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On April 13, 2015, the acclaimed ballerina Wendy Whelan spoke with three generations of the celebrated d’Amboise dance family as part of City Center’s Studio 5 series. 80-year-old Jacques d’Amboise began dancing in the studio at 1949, and he held forth with the gregarious, dishy charm of a legend back in his old stomping grounds. Roving the studio like a stand-up comic, d’Amboise demonstrated the proper way to take a bow, shared his theory that Balanchine had Tourette’s (“His face was like a symphony orchestra warming up”), and even found time to plug his soon-to-be-published novel. “It’s a thriller—sex, violence, backstage at the ballet,” he said with relish. “And it’s called Pas De Death.”

“He’s not even joking,” said Whelan.

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June 8, 2015 by New York City Center
Silas Riener & Rashaun Mitchell

Damian Woetzel, Silas Riener, and Rashaun Mitchell, photographed by Christopher Duggan.

On June 2, 2014, dancer-turned-director Damian Woetzel created a Studio 5 event focused on the work of City Center Choreography Fellows Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener; the pair spoke about choreographing in cubicles, performing before pig roasts, and what it was like to dance in Merce Cunningham’s company. “I didn’t know what I was doing for a while,” recalled Mitchell. “But I intuitively knew that if I could just do the choreography with conviction, that it would work, that Merce wouldn’t necessarily know that I wasn’t doing the right steps, until I could catch up. I think it worked.”

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March 6, 2015 by New York City Center
Violette Verdy

Damian Woetzel and Violette Verdy, photographed by Erin Baiano.

On November 9, 2010, dancer-turned-director Damian Woetzel created a Studio 5 event that highlighted three signature George Balanchine ballets from 1960. The night ended up being a tribute to the lyrical, idiosyncratic, and wildly apt language of Violette Verdy, who danced with the New York City Ballet from 1958 to 1976 and was on hand to coach a new generation of NYCB dancers. “You don’t want to be safe; you can’t afford it,” she told Tiler Peck of a gesture in Donizetti Variations. Of the quiet intimacy of Liebeslieder Walzer, she said, “You have to take a pilgrimage into it...you have to go inside to come out with the answer.”

Verdy knew what she was talking about: Balanchine created two of the ballets specifically for her, and he adapted the third, Donizetti Variations, to showcase her gifts. “It was lovely, because we didn’t struggle,” explained Verdy. “It was like he gave valentines to each one of us.”

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December 1, 2014 by New York City Center

Wendy Whelan and Damian Woetzel, photographed by Christopher Duggan.

On the evening of September 29, 2014, Wendy Whelan was three weeks away from her last New York City Ballet performance. Still, the woman that The New York Times has called “America’s greatest contemporary ballerina” was a relaxed, gregarious presence at City Center. In a sold-out Studio 5 event, Whelan sinuously danced two Christopher Wheeldon duets and chatted with longtime friend Damian Woetzel about aging, Jerome Robbins, and their favorite NYCB war stories.

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October 17, 2014 by New York City Center