Balanchine

Programming / Dance.

So I’ll tell you right now: no, I’m not holding up a trophy that dates back to the dinosaurs.
Although, it’s true that everything I’m about to talk about, at the time it happened, I wasn’t even a project of my parents’ existence.

So what?
So… you’ll see.

Do I have to say again how French I am?
If you talk to me about classical dance, I think first: Russians – of course, Russians and their so so famous Bolchoï.
Then, naturally, I think of the Paris Opera, the Palais Garnier and all the little young dancers who twirl around in the old corridors that smell of wax.
Afterwards, but long afterwards – even if it is a terrible injustice – I remember that I am amazed by all the performances of the Royal Ballet. Here I am in London.
I can stop over in Geneva for a while and the Frenchwoman that I am is very satisfied to see how well old Europe defends itself in classical matters.

So today, I do justice to my injustice: in the United States, of course, the ballet school is phenomenal.

This was largely due to the extraordinary work of a man who is still remembered today: George Balanchine.

– No, I won’t do the bad thing of remembering that he is of European origin – almost Russian – but no, I never do things like that.

He founded the New York City Ballet in 1948, with Lincoln Kirstein – which allowed me today to dive into the history of the New York City Ballet, which is absolutely wonderful and which has just – again a happy coincidence? – to restore my confidence in the possibility of programming Altair.
What did Balanchine do? Thanks to Kirstein’s absolute confidence, he did everything he wanted to do – and so he set out to create ballets in homage to all the musicians he loved.
And the least I can say is that it worked very, very well.
I’m diving into this and will surely talk about it again.

George Balanchine

Balanchine was a true dance man – he surely contributed more than anyone else.
For him, dance needed dance above all – it’s silly written like that – but the consequences are obvious and were unexpected for the public. No need to load the costumes – no need to load the scenery: only the dance counts.

It is also this purification of the genre, this will to bring it to its absolute, which I believe has had enormous consequences – not always brilliant, not all those who follow the masters are geniuses -: since the American school, unadorned dance flourishes on the stages of the world.

So far, you can blame me for the side: discovery of dinosaurs.

But – perfectly: but – Balanchine’s work is neither dead nor lost forever in the dust of old libraries.
He left his choreographies – his foundation watches over his choreographic requirements like a mother lion over her cubs – choreographies that are still being staged and, how strange, staged now, right here, for 2021.

Here are some examples of his choreographies, which have passed the New York City Ballet‘s milestones

The Concerto Barocco appeals to me, it’s almost personal – with dance, it’s a bit strange, but the music speaks to me better.

As for Jewels, below, for this incredible variation on the gems, I find it totally extraordinary.
3 composers : Fauré, Stravinsky, Tchaikovsky – 3 stones : emeralds, rubies, diamonds, 3 colors : green, red, white, 3 towns : Paris, New York, Saint Petersburg.
Jewels is a real dance creation: these musics were not intended for this choreography. It has been created in 1967.
It took all the genius of the choreographer, Mr. Balanchine, to identify the musical extracts that would allow his dancers to give us all the attraction, all the strangeness, all the magic, of each of these stones.

And curiously, the man who created the dance for the dance, for Jewels, offered the ‘gem’ part to the designer Barbara Karinska – who made such impressive costumes that it seems to me that some of them are now exposed in museums.

Madam Barbara Karinska

The three cities are Balanchine’s three dance hearts.

The first city, presented by Emeraude, is Paris: and you will find there all the particularities of the Paris school, it is a dreamed Paris, romantic and poetic, with excessively feminine women.

The second city, presented by Rubis, is New York – and there it bubbles, it sparkles, it gloats, it is the eccentric joy of Broadway.

The third city, presented by Diamond, is Saint Petersburg, the great city of the Tsars, the source city of the great Russian ballet, all in whiteness, dazzling with beauty, and with such terrible loves.

Will you say that I am of an atrocious bad faith, by proposing two extracts of choreographies imagined by Balanchine, one by the Opera de Paris, the other by the Bolshoi ? – and if I add that you can see at the moment a Balanchine creation by the Royal Ballet?

Yes – but no – I also chose these extracts to show that the American school has been adopted by all the others, it is respected, loved, cherished, played and replayed on stage.
And okay, here is a purely American piece.

And here is what a splendid NYCB dancer says about her role created by Balanchine:

So, my dinosaur is doing pretty well after all, isn’t he?

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Featured Image : Serenade – choreograph : George Balanchine – Opera de Paris

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