Ceeszi

Suzanne Farrell

40 posts in this topic

Last year, I read her autobiography and I just finished watching "Elusive Muse" for the second time. I know that her place in ballet history is secure, especially as she was one of Balanchine's greatest muses. Some of the ballets that she originated have now become regarded as classics. However, we never got to see her in the classical roles - Odette/Odile, Aurora, Giselle, Kitri, Nikiya, etc.

These are my questions:

1) Did she ever dance any of these roles? Maybe not at NYCB, but when she was in Bejart's company or maybe if she was a guest artists somewhere?

2) How would she have been in these roles? Maybe not all of those roles would have suited her style of dancing.

3) Do you think she ever regrets not getting a chance to do these roles? Since she was such a devoted disciple of Balanchine, she may have followed his dislike for classical ballet.

**I am so grateful that my sister took me to the NYCB in the spring of 1979. I saw her and Peter Martins dance the Tchaikovsky Pas de deux. As an 11 year old, I remember being frightened by all the people screaming "BRAVO!!!!!" after they were done.

Years later, I saw Suzanne receive an honorary degree from Fordham University - I think it was in 1987 - I was still an undergraduate student at the time.

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She danced Swan Lake for the National Ballet of Canada, that I know.

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Farrell discusses her time with the National Ballet of Canada in her book and “Swan Lake” comes up (she suffered a serious knee injury in it). She never danced the classic roles and apparently has no regrets about that. As Peter Martins observed in his own book, ".....Balanchine has been the reason she dances. Her goals have been to dance in Balanchine ballets." She was dancing the new classic roles, not the old ones. :tiphat:

....... she was such a devoted disciple of Balanchine, she may have followed his dislike for classical ballet.

Ceeszi, I think I understand what you mean, but Balanchine did not dislike the classics -- far from it. He always talked of his own Sleeping Beauty, Coppelia became part of the NYCB repertory under his watch, and he did his own one-act Swan Lake (danced by Farrell, among many others). Balanchine's work was an extension of the classical tradition, not a repudiation of it.

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A few months ago, I did a search on Proquest archives. I was surprised to see a review of Farrell in the Kingdom of the Shades with NoBC. So yes, she did dance Nikiya in that.

Also, I think she only performed Odette in that Canadian production, which split the roles, having another dancer perform Odile.

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I never heard that she did Nikiya, too -- interesting. I seem to recall, though, that her knee blew out performing the Act II fouettes, and she mentions that she enjoyed performing the dual roles. (This is from memory and could be mistaken.)

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Farrell's guest stint was important enough for Clive Barnes, then the NY Times dance/theater critic, to take the trip up to see her. I was surprised to see she did the Shades.

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Didn't she do a full Swan in Chicago? Was that with NBoC?

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Were the NBoC performances during the period when she and Mejia were out of NYCB (spring 1968-1974)?

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Here's a part of the review:

Miss Farrell was part brilliant, part subdued. She showed flair and authority, and, of course, her musicality was undiminished. But her arms, always her weakest aspect, once in a while flailed less than beguiling. To be frank: she looked like a gorgeous dancer who had slightly lost her way and should return to New York City Ballet without passing Go, without collecting $200 and most certainly without going to jail.

There's only one more paragraph regarding Farrell as Barnes suggests that both sides (Balanchine/NYCB and Farrell) have made their points. There was a follow-up article about dancers who leave large companies to dance at smaller ones. He interviews Kirstein, who says something like "where would you rather dance, Toronto or Covent Garden?"

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The Bayadere came in late November, 1969.

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Helene wrote:

Were the NBoC performances during the period when she and Mejia were out of NYCB (spring 1968-1974)?

They were. I believe they were Farrell's first high profile engagements after the rupture with Balanchine. (She said in the book there was some talk of her joining the company, and she dropped hints that she was interested, but the company didn't follow up.)

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Did Farrell ever dance with Baryshnikov during his year at NYCB? I haven't been able to find any mention of it googling, and had been surprised about the one 'Apollo' with Nureyev, so I assume she did not. However, I definitely don't know even though I never heard of it.

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Arlene Croce once wrote that if not for Balanchine, Farrell might have become another Isadora Duncan.

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Did Farrell ever dance with Baryshnikov during his year at NYCB? I haven't been able to find any mention of it googling, and had been surprised about the one 'Apollo' with Nureyev, so I assume she did not. However, I definitely don't know even though I never heard of it.

From her book:"I felt a special affinity for him because I thought we both devoured space with the same passion, and I would have liked to dance with him, but it was impossible because of the great diference in our heights."

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It would have been interesting to see the two of them together in the roles she used to dance with Villella, who was also too short for her -- Prodigal Son and Bugaku.

Returning to one part of Ceeszi's original question -- which of the classical roles would those of you who saw a lot of Farrell choose for her?

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Thanks, Farrell Fan and Dirac--I was thinking about 'Prodigal Son' as something that might have happened at least once, but I was fairly sure it hadn't.

I can easily imagine Farrell in a full-length 'Swan Lake.' It wouldn't substitute for the more traditional and theatrical, but it would have been beautiful and fascinating. Also possibly Juliet in the 60's period. The others are less easily to visualize as she clearly was not looking at those things for herself.

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I think back then Suzanne would probably have had a harder time dancing in classical roles because of her extreme height. Nowadays super-tall ballerinas (Lopatkina, Zakharova) are much more common.

But Suzanne in her book said she went to a Fonteyn/Nureyev Giselle but afterwards had no interest in classical ballet.

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I never heard that she did Nikiya, too -- interesting. I seem to recall, though, that her knee blew out performing the Act II fouettes, and she mentions that she enjoyed performing the dual roles. (This is from memory and could be mistaken.)

She states in her autobiography that her knee went during a series of piqué turns--not sure whether these were substituted for fouettés in Act III or if they were the ones at the end of Odette's Act II variation.

I can definitely see Farrell as Nikiya, but not Juliet or Giselle. However, I think she would have made a wonderful Medora.

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Or a fascinating Myrtha!

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Imagine a Patricia McBride Giselle and a Farrell Myrtha :clapping: !

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Or Allegra Kent/Eddie Villella/Farrell. :clapping:

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Much as I love(d) -- and grew up on -- these dancers, I honestly can't see them in Giselle. Serious comedy, yes -- as in Coppelia and Midsummer Night's Dream -- but not Giselle.

I can't speak to the issues of classical technique. I'm thinking more about the kinds of aesthetic and role that Balanchine's dancers were accustomed to. This approach continues, it seems to me, in the Martins NYCB, where the performance style of full-length Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty seem to come from a different continent (if not planet) from those produced by ABT and the major European companies that I have seen. (Not worse or better -- but different.)

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I think Farrell could have worked as Myrtha with a classical company, but the thought of an all-Balanchine Giselle makes my head hurt. (The port de bras alone....)

Actually, these days I could see Farrell doing a really imperious, terrifying Carabosse.

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Actually, these days I could see Farrell doing a really imperious, terrifying Carabosse.

That sounds fantastic, and also like something she might really decide to do.

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I think it was in a Ballet Review interview, Farrell said she had no interest in doing the classics, that there was more emotion in a moment of Balanchine's ballets than in Giselle and her flowers. And in a way, Balanchine re-did the Giselle myth over and over in his ballets - lovers meeting and than parting in sacrifice. All you needed to do is see Farrell in Meditations or the 2nd movement of Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 or Serenade...

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