While one can certainly consider City Ballet's corps a "training ground," I've always thought that, on the whole, it must be a very rewarding place indeed for those dancers who don't make it out of the corps.
City Ballet has had a long tradition of corps dancers building up their own repertory of soloist and even principal roles, and finding their own particular niches. Dancers like Delia Peters, Wilhelmina Frankfurt, Rene Estopinal or Deanna McBrearty come to mind. Or even Rachel Rutherford, who (while she should by rights be a soloist now) certainly hasn't had a scarcity of big roles thoughout her career.
And, just as I think it would blind one to much of the beauty of the Kirov, Bolshoi or Royal corps to judge them against City Ballet's standard of energy, it's also self-limiting to look at City Ballet's corps with the same eye for precision and alignment that one might bring to a performance of one of those other corps.
When I watch the City Ballet corps, it's the quality of the movement that always strikes me the most -- the dancers' alacrity and musicality, their unadorned, athletic grace and tremendous power and freedom -- rather than the more readily quantifiable qualities of whether their lines are nicely squared or legs are lifted to the same angle. When I go to City Ballet I leave my micrometer at home. I'm much less interested in the uniformity and simultanaety of the corps's movement, but the beauty of those movements -- less interested in whether they're all kicking at the same time to the same height (for that I can see the Rockettes), but in how freely and individually each dancer moves.
I have no doubt there are many ballets for which City Ballet's dancers aren't suited. The same can be said of the dancers of any company, trained in any style. What of it? I think it's a lot more interesting and rewarding to look at the qualities that make a given company or style beautiful in its own particular way, rather than to bemoan what a company, dancer or style isn't (OK, I do slip up from time to time, but I'm only human).
Getting back to the City Ballet corps for a second, I believe Balanchine considered himself, among other things, an entertainer, mixing together elements of a night at the ballet like a chef preparing an evening's meal. His philosophy was to provide something for everybody, and doubtless he knew that there would be those in the audience (some of them even Russians and Parisians) who actually enjoy noting when a corps isn't "together."
[ 06-14-2001: Message edited by: Manhattnik ]
A fantastic corps?
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