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Balanchine's Muse


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#46 fendrock

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Posted 01 November 2002 - 08:09 AM

Given that Farrell and Tallchief were not contemporaries, is it possible to compare the two in the sense of the "type" of muse they were?

How did Farrell and Tallchief differ in the way in which each inspired Balanchine?

#47 fendrock

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Posted 01 November 2002 - 10:37 AM

I also like the exchange where she tells a fellow dancer that George has proposed to her.

The friend's response: "George who?"

#48 fendrock

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Posted 01 November 2002 - 04:12 PM

So I'm still curious as to how the "look and style" of Tallchief would be described in contrast to that of Farrell.

#49 fendrock

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Posted 15 November 2002 - 07:37 AM

I believe, also, that of all of his wives, Balanchine was married to Le Clerq for the greatest length of time (15 years?).

#50 Farrell Fan

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Posted 01 November 2002 - 07:52 AM

Balanchine had serial muses, some of whom, like Tallchief, he married. But, as Jacques d'Amboise says in the film "Suzanne Farrell: Elusive Muse," "Suzanne was the last great muse of his life." And the story acquires more poignancy, perhaps, because she declined to be another in the long line of Mr. B's ballerina wives. It's also worth noting that he choreographed more ballets for Suzanne than for any of his earlier muses.

Nicky was Nicholas Magallanes, a long-time stalwart of NYCB and its predecessor companies.

#51 Farrell Fan

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Posted 01 November 2002 - 01:43 PM

Yes, I agree the Robert Tracy book is worth the search. He lists no fewer than nineteen, count'em, 19 Balanchine Muses. There are interviews with them all, action shots, and lovely portrait photographs. The complete list:

Alexandra Danilova
Tamara Geva
Felia Doubrovska
Tamara Toumanova
Ruthanna Boris
Elise Reiman
Marie-Jeanne
Mary Ellen Moylan
Maria Tallchief
Melissa Hayden
Diana Adams
Allegra Kent
Violette Verdy
Patricia McBride
Suzanne Farrell
Kay Mazzo
Karin von Aroldingen
Merrill Ashley
Darci Kistler

The front-jacket photograph is of Farrell and Balanchine. A different photo of them adorns the title page. The Farrell chapter begins: "Suzanne Farrell is the paradigm of the Balanchine ballerina, in her size and speed, her physical proportions and beauty, the spontaneity and musical sensitivity of her performances. Arlene Croce called her 'probably the most important dancer who ever entered Balanchine's life.'"

#52 Farrell Fan

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Posted 01 November 2002 - 02:16 PM

There's also a video, "Dancing for Mr. B: Six Balanchine Ballerinas," that's very illuminating. The six are Tallchief, Moylan, Hayden, Kent, Ashley, and Kistler. One of the noteworthy things about this excellent film is how Farrell figures in the remarks of several of them. And the filmmaker, Anne Belle, went on to devote her next film entirely to the Elusive Muse.

#53 Farrell Fan

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Posted 01 November 2002 - 05:07 PM

Leigh's point about great Farrell roles being originally created for others is well-taken. On the other hand, Suzanne originated roles in Balanchine's last two masterpieces, Mozartiana and Robert Schumann's Davidsbundlertanze.

#54 Farrell Fan

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Posted 02 November 2002 - 09:26 AM

Amy Reusch is correct. According to "Conversations with the Muses," it isn't even close. Balanchine created 31 roles for Tallchief. Farrell, with 23, is tied with Melissa Hayden -- for third place! Diana Adams is second, with 24. Apologies -- my devotion to Suzanne led me astray.

These are the numbers: Danilova 18; Geva 12; Doubrovska 10; Toumanova 9; Boris 12; Reiman 13; Marie-Jeanne 11; Moylan 7; Tallchief 31; Hayden 23; Adams 24; Kent 8; Verdy 13; McBride 21; Farrell 23; Mazzo 10; von Aroldingen 18; Ashley 4.

According to the Tracey book, these are the ballets in which Balanchine created roles for Maria Tallchief:

Danses Concertantes -- pas de trois
Le Bourgeois Gentilomme -- danse Indienne
Night Shadow -- Coquette
Raymonda -- pas classique Hongrois
Divertimento (Haieff) -- ballerina
Symphonie Concertante -- allegro maestoso; andante; presto
Symphony in C -- first movement
Orpheus -- Eurydice
Carmen: Act II Tavern Scene Ballet -- lead
Aida: Act II, Scene 2, Triumphal Ballet -- lead
Princess Aurora -- Bluebird pas de deux
Don Quixote and Swan Lake (Black Swan) Pas de Deux -- ballerina
Firebird -- firebird
Bourree Fantasque -- prelude
Prodigal Son -- siren
Jones Beach -- hot dogs
Sylvia pas de deux -- ballerina
Music and Dance -- waltz from Naila
Pas de Troix (Minkus)
Capriccio Brillant (Mendelssohn) -- ballerina
A la Francais -- winged sylph
Apollo -- Terpsichore
Swan Lake -- Swan Queen
Caracole -- one of five ballerinas
Scotch Symphony -- sylph
Harlequinade Pas de Deux -- Columbine
The Nutcracker -- Sugar Plum Fairy
Pas de Dix (Glazunov) -- ballerina
Allegro Brillante -- ballerina
Gounod Symphony -- ballerina
Panamerica -- Section VIII: Cuba

Obviously, some listings (Prodigal Son and Apollo) are for their NYCB premieres. I have no idea what's meant by "Don Quixote and Swan Lake," nor can I imagine what dancing hot dogs looked like. Does anyone remember? Anyhow, I'm sorry I never saw Tallchief dance. The subtitle of her autobiography, "America's Prima Ballerina," is more than justified.

#55 Farrell Fan

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Posted 02 November 2002 - 12:11 PM

I'd like to add that, as valuable and attractive as is "Balanchine's Ballerinas: Conversations with the Muses," it is not definitive. For whatever reasons it omits two muses who were also wives: Vera Zorina and Tanaquil Le Clercq. Tanny's NY Times obituary on January 1, 2001, noted that she created 32 roles for Ballet Society and NYCB. She was also the only one of Balanchine's muse/wives or almost-wives, who did not publish her memoirs. Instead she wrote a book about their cat.

#56 Farrell Fan

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Posted 02 November 2002 - 05:15 PM

It's certainly true that Farrell was not only willing to accept the role of muse, but eager for it. In both her book and the Elusive Muse film she says of Balanchine, "He was choreographing my life and that was fine with me."

But in her book The Lives of the Muses: Nine Women & the Artists They Inspired, Francine Prose differentiates Farrell from the other women in her book. "Perhaps uniquely in the lives of the muses, the partnership of Suzanne Farrell and George Balanchine suggests that the roles of inspired and inspirer CAN be divided and shared between a man and a woman, two artists collaborating to produce work that neither could accomplish alone."

Alexandra, forgive me for playing dumb: What is a Farrellism?

#57 Farrell Fan

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Posted 02 November 2002 - 07:45 PM

Calliope -- In the NY Times obituary it said "Ms. Le Clercq created 32 roles for Ballet Society and City Ballet." But that doesn't necessarily mean she beats out Tallchief for the most Balanchine roles created, because she also danced Robbins and Ashton. This numbers game is silly anyway, and confusing. But for some reason neither Le Clercq nor Vera Zorina were included in the Tracy book.

#58 Farrell Fan

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Posted 03 November 2002 - 08:26 AM

Thanks, leibling. :)

#59 Farrell Fan

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Posted 15 November 2002 - 06:03 PM

At the Stravinsky Celebration of 1982, Balanchine invited Zorina to perform the speaking part of Persephone in French. (Text by Andre Gide.) Mr. B was already quite ill and the choreography was officially credited to John Taras, Balanchine, and Zorina. Apparently Balanchine did choreograph a pair of pas de deux for the dancing Persephone, Karin von Aroldingen, and Mel Tomlinson. The production was not well-received, as I recall, but I remember sitting next to a vociferous Zorina fan that night, who kept shouting "Brava Birgitta!" (Her real name was Birgitta Hartwig.)

Her 1982 NYCB experience seems not to have been a happy one. In her 1986 autobiography, "Zorina," she wrote: "Once I stood in the wings to watch a performance, and a tall man stepped directly in front of me. It was Peter Martins. Not a word was uttered. It wasn't even rude -- I simply didn't exist. Finally I too stopped smiling and saying 'good morning' or 'hello' to the dancers. I was in the middle of the most brilliantly disciplined cult, a foreign object who was tolerated only because of Mr. B."

#60 Farrell Fan

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Posted 18 November 2002 - 02:45 PM

We are still waiting for a definitive biography of Balanchine, which would address such issues as how he felt about women, independent and otherwise. The best of the published lot, by Bernard Taper, grew from a New Yorker profile. It is basically a piece of journalism -- superior journalism -- but not the in-depth biography we require.

That said, not all the muses have written adoringly of Mr. B. Isn't it so that that Gelsey Kirkland was, however briefly, regarded as a muse? And there is at least one very good book by a former wife, his first: "Split Seconds," by Tamara Geva. The recollections edited by Francis Mason under the title "I Remember Balanchine," mentioned by dirac, also contain many of the "he picked out perfume" sort of pieces. But the book includes nine pages by William Weslow which amount to the most stinging rebuke of Balanchine I've ever read.

Okay, now I can go curl up and get all teary-eyed again with the paperback of "Holding on to the Air." ;)


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