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By Gerald F. Sweeney 

Lovers of ballet across America are learning that Washington, D.C. is the best destination to see the world’s premier dance companies. For the past few years, the Kennedy Center, under the dynamic leadership of Michael Kaiser, has presented two world-famous Russian troupes, the Mariinsky and the Bolshoi, and their American counterparts, the ABT and the NY City Ballet, in week-long programs. This coming season brings the Paris Opera Ballet to the nation’s capital. The Danish Ballet appeared recently, while the Joffrey is a regular visitor at Christmas.

The Center is also the home of the Suzanne Farrell Ballet that reflects the expressive ballerina’s style and crispness. The Farrell company will be celebrating its 10th anniversary on October 12-16 by offering two mixed programs that will include Diamonds, a Balanchine fragment that Farrell herself once danced to the everlasting appreciation of those lucky enough to have seen her.

A visit to the Kennedy Center is a treat in itself. The spacious white marble shrine to the fallen president overlooks the river from a promenade where strollers can read JFK’s enduring comments on the arts that are engraved in the side of the building. The landscaped promenade on the river side offers a waterside view of Georgetown and the distant Washington Cathedral. The terrace fronting the Potomac runs the full length of the edifice outside the Eisenhower Theater, the orchestral hall and the red plush opera house where ballet is performed. The panoramic view of the city on the other side of the building offers a unique look at the Lincoln Memorial.  

During their trip to Washington this spring, the NYCB danced three programs devoted to Balanchine’s black and white ballets. All but defining the Modernism that dominated mid-century taste, the company’s outstanding bevy of young female soloists displayed their abundant talent — Megan Fairchild, Sterling Hyltin, Abi Stafford, Ashley Boulder, Tiler Peck, and Sara Mearns, the best crop of Lincoln Center dancers since Farrell, McBride and Ashley.

This coming 2011-2012 season, the Bolshoi Ballet will feature the whimsical Coppélia, while the Mariinsky will present Les Saisons Russes, hopefully a recreation of Diaghilev’s Parisian seasons when the St. Petersburg company exploded onto the twentieth-century stage. Devotees can only pray that Obraztsova will dance.

The ABT will offer the world’s reigning choreographer Alexei Ratmansky’s Nutcracker along with the old favorite Le Bayadére (December 8-11). The NYCB will present two mixed programs after the first of the year. The Paris Opera Ballet will bring in Giselle.

Detailed information about these and other programs can be accessed at or by calling (202) 416-8485.

The Kennedy Center, of course, is only one of the many jewels in the crown of the capital city. Side trips to the National Gallery, the Phillips Collection, the Corcoran and Freer will widen the eyes of any cultured visitor. Not to speak of the other Smithsonian museums nearby — American History, Air and Space and the new Indian — along with the many other war and presidential memorials that rise alongside the Mall …

If only the Royal Ballet could be induced to join the premier companies that visit D.C., the roster would be complete.

Hints to visitors: For weekend and evening performances, visitors can avoid the outlandish fee (often more than the ballet tickets) at the KC by parking across the street in the Watergate. Near the garage is Cuppa Cuppa that offers inexpensive but tasty dining, though the Cafeteria on the top of the KC offers fine fare.

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