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Preserving Balanchine

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The Balanchine Foundation has undertaken to record many of Balanchine's works, including coaching sessions. Sunday night, some of this project was demonstrated at a lecture/demo as part of the Guggenheim Museum's Works & Process series. This presentation, moderated by Nancy Reynolds and featuring Maria Tallchief and Frederic Franklin, showed portions of long-dormant Balanchine ballets that the older dancers are teaching to a new generation, videos made of the coaching sessions and of the ballets and made available through the Balanchine Foundation, of which Ms.Reynolds is Research Director


Le Baiser de la Fee (1937), with Jenifer Ringer, Nikolaj Hubbe

Mozartiana (1933/45) with Miranda Weese , Nikolaj Hubbe

Piano: Nancy McDill

Interestingly, these ballets share anecdotal features. Both are to scores that Balanchine completely rechoreographed (all or in part) later, and both scores are treatments by composers of works by earlier composers.

Ms. Reynolds described the Balanchine Foundation's preservation program and introduced Maria Tallchief, who spoke briefly of her experience as a young ballerina dancing with Nijinkska, meeting Balanchine, working together on Baiser, his first ballet on her and one that helped propel her budding career. She spoke of the dramatic qualities of the role -- that the fairy, initially presented in Gypsy garb, is a strong character -- not soft and fluffy -- who controls the Boy's fate. The music of the first pdd is familiar to us as the male variation in the '72 Divert from Baiser. Interestingly, the pas opens with the Fairy bending over the sleeping boy, and as the music plays the opening, mysterious strains, the she makes circular motions with her hand that, in the later version, are almost repeated by the man in repeat of that theme late in his variation.

Coaching Nikolaj and (mostly) Jenny, Tallchief stressed a fluid rotation of the shoulders and carriage of the arms, complemented by the use of the head and the personality of the character. I had two overall impressions of the choreography. While I can't say specifically what it was, there were moments in the pas that reminded me of Orpheus -- a much later ballet. And the pdd ends with the Fairy directing the Boy offstage with a severely pointing finger -- very different from the gentle pointing finger motif Balanchine devised for Tallchief in Scotch.

There followed some pirated footage of Tallchief dancing the pas. Due to the short lengths of film available in those years, it was not continuous, but a series of moments spliced together -- lots of in-between stuff missing. Still very exciting -- a much more passionate view of Tallchief than I'd have imagined from the footage I've seen.

Reynolds then introduced Frederic Franklin, who described his initial meeting with Danilova. While his recollections were affectionate, he left no doubt that she wanted her partner to meet her at her standards. She demanded excellence. He said that they had two pas de deux in the original Mozartiana, the first calm and serene, the second very fast and brilliant. The pas he coached for us used music from the Tema con Variazioni, and watching Weese and Hubbe perform it, I was so grateful that this ballet is being preserved. It was clearly designed to show off Danilova's famously gorgeous legs. (Ms. Weese's are a pretty good pair, too.) The legs do a lot of big, bold movments. The pas begins with a series of supported ballottees, each landing in the croisee arabesque, the back leg to the outside of the man. There is another series of lifts where the woman makes large ronds de jambe, one leg en dehors, the second leg en dedans -- legs sweeping the air above her partner's head. The choreography was magnificent, and you can't help but sit in more than the usual awe that Balanchine could make two completely different but exquisite ballets (or sections) from the same music. Mr. Franklin addressed the ballerina as "Mi-rrrrrrrraahn-da," with trilled r's -- a treat for the ear! :wink:

Then we saw film of Danilova and Franklin in the same pas we'd just seen the younger dancers rehearse.

Finally, each pair came out in makeshift but appropriate costumes to do a run-through of their pas de deux. (Slight delay -- filled with more delightful reminiscences -- for Nikolaj's costume change.)

Very exciting, extremely worthwhile evening.

Oh, and that Freddie Franklin -- what a charmer!! :flowers:

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Oh how exciting! My heart was actually beating faster reading your post!

Quick question regarding Mozartiana (1933/45), What dancers did Mr. B choreograph it for in 1933 and then in 1945? Was it Danilova and Franklin in both? Did Tamara Toumanova ever dance a version of Mozartiana?

By the way Carbro, thanks very much for your posting about this important lecture/demo. :grinning:

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Still very exciting -- a much more passionate view of Tallchief than I'd have imagined from the footage I've seen.

That's the exact quality I have always missed in Tallchief's Balanchine makeover. At the time she danced the 'gypsy' she was still a soloist in the Company, and she was a wonderful dancer who performed with a sense of abandon that Balanchine reigned in. I would have been nodding in agreement when she spoke of "the fluid rotation of the shoulders and carriage of the arms"--because that's exactly the way she danced it. I wonder, did she speak of her 'shadow' which was performed by Vida Brown?

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ATM, she didn't mention Vida Brown at all.

I've got to be brief on this one, but to add to Carbro's report - a few details that were worth the price of admission to me:

The film clip of Franklin and Tallchief by Ann Barzel. It was taken from the wing stage right so we got a unique look at Franklin's reactions to Tallchief as she pushed and pointed at the end of the pas. He was a very beautiful man, in what seemed like a great role for him.

Franklin describing Mozartiana - he had seen the 1933 version with Tamara Toumanova and Roman Jasinski and believed that though their first pas (the music is now used for the entree to the Theme and Variations where the ballerina's partner first appears) was different, the second pas (the same music as the long pas today - the other variations were taken by the danseur and ballerina for some as done today, but also by soloists) was the same. It was also obvious why he didn't revive it. He cannibalized the ending of the pas - it's the ending of second movement Symphony in C now! There's also a diagonal of lunging poses that recalls Concerto Barocco as well.

He described Tilly Losch, who was the ballerina of Les Ballets 1933 in passing. "She was what we called a danseuse plastique. A dancer with lots of arms. Very beautiful. Very little below."

In passing he described the Baron in Night Shadow as elderly. We're starting to lose that in casting, as obvious as it sounds.

And the sentence that was for me the most important of the evening, again said merely in passing by Franklin but it gave me an insight into Balanchine's artistic personality. On story ballets he quoted Balanchine in a conversation to him: "You know, I never think narratives are mine. They belong to a story. And I like to do mine."

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Thank you so much for posting this.

I believe the foundation is making hte tapes available to places like our Performing Arts Library and Museum in SF-- djb, do you know anything about htis? Have you seen any? I've got to look into this, see what they've published. WIll report back what I find out....

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Thank you, Carbro!!!! (I'm glad you got in -- I understand that program was sold out months ago.)

There's a listing of the videos and the libraries where they reside on the Balanchine Foundation web site.


Look at the navigation links to the right.

Whoops -- and thank you, Leigh. I posted before seeing your comments as well.

It sounds like a fascinating evening. The Balanchine Foundation web site is also keeping track of all the lectures and events during this centennial season, so it might be a good one to bookmark and keep checking:


I'd also like to link again to Leigh's articles on the danceview web site that describe several of the video sessions:


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It was also obvious why he didn't revive it.  He cannibalized the ending of the pas - it's the ending of second movement Symphony in C now!  There's also a diagonal of lunging poses that recalls Concerto Barocco as well.

Isn't that odd? I know what you're saying, Leigh. You saw Barocco, I saw the end of the Waltz from Serenade, as the Russian Girl and the four demis arrange themselves for the Scherzo. Just that it was very slow in the M'ziana and quick enough in Srnd to include the little saute.

Cannibalize and cannibalize again! :D

Perky, thank you so very much for your special compliment. As Leigh mentioned, Toumanova danced the role in '33. I don't know who was the original. (My copy of Reynolds' Balanchine Catalogue is deeply buried right now, and when I posted last night, I did so without the support of my notes, since located.) Whoever it was, the persistent image is legs, legs, legs.

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Off the top of my head, but I think we're dealing with original casts here. Balanchine made the '33 version on Toumanova and Jasinski, the '45 version on Danilova and Franklin and finally the '81 version on Suzanne Farrell and Ib Andersen.

The comparisons are interesting. The '33/'45 version of the pas is much less packed than the '81 version - which is almost a test of the virtuosity of the dancers Balanchine used. There's more air in the choreography, but it depends greatly on who fills the space in it!

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Carbo, I went on Monday. Franklin said the second pas de deux was probably the same. He said that Toumanova was an "earthier" dancer while Danilova was lighter and the choreography reflected that.

Here is a picture of Danilova in a costume for Mozartiana:


I am a little confused about the costumes, as Weese wore something like the white tutu Danilova wears in the picture. However, in the silent clip of the same pas de deux and a picture I came across in one of my Ballet Russe books, Danilova is wearing a black Tutu. It could be she wore the black one for the first pas de deux and the white one in the second one.

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I believe the foundation is making hte tapes available to places like our Performing Arts Library and Museum in SF

Paul, I don't know if it's still the case, but not long ago the Foundation's policy was to make the tapes available "at cost" to any library with a non-circulating collection that wanted them. Frankly, I think every college with a dance department ought to have them in their reference section!

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