excursion, the New York City Ballet is well and truly open to everyone. If you can afford the price, that is because tickets aren't cheap. Regardless, performances are extremely popular, with New York City Ballet tickets regularly selling out fast, so visitors interested in experiencing an unforgettable evening should take care to book early to avoid disappointment.

Aside from the price, the only real obstacle to ballet-goers is the performance time, which often hits the 2-hour mark (excluding intermission). And the fact that there's no talking. For those having studied English literature or the dramatic arts, this is the time to harness those interpretative skills!

Punctuality is very important at the NYCB, and tardiness for performance attendees is extremely frowned upon. Bare this in mind when attending because there will be no seating for latecomers, and no refunds offered for lateness either.

With that, here are some things visitors should know about the New York City Ballet.

The New York City Ballet Performs At The Lincoln Center

  • New York City Ballet address: David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza, New York, NY 10023, USA

It's all about location, location, location, and the location of the New York City Ballet is something to be envied. Situated next to the Metropolitan Opera House (where the American Ballet Theatre performs) within the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, a complex home to 11 different arts organizations, the NYCB calls the David H. Koch Theater home. With over 2,500 seats and an impressive display of ballet-themed art in the lobby, the theater is itself is also worth a quick tour before a performance.

Though the NYCB is easily accessible via the Lincoln Center subway station, where the 1 train and 2 train make stops, the New York City subway system can be confusing for first-time users. Prospective visitors to the NYCB are advised to familiarize themselves with the transport before beginning their adventure and to be aware that the subway can get - unsurprisingly so - extremely packed during the holidays.

Related: 10 Best Buildings To Visit When You're In New York City

It's Incredibly Hard To Become A NYCB Dancer

Ballet is an incredibly difficult dance to learn, and with just under 100 dancers currently taking the stage at the New York City Ballet, competition for spots is high. This is especially so when considering that there is an entire school - the School of American Ballet (SAB) in New York City - dedicated to training potential dancers and that this is the only way for prospective dancers to enter The Company (the New York City Ballet Company).

For those interested in learning more about ballet and the rigorous training required, Disney has a documentary series called "On Pointe" that details the journey of young dancers hoping to win highly coveted spots in the New York City Ballet's annual performance of 'The Nutcracker.'

The NYCB Has A Nearly 80-Year-Old History

Though the New York City Ballet Company is newer in comparison to other ballet companies - its main rival, the American Ballet Theatre Company, was formed in 1939 - it has achieved a considerable amount of fame and recognition throughout its nearly 80-year history.

Founded in 1948 by George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein, the NYCB was established with the intention of training American talent to perform on American soil rather than importing talent from abroad. While this has remained the goal, the New York City Ballet has also ventured further afield with international tours across Europe, Asia, Australia, and Brazil.

Related: What You Need To Know About Attending A Broadway Show In NYC

George Balanchine Is Considered The Father Of American Ballet

As one of the founders, George Balanchine not only helped establish the New York City Ballet but was also a key figure in shaping the ballet style that is performed by The Company today. Though his choreography and works are widely performed by ballet companies throughout the world, it is at the New York City Ballet where Balanchine's works reign supreme.

The key difference between the Balanchine style of dance and the more classical approach is the emphasis on athleticism. Often described as being 'neoclassic' and contemporary, these features are still at the forefront of what the New York City Ballet excels at.

It's Not All About Dancers, The Live NYCB Orchestra Is Amazing Too

While dancing is a big (big) part of a ballet performance, the New York City Ballet offers guests so much more than just dancing. With a talented live orchestra, music fans are in for a real treat too. The skill of the live orchestra has even left some guests torn between who to watch: the New York City Ballet dancers themselves or the New York City Ballet orchestra?

Either way, with world-class musicians performing in real-time alongside world-class dancers, the quality of performances cannot be described as anything other than, well, world-class. A quality experience, even if watching a dance, isn’t quite the preferred afternoon activity.

Don't Forget About The Costumes!

As Isabella Boylston, principal dancer for the American Ballet Theatre, said in an interview with CNN: "Ballet has something for everyone." This couldn't be more true when considering the dedication and attention to detail that goes into creating the stunning costumes required for performances.

Though a good ballet performance will include dramatic retellings through dancing and technique, it cannot be denied that costume plays a huge role in setting the stage for magical moments. It's no wonder, then, that NYCB prides itself on having an in-house costume shop. From simple 'black and white ballets' to Swarovski-partnered headpieces, costumes at the New York City Ballet should be celebrated artworks in their own right - and are definitely worthy of a visit (or two!).

The NYCB Is A Rival With The American Ballet Theatre

It's not difficult to see why the New York City Ballet is often positioned against the American Ballet Theatre (ABT). Founded a mere 9 years prior in the same city, the ABT also proclaims itself to be one of the greatest dance companies in the world and currently performs in the same Lincoln Center complex as the NYCB. Yet that's where the similarities end.

Where the New York City Ballet is renowned for its Balanchine-style dance, the ABT has a classical focus. This, in turn, means that the performances from the ABT tend to be the classics and are danced in a classical way - so there is no emphasis on quick movements or utilization of space.

Related: Not A Museum Fan? You Might Enjoy These 10 Interactive Ones In New York

Shows At The NYCB Are Always Changing

Though the NYCB has the rights to all 465 works created by Balanchine and is known for showcasing his classics, the New York City Ballet schedule does include works from other choreographers. There may be an emphasis on Balanchine projects, but with choreographers like Justin Peck in the mix - winner of the 2016 Tony Award for Best Choreography for the musical Carousel and current artistic director at the NYCB - visitors are sure to have an opportunity to catch new works.

With such a revolving repertoire of performances, prospective attendees of the New York City Ballet may want to prepare for their visit. Why not hear from New York City Ballet dancers, educators, musicians, and choreographers as they discuss their work with 'City Ballet The Podcast'? The NYCB also shares insightful stories from the New York City Ballet on their website.

But There Are Always Fan Favorites

Though new works can take the stage, Balanchine's ballets take first priority at the New York City Ballet, with about 60 of his works being performed annually. Among these, there is no doubt that The Nutcracker takes the award of a fan favorite with its annual performances every November and December.

Described by the NYCB itself as being one of the most complex theatrical ballets, The Nutcracker is almost as synonymous with Christmas as chocolate is to the Easter Bunny. A true classic.

From 'An American in Paris' to 'Sleeping Beauty,' the New York City Ballet is spoiled for choice with the array of Balanchine's works available. This means, in turn, so will visitors to the NYCB.


More from TheTravel

image beaconimage beaconimage beacon