Recovering rocker Mick Jagger has made a stealthy appearance at the ballet to support his partner, Melanie Hamrick.
His backstage move came as the choreographer presented her first work, Porte Rouge, which is based on Rolling Stones songs, on Thursday night.
Jagger arranged the score of three Stones classics – Sympathy for the Devil, She’s a Rainbow and Paint it Black.
Hamrick created the ballet for the 20th anniversary of Youth America Grand Prix, the world’s largest ballet scholarship competition.
Jagger did not appear onstage or in the audience but he did greet the crowd at the Lincoln Center via a backstage microphone.
The 75-year-old rocker recently underwent medical treatment, reportedly for a heart valve issue, forcing postponement of the Stones’ No Filter tour.
Hamrick said later in an interview that Jagger was “doing great – thank goodness”.
“It was cute,” she said of his visit backstage.
“He wanted to watch the piece. It was really special that he was there and able to see it.
“It feels good (for the dancers) when the choreographer and the person who wrote the music are watching you. It gave everyone an extra special feeling.”
I picked the songs I felt I connected with the mostMelanie Hamrick
Hamrick, who dances with American Ballet Theater but did not perform herself in the piece, said it had been nerve-wracking presenting her first choreographic effort.
It was Jagger, she said, who encouraged her to take the plunge when the idea came up, from YAGP founder Larissa Saveliev, for Hamrick to do something with Stones music.
“Mick was ‘who better than you?’ You’re a professional ballerina, you come to my concerts,” she said. “It went from there.”
It was Hamrick who chose the songs for the ballet, called Porte Rouge, or Red Door. Jagger arranged the songs to fit.
She said: “We worked together and he said ‘just trust your gut … go with what your instincts are and I’ll help you figure out how to make the cuts’.”
“I picked the songs I felt I connected with the most and I was like: ‘Can you make these work?’
“And he took it away. He was very good he was ‘you do you’.”
The dancers included six from ABT and one from New York City Ballet.
But the obvious Jagger “character” appeared to be the Argentine ABT star Herman Cornejo, with even his flowing mop of hair resembling the Stones frontman.
“I feel like they have the same energy,” Hamrick noted.
Another standout dancer in the piece, Calvin Royal III, said he’d particularly enjoyed the experience of “bringing rock ‘n’ roll to ballet”.
“I think it was just such a beautiful relationship that needed to be merged,” said Royal, a soloist with ABT.
“It’s so athletic and dynamic, and it was just fun to perform.”
Royal, 30, admitted he did not have much previous experience with Stones music.
He said: “To be honest with you, I hadn’t heard a lot of Rolling Stones music until Melanie approached me about this project, and I went on Spotify and just started listening to a lot of their music,” he said.
Royal did, though, get to meet Jagger.
“It was great to have him on board to support us,” he said.
Hamrick noted she had to strike a fine line with channelling the essence of the Stones without imitating those moves like Jagger.
“I studied some videos of his because I didn’t want to imitate but I wanted you to feel the essence, and I didn’t want him to tell me what to do, because I wanted it to be original,” she said.
Hamrick said she is planning for the ballet to reappear as a longer piece, with more Stones songs.
“Hopefully everyone will like it,” she said.