SPAC: National Ballet of Cuba to make first-ever Capital Region appearance

Members of the National Ballet of Cuba dance in “Giselle,” which will be presented next year at Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

Members of the National Ballet of Cuba dance in “Giselle,” which will be presented next year at Saratoga Performing Arts Center. Photo by Carlos Quezada

 “Looking ahead to our exciting 2018 season, we are delighted to bring the passion of National Ballet of Cuba to the region for the first time”

By Lauren Halligan, The Saratogian – December 7, 2017

SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. >> Saratoga Performing Arts Center is bringing the National Ballet of Cuba to make its first-ever Capital Region appearance next year, venue officials announced at a meeting Thursday.

At a board meeting held Thursday at the Hall of Springs SPAC unveiled some of its programming schedule for 2018, which includes resident companies the New York City Ballet and The Philadelphia Orchestra, along with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the annual Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival, a second season of SPAC on Stage performances, Opera Saratoga and newcomers the National Ballet of Cuba.

The internationally renowned National Ballet of Cuba, in its regional debut, is anticipated to give three performances of “Giselle” on June 6, 7 and 8, presented in partnership with Skidmore College. Earlier this year SPAC presented the Havana Lyceum Orchestra of Cuba to Skidmore’s campus music center. The National Ballet of Cuba is known around the world for its exuberant flair and uniquely Cuban, athletic training based in the Russian style, a press release said.

In the Spa City for one week this season, resident company New York City Ballet will return to present four distinct programs over seven performances on July 17 to 21, including an all-Balanchine evening, a program featuring 21st century choreographers, a celebration of the centennials of both Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein, and a story ballet. A full program schedule will be announced in January.

During Thursday’s meeting, chief financial officer Jay Lafond reported that SPAC is financially healthy, breaking even for 2017. He also shared that the organization’s endowment is up to $7.5 million and the 2018 budget, to be reviewed in the meeting’s executive session, is $10.5 million.

Afterward, Nicole Sheeler — president of SPAC’s Action Council — shared plans to eliminate the annual springtime Rock N’ Run event, traditionally a kick-off to the SPAC season, in order to “replace it with something new and grand.” Details on the new event, she said, will be announced at the next board meeting.

With much yet to be announced about next year’s season at SPAC, president and CEO Elizabeth Sobol said there is “lots to be looking forward to in 2018.”

In her address, Sobol spoke about the launch of a new website, a significant increase in new membership and upgrades and a deepened partnership with the department at the Saratoga Spa State Park, which is expected to lead to an ambitious new campus and facilities plan with future improvements.

Sobol went on to speak about the significant headway made in the venue’s vision for year-round programming, including several off-site events on the calendar.

“On the heels of a successful 2017 summer season, we are realizing our new vision of year-round programming that extends into the fall and winter months and we’re seeing many new faces coming to these varied SPAC events,” Sobol said in a press release. “From the brilliant Sachal Ensemble musicians visiting SPAC in October as part of their first US tour, and the kick-off to our winter Live at the Jazz Bar series packed with swing dance and music enthusiasts – to the upcoming SPAC @ Bethesda Church events featuring the Orchestra of St. Luke’s festive performance of the Brandenburg Concertos, and the Decoda Ensemble’s songwriting workshop with students from Saratoga Independent School — the year will conclude with unique performances and new experiences.”

She continued, “Looking ahead to our exciting 2018 season, we are delighted to bring the passion of National Ballet of Cuba to the region for the first time, and announce the return of our beloved NYCB for diverse programming highlighted by a centennial celebration of Robbins and Bernstein. While we plan to share our full programmatic schedule in the New Year, we are eager to announce our performance dates for those who wish to plan travel and vacations around our schedule.”

Other dates announced were: the Freihofer’s Saratoga Jazz Festival on June 23 and 24 featuring a dynamic line-up of headliners on SPAC’s amphitheater stage and up-and-comers on the Charles R. Wood Gazebo Stage; The Philadelphia Orchestra’s return on Aug. 1 to 18 with expanded family programing; the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center with six performances featuring adventurous classical programming performed by acclaimed soloists and emerging young talents on Aug. 5 to 21; the immersive, genre-crossing SPAC on Stage series founded by Sobol this year; and four operas by Opera Saratoga from June 29 to July 15: The Merry Widow, The Consul, Vinkensport and the American Premiere of Rocking Horse Winner by Gareth Williams and Anna Chatterton — the first opera to prominently feature horse racing on Opera Saratoga’s stage.

As part of Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s continued commitment to presenting programming that extends beyond the traditional summer months, several events are slated for the winter months as well.

More information about SPAC and its upcoming events can be found online at

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