New York City Ballet's Summer Home Turns 50

September 14, 2016

Every July since 1966, New York City Ballet has headed to Saratoga Springs, NY, to perform at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, the company’s official summer home. This summer, the open-air amphitheater celebrates its 50th birthday—and to honor the anniversary, the company will present 17 different ballets, including the world premiere of resident choreographer Justin Peck’s latest work. We chatted with NYCB principal Sterling Hyltin—who first performed at the venue in 2003 as a corps member and has been back every year since—about what makes SPAC special.

Dance Spirit: What’s your funniest SPAC memory?

Sterling Hyltin:
Once when Robert Fairchild and I were dancing Romeo and Juliet, I saw he had an enormous beetle on his eyebrow, just as we started the balcony pas de deux. I kept thinking it would fall off, but every time he came back to me it was still there—it was the most stubborn beetle! Finally, there was a point toward the end where we touch each other’s faces and I said through my teeth “You have a giant bug on you!” and flicked it off. He was so startled, and then almost started laughing.

DS: Do you enjoy dancing outside?

SH: I especially like when it contributes to the story of the piece we’re performing. For example, something like Romeo and Juliet is perfect because the ballet starts happily when it’s still light outside, and then as the night gets darker, so does the story. It really contributes to the ominous feeling.

DS: What unique challenges does the amphitheater present?

SH: You have to contend with things you don’t have to worry about indoors, like that stubborn beetle! I danced one of the hardest ballets, George Balanchine’s La Source, on a day when it was 95 degrees—without the stage lights. It took about four hours for my face to stop being red and flushed after the show.

DS: Why do you love performing at SPAC?

SH: It’s a time of togetherness for the company. I always share a house with some of my best friends, and it’s really special. We also have two days off on the weekends, which is rare. We’ll drive up to Lake George, go boating and enjoy the relaxing nature we don’t get to see in NYC.

What’s it take to get NYCB to Saratoga Springs each year?

For the 2015 summer season, the company traveled with seven tractor trailers, packed with:

-more than 1,000 pointe shoes

-over 400 costumes

-over 3 miles of lighting cables

-over 1,150 light bulbs

-a light board controlling over 1,000 channels

-1 washer and 1 dryer

-1 sprung floor and 1 marley