George Balanchine’s “Who Cares?” – A brief history of this fun, jazzy ballet

Written by Robyn Jutsum

Who Cares? Is a Balanchine ballet featuring the music of George Gershwin, orchestrated by Hershy Kay. It premiered in February of 1970 with the New York City Ballet, including Jacques d’Amboise, Karin von Aroldingen, Patricia McBride, Marnee Morris in its principal casting. You can watch a fascinatin’ interview with Jacques d’Amboise on Who Cares? here. The ballet also shares its name with the 1931 George and Ira Gershwin song, first written for Of Thee I Sing.

Running 40 minutes and featuring an ensemble and four principal dancers, Who Cares? is a jazzy, captivating piece of entertainment highlighting Balanchine’s musicality and signature flare as a choreographer. The first half is performed by the ensemble and the second half by the principals. In a way, the ballet is also an ode to the magic of Gershwin’s compositions and the fulfillment of a collaboration between Gershwin and Balanchine. Gerswhin, unfortunately, passed before their original collaboration could come to fruition. It is performed to songs written between 1924 and 1931 including Strike up the Band (1927),  Lady Be Good (1924), Embraceable You (1930), Fascinatin’ Rhythm (1924), Who Cares? (1931), and I Got Rhythm (1930).

It’s a fun, flirty, romantic, jazzy piece and is often considered one of the standouts of Balanchine’s extensive repertoire. As many of Balanchine’s ballets do, themes of Americana and pop culture leap in and out of view, and like the musical selections, the ballet has stood the test of time fairly well. Since its premiere, several companies – under the jurisdiction of the Balanchine Trust – have incorporated Who Cares? into their programming. Sure to be a feel-good crowd pleaser, there’s something for everyone with the selection of melodies and dynamic movements.

Stay tuned for information about our upcoming themes for the Fall. In the meantime, enjoy the excitement of this Balanchine ballet and the last days of Summer!

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