New York City Ballet Partners With Street Artists

New York City Ballet Partners With Street Artists

Highbrow meets lowbrow in the FAILE X NYC Ballet Collaboration as they reach out to a younger, more diverse audience.

Allie Walker
  • 7 february 2013

Terms often used to describe Street Art- urban, subversive, and rebellious- aren’t typically associated with the ballet. In contrast, the ballet is typically reserved as a highbrow cultural activity; but with the recent NYC Ballet and FAILE collaboration, the two meet in a gloriously acceptable middle. As part of the their newly launched Art Series, the NYC Ballet commissioned Urban Artist FAILE to create a site-specific artwork inspired by the ballet company’s ‘energy, spectacular dancers, and one-of-a-kind repertory.’

Les Ballets de Faile

Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller, the Brooklyn-based duo behind FAILE, drew inspiration from past playbills, creating a 40 foot tower made of over 2,000 painted wooden apple crates and blocks. PSFK was lucky enough to attend a recent preview of ‘Les Ballets de FAILE,’ and in speaking to McNeil, learned they were particularly inspired by Balanchine and an image of a dancer with wings:

Balachine FAILE

Inspiration and Execution

In addition to creating the tower, FAILE created limited-edition works to give to every audience member who attends the special Art Series performances. The pieces for the audience members mimic the imagery of the tower; in effect, every audience member is not just given a piece of modern art, but a piece of the performance. We were, however, saddened to learn that FAILE had no part in the ballet’s choreography or set design- as they are the first to collaborate with the NYC Ballet in the Art Series, we hope greater integration with the performance is an opportunity for future artists.


A close-up view of the tower

The high/low nature of the Art Series broadens the NYC Ballet’s audience, especially with those not yet familiar with the ballet– or as one person so pointedly remarked, those afraid to come north of 14th street. To this effect, DDB NY created a print and out-of-home awareness campaign targeted at this demographic; the agency placed posters and subway ads in younger, more diverse neighborhoods like the East Village and the Lower East Side, and ran digital banner ads in publications like Time Out New York and VICE.

The ticket price also made the ballet more accessible for a younger audience- every seat was priced at just $29. In talking to a representative from the NYC Ballet, we were shocked to learn that every NYC Ballet performance, not just the Art Series, offers select seats for $29. The NYC Ballet hopes the popularity of the Art Series will help publicize this lower-priced offering and help attract a new generation of ballet-lovers year-round.

If you have the time, we’d highly recommend a visit to the Lincoln Center to view ‘Les Ballets de FAILE.’ The tower will be on display until February 24th, but if you can’t make it uptown before then, FAILE will be creating an entirely new work for the May 29th Art Series performance. Sadly, tickets to the performance are already sold out, but hopefully the success of the initial Art Series means more innovative collaborations from the NYC Ballet in the future.

Watch Peter Martins of the NYC Ballet and Patrick Miller and Patrick McNeil of FAILE speak about the collaboration below:

FAILE // NYC Ballet


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