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Sarah Jessica Parker hosts ballet gala

Gala kicks off New York City Ballet's spring season and featured performers like Placido Domingo, Kevin Kline and Wynton Marsalis.
/ Source: The Associated Press

It felt a little like “Ballet and the City” the other night at Lincoln Center.

The occasion was Wednesday’s glittery gala kicking off New York City Ballet’s spring season, hosted by actress Sarah Jessica Parker and featuring treats like Placido Domingo singing a love song, Wynton Marsalis performing on trumpet and Kevin Kline quoting Shakespeare.

Oh yes, there were dancers, too, performing crowd-pleasing highlights from the company’s repertoire. After the show, the promenade at the New York State Theater was filled with giant white floral arrangements, linen tablecloths and champagne glasses for a black-tie ball.

But the star of the night, yet again, was the man whom the company has been honoring all year: the late George Balanchine, its co-founder and choreographer, who would have been 100 years old this year.

The evening, which was also broadcast on PBS and on large screens in Lincoln Center Plaza, was devoted to Balanchine’s brilliant choreography. Peppered throughout were film clips of him talking, working, joking, even snacking.

One moment that drew appreciative laughs was Balanchine’s admission that he — even he — had trouble getting inspired. “Inspiration doesn’t just come over you, like a stomach ache,” he said. “You have to work and sweat through things.”

Parker introduced the evening’s various acts, and the “Sex and the City” star didn’t disappoint fashionistas: she wore three different dresses during the two-hour show, finishing up in a glistening white-and-gold ball gown.

After a trumpet fanfare, the first guest was Domingo, who usually sings across the plaza at the Metropolitan Opera, performing “None But the Lonely Heart” to music by Tchaikovsky.

Next were 32 students from the School of American Ballet — founded by Balanchine to feed the company — in a lively excerpt from “Harlequinade,” full of signature Balanchine steps similar to those in his children’s masterpiece, “The Nutcracker.”

The adults were mostly in top form, too, starting with Peter Boal and Yvonne Borree in “Duo Concertant,” a work that celebrates the inspiration dancers get from their music. They were followed by the fast-moving, folky “Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet,” featuring an energetic and stylish Damian Woetzel and Wendy Whelan.

Four New York City Opera singers accompanied four dancing couples in “Liebeslieder Walzer,” another Balanchine ballet set to Brahms. Then came the favorite, for many: Balanchine’s classic “Concerto Barocco,” set to Bach’s achingly beautiful double Violin Concerto in D Minor and featuring one of the company’s star ballerinas, Maria Kowroski.

Wynton Marsalis, bearing trumpet, came to represent Jazz at Lincoln Center, performing Gershwin’s “The Man I Love” to accompany another star ballerina, Alexandra Ansanelli, and her less exciting partner Nilas Martins.

The finale was a visual feast, offering total elegance if not acrobatic dancing. “Vienna Waltzes” was performed in front of a mirror by 50 dancers — men in tuxes, women in swirling, full-length white gowns. With the proper mood having thus been set, those lucky enough to have tickets retired to the ball for some dancing of their own.