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Mystical Final Scene in SerenadeThe dancer who is carried off?


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#1 Eileen

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 01:18 PM

In the final scene of Serenade, which Nancy Goldner (Balanchine Variations) calls the Elegy, one dancer is lifted by three men who carry her, as she stands, moving her to a corner of the stage toward a glow of light, as the other dancers follow, in a mysterious ritual. Where is she going? Why?

The subconscious is a mysterious thing in art, and in Balanchine's subconscious may have been the memory of one dancer who had planned to leave Russia with them, but who was drowned the night before under mysterious circumstances. I forgot the details as I don't have Taper's biography on my bookshelf, alas, but maybe someone does. Goldner says Serenade is full of opacity, This is one possible explanation. One dancer went to her death, and the others followed and did her homage.

#2 Natalia

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 02:10 PM

It may be Lydia Ivanova, a young choryphee to whom you allude. She mysteriously drowned while on an outing with a group of KGB male friends, shortly before the little Balanchine-led touring group was to have left for Germany.

It could be Olga Spessivtseva, the great ballerina who, some say, over-worked herself to madness. If memory serves, her initial mental breakdown at a hotel in NYC happened a year or so before Serenade was created; Balanchine was working in Europe but maybe he was aware of what was happening to her? [She worked with Balanchine on La Chatte, although she only performed it one or twice; Balanchine certainly knew of her when she was the leading ballerina of the Mariinsky-GATOB in the late 'teens/early 20s.]

The 'Olga story' works more for me, in that it is the sad conclusion of a ballerina's initial steps, as we see at the beginning of the ballet. She overdid it and faded into madness.

#3 Ray

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Posted 09 January 2012 - 02:38 PM

In the final scene of Serenade, which Nancy Goldner (Balanchine Variations) calls the Elegy, one dancer is lifted by three men who carry her, as she stands, moving her to a corner of the stage toward a glow of light, as the other dancers follow, in a mysterious ritual. Where is she going? Why?


Minor point, but Élégie is Tchaikovsky's name for the entire movement, which is actually the 3rd of the piece (Balanchine places it last).

#4 Eileen

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 01:53 AM

Thank you for this information, Natalia and Ray.

#5 Ray

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 08:12 AM

More significant to your original questions, whatever the biographical origin of this particular image, I think B incorporated images of departure and loss into many ballets--think of the ending of Emeralds, for instance.

#6 Eileen

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 09:41 AM

That is so true, Ray. He put the departures and losses in his own life to artistic purpose. Think of Meditation, another example.

#7 Ray

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 12:31 PM

It's also a bit ironic, though--few have amassed such a large number of loyal and devoted acolytes, disciples, fans, and followers.

#8 Eileen

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Posted 10 January 2012 - 01:18 PM

Balanchine is indeed a phenomenon. We have so few true geniuses in any field of endeavor in the 20th and 21st centuries, especially not in the arts. Balanchine has a special place in our lives. Your point is well taken.


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