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Spanish Starchitect Calatrava Tackles Designing Sets for NYC Ballet

Santiago Calatrava

Santiago Calatrava has often been called the most lyrical of the current crop of starchitects. Today, the New York City Ballet announced that it will give the Spaniard a chance to apply his architectural and engineering skills to the most lyrical of the performing arts.

NYCB's ballet master Peter Martins has invited Caltrava to design several multi-functional stage sets for four world-premiere ballets during the company's spring season, which begins on May 4. The sets are expected to embody Calatrava's recurring themes of movement and flight, an inspiration made visible in his work for the Milwaukee Art Museum, whose roof sports two steel "wings" made of 36 fins that can open when the wind off Lake Michigan isn't too stiff, and his design for the transportation hub at the World Trade Center, whose spiky roofline was inspired by the idea of a child releasing a dove.

By designing for the ballet, Calatrava joins an elite company of architects. Philip Johnson was the only previous architect to be invited to design for the ballet, and that was way back in 1981.

Fittingly, the ballet's season is centered around the theme of "Architecture and Dance." It will feature seven world premiere ballets, and four commissioned scores, all dedicated to Lincoln Center's 50th anniversary. Architecture will be a theme outside the halls as well, as the arts complex is nearing the completion of its multi-year rehab by architectural firm Diller Scofidio and Renfro.

Calatrava's set designs will be the staging for ballets by Benjamin Millepied, premiering May 22; Melissa Barak on June 5 (for whose ballet fashion designer Gilles Mendel will create costumes), Mauro Bigonzetti, premiering June 10; and Peter Martins, premiering on June 22. The Martins work will be set to a commissioned score for violins by Esa-Pekka Salonen, formerly of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and now with the London Philharmonic.

Calatrava's sets will be built in a warehouse in Manhattan.

[Photo by Martien Mulder]