Union Jack

Union Jack was created to honor the British heritage of the United States on the occasion of its Bicentennial. Part I is based on Scottish military tattoos and folk-dance forms performed in an open castle square. Part II is a music-hall pas de deux for the costermonger Pearly King and Queen of London, with two little girls and a donkey, danced before a drop suggesting Pollock’s toy theaters. Part III is a series of variations employing hornpipes, sea songs, work chants, jigs, and drill orders of the Royal Navy, in a dockside setting. For the finale, hand flags signal ‘God Save the Queen’ in semaphore code as the Union Jack unfurls.

Hershy Kay (1919-1981) established himself as a preeminent orchestrator of musicals with Leonard Bernstein’s On The Town in 1944. His works for ballet include Cakewalk, Clowns, Western Symphony, The Concert, Stars and Stripes, Who Cares? and Union Jack; his works for musical theater include Peter Pan, Once Upon a Mattress, Candide, A Chorus Line, Evita, and Barnum. A composer in his own right, Hershy Kay also reconstructed Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s Grande Tarantelle for Piano and Orchestra, which later became the Balanchine ballet Tarantella. Mr. Kay’s work also includes a children’s record, Mother Goose.

Repertory notes provided courtesy of and adapted from New York City Ballet Online Repertory Index. Additional sources: Choreography by George Balanchine: A Catalogue of Works, An Eakins Press Foundation Book, published by Viking (1984); and Repertory in Review: 40 Years of the New York City Ballet by Nancy Reynolds (1970; The Dial Press).  Photo credit: Photo © Paul Kolnik
The George Balanchine Trust - Union Jack
Choreography:  George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust
Music:  Traditional British sources adapted by Hershy Kay: "Keel Row," "Caledonian Hunt's Delight," "Dance wi' My Daddy", "Regimental Drum Variations," Scottish theme from the Water Music by George Frederick Handel, "Amazing Grace," "A Hundred Pipers"; music-hall
Composer:  Kay, Hershy
Premiere:  1976
Average Length:  58 minutes
No. Dancers:  74