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Manhattnik

Tracey's Farewell

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Nothing like some High Drama at Margaret Tracey's farewell last night. Ringer, who'd been scheduled to debut in Scotch Symphony, was out due to an injury. The casting in the lobby simply said the lead would be danced by "TBA," and the program insert mentioned nothing about who'd actually dance Scotch. After the lights went down and the usual announcements about cel phones and pagers, it was announced that the lead in Scotch would be -- Margaret Tracey.

It was probably the finest I've seen her dance, and one of the most beautiful Scotches I've ever seen. I was touched at how all the corps dancers applauded for her at the curtain calls.

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High drama indeed, Manhattnik. But wasn't Tracey scheduled to dance something herself at her farewell? smile.gif What else was on the program??

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Yes, she was also to dance Zakouski. It's not exactly my favorite piece, so I left after Whelan's wonderful Walpurgisnacht. Now I'm saving up my energies for the International Superstars Smackdown tomorrow night at the State Theater.

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Tracey's Scotch showed off all her virtues, clean technique, great charm and daintiness, and something we didn't always see from her - daring. Askegard partnered wonderfully. After Walpurgisnacht and a lovely Romeo and Juliet by Bouree and Boal and Zazouski, the festivities began. Hubbe left Tracey alone onstage and then returned with a large bouquet of roses. Flowers were thrown from the audience and rained down from the flies. Then Kathleen Tracey came out with a bouquet and got a big kiss and hug. She was followed by an emotional Russell Kaiser, Tracey's husband and an NYCB ballet master. He was follwed by Whelan, her dressing room mate, and then Martins came out. By then, we could scarcely see Tracey for the flowers and Martins helped her set them on the floor. Tracey kept gesturing to the wings and finally her 2 year old son toddled out with a bouquet of balloons. Adorable! Then everyone came out along with a number of the dancers. A very touching tribute to some one who epitomizes the virtues of a "house ballerina." Tracey always gave a good performance and sometimes like last night in Scotch and her recent performances in Baiser, she gave a great one. I'll miss her.

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Thanks for the reports. I'm a bit puzzled, though. When Tracey's farewell performance was first announced, wasn't it the case that she was supposed to dance "Scotch Symphony" as well as "Zakouski"? Am I wrong about this? I know that more recently, "Zakouski" was the only thing mentioned, which is why I decided to pass on the performance. So I wound up screwed once again by the Martins regime. I'm glad to hear that Margaret exhibited daring, because in recent years that's the quality that's been most missing in NYCB's "Scotch." I think it's one of the Balanchine ballets that's changed most since Mr. B's passing.

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Jenifer Ringer hurt herself in Divert. the other night. I don't think it was a calculated move on any regime or person's part to irritate anyone by Tracey agreeing to do Scotch at the last minute. Borree was doing R & J pdd in the second half of the program and the other person cast for Scotch this season is Abi Stafford, who did a great job in Walpurgis Nacht. I think that for Tracey's farewell it was both exhilarating and very gracious for her to do this Scotch. I know that I was immensely pleased by the substitution, although I was disappointed a couple of days ago when I heard that Ringer was injured and would probably not be doing Scotch. I hope that is just a minor hurt.

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Thanks Juliet, for the prompt reply. I'd like to second best wishes to her and hopes that it is nothing serious. Scotch is a role I want to see her in; I've thought in the past that she'd be well-suited to it. She did do Morgen on Friday, which makes me think the injury is not too serious.

[ February 10, 2002: Message edited by: britomart ]

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I was a little shocked, Margaret Tracey's already been pulled off the website for NYCB. I thought they'd at least leave it up until the end of winter season.

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I was happy Margaret got a chance to dance Balanchine on the State Theatre state one more time on the day of her retirement. She had said in Time Out New York that she believed it would be "presumptuous" to pick Balanchine for her farewell, although she thought she "made her mark" on a few of the works. And she was lovely in Scotch. I always thought she performed it a little too flirty, making little of the part's inherent mystery. But her joy Saturday was wonderful to see and showed off all her virtues.

Although a little maligned now, Tracey was considered a breath of fresh air when she first came on the scene. I'll remember her fondly in many roles -- Aurora, Rubies, Harlequinade, Coppelia, Theme and Variations, Raymonda Variations, Square Dance, Stars and Stripes and Sanguinic from Four Ts.

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What an extraordinary thing to say after being with NYCB for sixteen years -- that it would be "presumptuous" to dance Balanchine at her farewell! In any event, I'm happy too that Margaret got to do "Scotch Symphony." I'm just sorry I wasn't there to see it.

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It does seem like an odd thing to say. Also, how odd to be "covering" on the night of one's gala. Very Lucine Amara.

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Is it NYCB custom to only get to dance one thing at your farewell gala? Whatever happened to the notion that the audience wants the chance to say goodbye to you in your best roles?

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Alexandra, I think the choice of roles is left very much up to the dancers. At Farrell's final performance, Martins choreographed a ppd for the two of them and then she danced Viennna Waltzes. I remember reading that Von Arnoldigen's farwell performance was in Violin Concerto. Does any one remember more recent retirements? It seems to me that it has been some time since we've seen one.

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Hlinka did Tchiak pas deux with Woetzel and Scotch with Boal. Ashley did "The Man I Love" pas deux from Who Cares? and the pas de deux from Barber Violin Concerto. She retired on the opening night gala. I don't remember the whole McBride program but I see to recall her doing Tea Rose (choreographed by Martins) during which all her partners presented her with a rose. It was very charming.

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Dale, I checked the review I wrote of her retirement performance and I think Hlinka did Scotch with Soto rather than Boal (for what it's worth!)

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OK. I went to a dress rehearsal for her final performance in one of those guild things. She was running through the Tchiakovsky with Damian and joked with him that he should dance Scotch with her. He said he had rehearsed it a long time ago but never performed it and wouldn't want to screw up her retirement smile.gif

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Suzanne's memoir is no help in elucidating NYCB policy on farewell galas. She says "It was decided that my farewell would be on November 26, 1989. I was to perform two ballets, Vienna Waltzes and Sophisticated Lady." I guess it depends on what the meaning of "It" is.

Incidentally, "Sophisticated Lady" had been choreographed by Martins for the American Music Festival in the Spring, 1988 season. I saw it then as well as at the farewell. It was a sweet piece to Duke Ellington music in an arrangement by Andre Kostelanetz, if you can imagine such an odd coupling. Peter came out of his dancing retirement to perform it with Suzanne. There was a corps of sixteen men in black tie, including the choreographer's son. The Ellington songs in addition to the title one were "Solitude," and "Don't Get Around Much Anymore," the latter of which brought down the house, but was perversely omitted from a subsequent PBS show.

White thornless roses rained down on Suzanne after the curtain came down on Vienna Waltzes. Pink roses descended on Patty McBride after her farewell. To the best of my recollection, no comparable flower shower had occurred between then and the carnations of Tracey's farewell.

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Did Heather Watts have a "farewell performance" and Stephanie Saland?

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As far as I know, yes. Watts did Bugaku (and may have done another ballet, I am not sure); and I was talking with someone last night who said Saland's farewell was in the Rosenkavalier section of Vienna Waltzes.

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Thanks for the gentle correction on Hlinka's flower shower, Leigh. I was there, too -- the neurons are fading, no doubt about it.

Not to belabor this subject, but perhaps the grandest farewell any NYCB ballerina ever had was Melissa Hayden's. It lasted for most of her final season, Spring of 1973. Balanchine did a ballet for her, "Cortege Hongrois," which she performed several times. The surprising thing is that it remains in the repertory to this day, even though it was thought of at the time as a piece d'occasion. Balanchine brought out the flowers himself -- I know because there are photographs.

On the other hand, there are NYCB ballerinas who never had a gala or so much as a "See ya around." Maria Calegari, anyone?

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In case anyone was wondering - Ringer was back onstage last night (Tues.) in "Serenade."

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Originally posted by Leigh Witchel:

and I was talking with someone last night who said Saland's farewell was in the Rosenkavalier section of Vienna Waltzes.


Salands' farewell was, indeed, in that piece. And, it was during the marathon final night of the Balanchine Celebration, so you can see it on video.

-amanda

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