Calvin Royal III takes the stage in 'Apollo' | Photo by Rosalie O'Connor, courtesy The George Balanchine Trust

For four days, five dancers from two different dance companies will come together to perform Ballet Under the Stars. Spoleto is presenting this event Friday to Monday on the outdoor stage on Rivers Green at College of Charleston. Two of the dancers are coming from American Ballet Theatre, while three are from New York City Ballet.

Ballet expert Amy Brandt has been the editor-in-chief at Pointe Magazine since 2014. Prior to being a writer, Brandt was a ballet dancer for 19 years, and she started dancing at 5 years old because she wanted to be like the ballerinas she saw on TV.

Brandt will not be attending Ballet Under the Stars, but she did provide insight on what to expect from the show.

“It’s a nicely balanced program with some pretty big-name choreographers — George Balanchine, Christopher Wheeldon, Lar Lubovitch, Jerome Robbins,” she said. “The Spoleto audience is in for a real treat.”

Ballet under the Stars opens with the neoclassical work of Apollo by George Balanchine, then ends with the classical, tutu ballet piece, Diamonds — also by Balanchine — an excerpt of a three-part ballet called Jewels. Balanchine’s pieces alone represent the range that will be featured in the show.

Adrian Danchig-Waring, one of the five dancers featured, is performing at Spoleto for the first time, but has admired the festival for a while.

“One of the great values of the work I do is that dance is non-verbal, so it can touch hearts and minds across the globe,” Danchig-Waring said. “This kind of programming and festival atmosphere is so central to spreading our love of the art and evolving the culture.”

By the time he was 16, Danchig-Waringhe was attending the School of American Ballet at Lincoln Center, the official school of New York City Ballet. A year and a half later, in 2002, he joined the company as an apprentice. In 2003, he became a full member of New York City Ballet.

One of the founding choreographers of New York City Ballet was Jerome Robbins, and Danchig-Waring always felt very connected to his work. (The dancers do a tremendous amount of repertoire pieces in their company.)

In 2018, Danchig-Waring had a year-long injury — stress fractures in both shins — and spent six months of that time in a research fellowship at the New York Public Library for performing arts, combing through Jerome Robbins’ archives of personal letters, notes and more.

Danchig-Waring was intrigued by The Festival of Two Words in Spoleto, Italy, and how Robbins brought his company to show Italian audiences what American dance looked like at that time.

“It really was a festival of two worlds, where they were exchanging ideas,” he said.

Ballet Under the Stars is intentionally curated to touch upon some of the most vital voices of 20th and 21st-century ballet, both in terms of choreographers who are featured (such as Jerome Robbins, George Ballansheen, Christopher Weeldon) and the five dancers, who Danchig-Waring said are close friends and have grown up together in many ways within the New York City dance scene.

“This is an opportunity for us to be our full selves as we come back from this crazy COVID year and share our passion for these works, for ballet, with a live audience for the first time in over a year,” he said.

The other American Ballet dancers include Isabella Boylston, Calvin Royal III, Unity Phelan and Joseph Gordon, who is also Danchig-Waring’s boyfriend.

“We are in a unique position (where we) are principal dancers for the same company, but also partners in real life,” he said. “I just cannot express how thrilling it is to know that in a few days we get to go on stage and do what we do best, do what we love and share that with people in real time.” 

Emily Johnson is a graduate student in the Goldring Arts Journalism and Communications program at Syracuse University.