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Jack Reed

Ashley and Goldner Remember Balanchine

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On 30th October, Merrill Ashley and Nancy Goldner spoke to the audience for Ballet Chicago's Remembering Mr. B program at the Dance center of Columbia College here before the dancers performed Valse Fantaisie and Concerto Barocco. Here are some of their remarks before the first ballet:

Nancy Goldner: Balanchine and music... He was so inspired by music. We connect him with the great composers, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Bach, Brahms. But he favored musique dansant: Faure, Chabrier, Glazunov, Glinka ("minor Russian composers"). Balanchine made eight ballets to Glinka. He used Valse Fantaisie four times, very unusual. The 1967 version will be seen tonight.

Merrill Ashley: This was part of Glinkiana. I had just joined NYCB. He chose four senior corps girls for Valse Fantaisie. Usually right and left dance symmetrically but in Valse Fanaisie they all dance on the same leg, not mirror images. It was made for Mimi Paul and John Prinz (Clifford? Clifford). Paul was known as an adagio dancer, so this was a challenge. I still have this image, it was so striking to watch her in this.

NG: Did she resist?

MA: Maybe silently. Every dancer wanted him to do a ballet on them, they wanted to please him, but this was different from what she had done. It was like me when he made Balade, he wanted me to be lyrical, even at speed.

NG: Mimi Paul had a certain kind of intensity. Maybe that she had to struggle made her a little fierce.

MA: Notice how much space people cover. Balanchine wanted people to dance in a sweeping way. It's not difficult in technique. If it doesn't have that sweep, the quality of the ballet gets lost.

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