Dancer's Choice

Jenifer Ringer curates New York City Ballet's evening to benefit the Dancers' Emergency Fund.

FEET FIRST Stephanie Zungre readies her pointe shoes

FEET FIRST Stephanie Zungre readies her pointe shoes Photograph: Gwyneth Muller

Jenifer Ringer didn’t campaign for the chance to conceive this year’s Dancers’ Choice program at New York City Ballet. In January, Peter Martins, the company’s ballet-master-in-chief, asked if she’d be up for it. “I almost immediately wanted to say yes because I love to say yes to everybody all of the time,” she noted dryly at the David H. Koch Theater. “But he actually stopped me. He said, 'Before you say yes, think about it.’ It’s funny, because when I went home, I thought, No. I am not going to do this. But because I was a little daunted, I decided to do it.”

Last year, Jonathan Stafford oversaw the program, which benefits NYCB’s Dancers’ Emergency Fund. For Ringer, who is one of the company’s loveliest principals, her personal mission is threefold and focuses entirely on dancers. “I wanted to highlight some of the female artists in the company in ways other than dancing,” she explains. “When Peter came to me, he said, 'I had a male principal dancer last year, so I wanted to have a female principal dancer this year,’ and that sparked me.” She selected Ashley Bouder to choreograph a new quartet for Kaitlyn Gilliland, Brittany Pollack, Amar Ramasar and Sean Suozzi; Janie Taylor, another principal, will design the costumes as well as the program’s logo.

“I also wanted to give the audience a glimpse of dancers as people—not the faade that the audience sees,” Ringer says. “I felt like that was important because the Dancers’ Emergency Fund is not based on talent or rank or seniority in the company—it’s just about if you are having a personal crisis or if there’s something that you need, the fund is there for you.”

Gwyneth Muller, a member of the corps de ballet, is overseeing the photojournalism aspect of the program. Her candid shots will document backstage moments (the images will be compiled into a set of 20 different postcards given to each audience member as a parting gift—this is unheard of). In keeping with Ringer’s focus, a new video will be unveiled—a pas de deux shot from the dancers’ perspective. “I have Andy Veyette and Megan Fairchild wearing cameras, and we’ve shot the wedding pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty.” Preceding it will be the actual pas de deux, performed by Kathryn Morgan and Tyler Angle.

The final portion of Ringer’s objective is to honor the corps de ballet. “I just have a heart for the corps,” she says. “It took me ten years to become a principal. I know how hard they work and how dedicated they are and the amount of emotional energy they put into the job. I’m hoping, if it works out logistically, to give the corps members a curtain call at the end of Union Jack. It’s another reason why I have a lot of corps members doing special parts; I wanted people to have a chance to do things that they normally wouldn’t get to do.”

The program, which concludes with the vibrant “Royal Navy” section of Union Jack, is mainly made up of excerpts from longer works. The “Giggle Dance” from Dances at a Gathering features Stephanie Zungre and David Prottas; the breathtaking pas de deux from In G Major will showcase Rebecca Krohn and Adrian Danchig-Waring; and an excerpt from Serenade highlights Maria Kowroski as the “waltz girl,” Teresa Reichlen as the “Russian girl” and Megan LeCrone as the “dark angel” (the part normally performed by Kowroski). “I knew that Maria had danced the waltz girl at Workshop, and I thought it would be nice to see her do it again,” Ringer says. “And Tess is tall, which is not normal for the Russian girl, but she’s got that amazing jump and she can dance.”

Throughout the process, Ringer has agonized over casting. “Despite the fact that I have 40 people in special roles, that’s still not everybody in the company,” she explains. “I lost sleep over it. But in the end, a lot of it was emotional. I just felt certain people would be good in certain parts. I love having Jared Angle in Union Jack. He is one of the best partners in the company, but this is a part where he doesn’t partner anybody—he just dances. I thought it would be fun for him to have a night where he doesn’t have to haul a girl around.”

And her carefully curated program has another advantage: for orchestra, first- and second-ring seats, tickets are $40; the remainder are just $25 (less than half the cost of a regular ticket). “This night is all debuts,” she says. “It’s such an unusual event, and it’s a chance to see something you probably won’t ever see again. This is the only time I will ever pick a program and cast it.” She laughs, adding, “Hopefully.”

Dancers’ Choice is at the David H. Koch Theater Sun 14.

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