For some reason, i just went back today to review some pages of Villella's "Prodigal", and the next episode made me think of this endless questioning on the Balanchine matters of meanings:
Villella rehearsing "Apollo":
[size=2]"I asked him more, about the moment when Apollo rejects one of the Muses after her variation. Apollo jumps up and turns his head away from Calliope after she dances. What does that mean...?
Balanchine shrugged. He say slyly: "Nothing"[/size]
Of course, one sees a pattern beginning to emerge, and the repetition sets in. That's why I appreciate Mel's remarks; but also Gelsey's remarks, and never did till you typed them up today: Without them, there is a sense of Royal Kremlinology, cest-a-dire, much like what Mel has already said about the Gnostic secrecy and mystique. Balanchine was a great genius, but there is definitely a sense of cult, just as there is with Graham. It could also claim it is not a cult, but I have noticed that the most loftily-structured cults always refuse to see themselves as such. That gives them added appeal and a sense of exclusivity. It probably has a lot to do with a religiosity springing from the practised religions themselves, because in atheist composers and other artists the demands are more material and specifically demanding, as with Pierre Boulez--who simply demands overtly that you accede to his musical wishes or split. Anecdotes such as the one above are frequent among explicitly spiritual gurus as well--when there is a playful turn that goes against all the holiness and deep seriousness before it returns again.
But what Mel said in his paragraph a couple of pages back, as well as some of what he said on a thread about Suzanne Farrell is much the way I see this kind of artistic religiosity. It is necessary, this religiosity, but that's also what I meant about how I take it seriously but not literally: There is a strongly hypnotic element involved, and therefore Gelsey's resisting statements are also half-true, to be taken seriously and not literally. But there were all sorts of other examples of dancers not being fully absorbed into the Balanchine mystique: Peter Schaufuss was there for awhile, I believe, but went elsewhere; he's very showy and is very good at it. Primarily, Mikhail Baryshnikov was there for a year, and he was certainly not fired. And then there's ABT, which is not part of any of this, even though they dance Balanchine works. I like Mel's use of "Gnostic" in regard to all this. Balanchine;s persona is powerful in many good ways, but you have to decide exactly where you are in relation to it--and that could be to be absorbed in it, or to see it as one of many valuable contexts, and be more detached. I love it, but I'm sure I'm in the latter category myself, not immersed in it. The way I see it, in regard to Gelsey and Balanchine, there were two people involved. I do recall when Suzanne Farrell's autobiography came out a few years after Gelsey's, the title seemed to have been derived from the title of Gelsey's book: One gets 'Dancing on My Grave' and then one gets 'Holding on to the Air'. Now that you've supplied some extra passages about Balanchine I didn't read when I skimmed Gelsey's book, the connection is even more obviously there even if nobody will say it means anything more than 'nothing', and/or is purely coincidental. I think that's normal in all ways and in all cases, given the 3 personalities involved. I skimmed Suzanne's book too.