“I’m surrounded by a group of colorful, costumed performers,” says the schoolgirl in William Forsythe’s masterpiece Impressing the Czar. Of course, she’s understating it a bit, as these aren’t just ordinary performers, but the acclaimed Royal Ballet of Flanders from Belgium, who begin their four-day stint in New York tonight as a part of the Lincoln Center Festival. The complex and riveting work—originally made for Forsythe’s Ballett Frankfurt in 1988 and including In the Middle Somewhat Elevated, a stand-alone piece of thrilling dance created first for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1984—explores the history of Western civilization, taking audiences from the formality of a fairy-tale court to a tribal dance by Catholic schoolgirls, set to the music of Beethoven, Eva Crossman-Hecht, Leslie Stuck, and Forsythe collaborator Thom Willems.

July 17-20, 2008