Jerome Robbins, who since the death of Balanchine in 1983 has shared with Peter Martins the title of co-ballet master in chief of New York City Ballet, was conspicuous by his absence at a press conference last May at which Martins announced that the company would open its spring 1988 season on April 26 with a festival devoted to the music of American composers. The real news, though, was Martins’s confirmation of rumors that he had invited as guest choreographers some who, as he delicately put it, “speak a slightly different language, or perhaps dialect, from us.” These included not only the moderns Paul Taylor and Lar Lubovich but the postmoderns Laura Dean and William Forsythe. Lincoln Kirstein, the company’s general director, and longtime defender of the classical faith, offered the amusingly double-barreled prediction that the festival would be “a kind of enormous hors...


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