Balanchine Brilliance

Classic Arts Features   Balanchine Brilliance
The Suzanne Farrell Ballet performs two all-Balanchine mixed programs in November at the Kennedy Center.

With her intimate knowledge of George Balanchine's canon, Suzanne Farrell carries forth his legacy through the Kennedy Center's own ballet company, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet. Its Thanksgiving week engagement, November 20-25 in the Opera House, showcases Farrell's teaching gifts through a partnership with Cincinnati Ballet, presenting Chaconne along with six other works by the master, in two programs.

Meditation, the haunting Tchaikovsky pas de deux created for Farrell and Jacques d'Amboise, premiered at the City Center of Music and Drama in New York on December 10, 1963, and was televised on PBS in 1966. This ballet, rarely performed, was willed to Farrell upon Balanchine's death.

Bugaku, which premiered in 1966 and is set to music by Mayuzumi, recalls a Japanese wedding ceremony. Although it begins with a solemn opening theme, the music grows lush to accompany the bride and groom as they dance in a highly erotic pas de deux that is also a battle of wills.

The Fourth Movement of Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet, which is inspired by Hungarian character dance, features music by Johannes Brahms, orchestrated by Arnold Schoenberg. The first abstract work Balanchine designed for the stage of the New York State Theater, it premiered in 1966.

Balanchine's elegant Chaconne, featuring music from Gluck's opera Orfeo ed Euridice, will be performed by The Suzanne Farrell Ballet and dancers of Cincinnati Ballet, a nationally renowned beacon of dance from her hometown; Farrell will first teach and stage it in Cincinnati before bringing it to D.C. The combined company will fill the stage in a stunning grand promenade for the entire cast. A celebration of the joys of love, this ballet was first performed by the Hamburg Ballet. Balanchine brought Chaconne to the New York City Ballet via the New York State Theater stage in 1976 with Farrell and Peter Martins in the principal roles.

Both programs next month will also highlight the Balanchine Preservation Initiative, Farrell's restaging of his "lost" or rarely seen ballets. Ballade is "a tender, fugitive little dream of an extended pas de deux," according to The New York Times, created "as an exercise in lyricism and emotional coloring." Performed to Fauré's music, it evokes themes of fleeting romance and remembrance. It premiered on the New York State Theater stage in 1980.

Pithoprakta, meaning "action by probabilities," is danced to a score by Greek-French composer Iannis Xenakis, who was known for using "highly sophisticated scientific and mathematical theories to arrive at music of primitive power" ( The New York Times). It was originally part of a larger work called Metastaseis and Pithoprakta that premiered in 1968 with Farrell and Arthur Mitchell.

The Pas Classique Espagnol, a re-discovered Spanish-themed divertissement from Balanchine's Don Quixote, features original music by Nicholas Nabokov. As it was willed to Farrell upon Balanchine's death‹along with the full-length work‹the divertissement is exclusive to The Suzanne Farrell Ballet. In 1972, Pas Classique Espagnol was premiered (pas de deux with ensemble of 12 women). In 1973, four variations were added, including one for a leading man and one for a leading woman. The Jota was added as a prelude to the divertissement in 1978.

Performance Plus™

Ballet 360°, a three-part, full-circle view of ballet, examines the performance, the choreographer, and the dancer. The first program, on October 28, is titled "Pointe-by-Pointe: Understanding Ballet." On November 18, it's "Lost Ballets: The Balanchine Preservation Initiative." On March 30, "A Day in My Shoes: The Dancer's Life."

Discover how it feels to dance as Suzanne Farrell leads Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell FOR ADULTS!, a unique and inspirational movement class for non-dancers on November 18.

On November 20, join ballet scholars for an Open Rehearsal as they guide you through a behind-the-scenes view of dancers onstage preparing for a performance.

Jeremy D. Birch is the writer/editor of Kennedy Center News.

Major support for The Suzanne Farrell Ballet is provided by The Shen Family Foundation. Additional support is provided by Emily Williams Kelly, The Monica and Hermen Greenberg Foundation, and The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation.

A project of The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, the Balanchine Preservation Initiative is produced with the knowledge and cooperation of The George Balanchine Trust. The 2007 Balanchine Preservation Initiative is made possible by the E. L. Wiegand Foundation, Reno, Nevada.

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