Ethan Stiefel. Photo by Rosalie O’Connor.

Live music will be featured at each of the Washington Ballet’s spring performances, as well as guest conductors from major ballet troupes, the company announced today. Additionally, the forthcoming world premiere from former American Ballet Theatre star Ethan Stiefel will feature an original score, and it will take its inspiration from John F. Kennedy and his commitment to the space program.

The Washington Ballet will perform Stiefel’s work, tentatively titled “Frontier,” at the Kennedy Center Opera House in May, in conjunction with the former president’s centennial.

In early March, guest conductor Charles Barker from American Ballet Theatre and Pittsburgh Ballet will lead the Washington Ballet Orchestra for performances of “Giselle,” which will be restaged by Kent and Associate Artistic Director Victor Barbee. Later in March, Justin Peck’s “In Creases” will feature live pianists for its musical accompaniment, “Four Movements for Two Pianos” by Philip Glass. Ryo Yanagitani will perform Domenico Scarlatti’s “Keyboard Sonatas” for Alexei Ratmansky’s “Seven Sonatas,” in April.

San Francisco Ballet conductor Martin West will lead the orchestra for all three works on the company’s final program in May. They are: “Jardin aux Lilas (Lilac Garden),” by Antony Tudor, with music by the French composer Ernest Chausson; “The Dream,” by Frederick Ashton, with music by Felix Mendelssohn, and the new ballet by Stiefel. American composer Adam Crystal, who has worked with choreographer Larry Keigwin and others, will create the score.

[Read about the Washington Ballet’s first program under Julie Kent’s direction]

“It was clear with both ‘Jardin’ and ‘The Dream’ that it would be an absolute priority to have live music for those two pieces, since the music is extraordinary for both ballets,” said Washington Ballet Artistic Director Julie Kent in an interview.

The Washington Ballet will continue to perform “The Nutcracker” to taped music, however.

“We won’t sell one more ticket if we have live music in the orchestra, and it’s about $100,000 a week,” said Kent. “We have to move forward strategically and sensibly, and use the money for the orchestra where we can get the most out of it.”

Stiefel, who retired as one of ABT’s most popular principal dancers in 2012, served as director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet and created dances for the Starz TV drama “Flesh and Bone,” is relatively new to choreography. Having seen his work for students at American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School and for ABT’s Studio Company, Kent says she is impressed by his style. She describes it as “very fresh, based on classical ballet, with an interesting dynamic and a sense of humor.”

Related story:
Julie Kent, Sweeping the Washington Ballet Forward