American Ballet Theatre Returns to Segerstrom Center with a Mixed Repertory Program March 16-19

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Scene from Jessica Lang’s ZigZag. Photo: Rosalie O’Connor.

The performing arts in Orange County, like the rest of the country, took a long pandemic pause, but came back last year—cautiously at first, then gradually embracing a new artistic normal with masked audiences and even masked musicians finding renewed joy in bringing the arts to life.

One of the organizations that ventured out early was American Ballet Theatre (ABT), with a short program last spring performed before a limited live audience at Segerstrom Center for the Arts and recorded for streaming access.

Then came more dance performances, including ABT’s annual production of “The Nutcracker,” a welcome holiday treat.

Now, ABT returns to Segerstrom Center with ABT Forward, a mixed repertory program to be performed March 16 – 19 with what promises to be three dazzling works highlighting the Company’s incredible artistry and athleticism, and the inspiring visions of three of today’s most exciting choreographers.

One of those works will be a world premiere by Alonzo King, whose Alonzo King LINES Ballet company came to Segerstrom Center last September. It is King’s first work for ABT and features a commissioned score by jazz pianist and composer Jason Moran. King’s new work also features sets and costumes by Robert Rosenwasser and lighting by Jim French.

Scene from Jessica Lang’s ZigZag. Photo: Rosalie O’Connor.

The program also includes Jessica Lang’s “ZigZag,” which celebrates the legendary career of Tony Bennett, using both his recordings (including a duet with Lady Gaga), and his visual artwork to highlight the authentic humanity of his vocal performances.

Jessica Lang Dance company performed a dance piece set to Bennett’s music at the Irvine Barclay Theatre in 2018, but “ZigZag” is even more timely given Bennett’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis and what was most likely his farewell concert with Lady Gaga at Radio City Music Hall last August.

The third component of ABT Forward is a piece by ABT Artist in Residence Alexei Ratmansky called “Bernstein in a Bubble” set to Leonard Bernstein’s “Divertimento,” which will be performed live by the Pacific Symphony.

An interesting coincidence: Leonard Bernstein was Pacific Symphony Music Director Carl St.Clair’s mentor, and St.Clair – at the time an assistant conductor with the Boston Symphony – even conducted a piece at Bernstein’s final concert with the Boston Symphony when Bernstein was too ill to conduct the entire program.

In a press statement, American Ballet Theatre Artistic Director Kevin McKenzie said, “This is an opportunity to see work by three contemporary masters of their craft. A classic taste in music and dance vocabulary (Leonard Bernstein/Alexei Ratmansky) is complemented by the iconic American voice of Tony Bennett and Jessica Lang’s fun and whimsical movement, followed by a World Premiere from Alonzo King to a commissioned score from American jazz pianist Jason Moran. Literally, this will be American artists reflecting America through the lens of inventive genius.”

Alonzo King has been called a visionary choreographer and a choreographer with “astonishing originality” by The New York Times. His company Alonzo King LINES Ballet is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary season.

Sierra Armstrong in Jessica Lang’s ZigZag. Photo: Rosalie O’Connor.

Jessica Lang’s “ZigZag” received its World Premiere on October 26, 2021 at the David H. Koch Theater in New York City. A work for 14 dancers, “ZigZag” features costumes by Wes Gordon (creative director for Carolina Herrera), scenery by Emmy and Tony Award winner Derek McLane, and lighting by Nicole Pearce.

Lang said, “’ZigZag’ celebrates the legendary career of Tony Bennett as a singer and visual artist. With 11 songs carefully selected from Bennett’s masterful catalog of recordings spanning more than seven decades, and scenic elements that incorporate his art, ‘ZigZag’ will highlight the unwavering quality and genuine humanity of his vocal performances. My approach to ‘ZigZag’ will be to deliver a balance between physical intricacy and visual simplicity, to convey art as entertainment, and to highlight the physically brilliant range of the American Ballet Theatre dancers.”

Alexei Ratmansky’s “Bernstein in a Bubble” was created during the pandemic in January and February 2021. The ballet received its digital World Premiere at ABT Live from City Center | A Ratmansky Celebration on March 23, 2021.

Single tickets for ABT Forward start at $39 and are now available online at www.SCFTA.org, at the Box office at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa, or by calling (714) 556-2787.

Audience Advisory

Segerstrom Center’s updated COVID-19 policy requires ticket holders to provide proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 to attend all indoor performances and events at Segerstrom Center for the Arts. “Fully vaccinated” means your performance is at least 14 days after your final vaccine dose.

To enter the theatre, please bring a photo ID (for guests over 18 years old) and proof of vaccination, either your physical vaccination card, a picture of your vaccination card, or a digital vaccination record. Most California residents may request a digital vaccination record at www.myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov.

Any ticket holders (including those under age 12) without proof of being fully vaccinated can present a negative COVID-19 test (PCR taken within 48 hours or antigen taken within 6 hours) of the performance. Along with their ticket, attendees will need to bring either documentation of a negative COVID-19 test result, emailed result, or picture of results showing a negative diagnosis as well as the date and their name. At-home tests will not be accepted.

Masks (over the mouth and nose) are required at all times for all ticket holders (ages 2 and up) regardless of vaccination status in all indoor spaces. Disposable 3-ply surgical masks, N95, KN95, or KF94 masks are recommended.

Performance ticket holders who do not comply with these policies will not be admitted.

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