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Happy B'day Mr. B!

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Now that Balanchine's 100th birthday is upon us, does anyone have any personal recollections of him they'd like to share?

Here's mine, such as it is:

Back around 1975, my partner (at the time) and I were at NYCB often. We liked to sit on the ledge above the stage door on warm Spring evenings and watch the dancers come and go. We were especially thrilled to see Merrill Ashley, then an up-and-coming ballerina. One day, just after she had passed by (giving us a nervous grin...she may have thought we were stalkers!) we saw Balanchine coming down the sidewalk with an attractive young lady on his arm. We were speechless until he was directly in front of us; them my friend blurted out "Oh, my God...it's HIM!" Balanchine tilted his head back a bit and seemed annoyed, but then suddenly gave us a courtly little half-bow and proceeded into the theatre.

We glimpsed him a few more times as the season passed by, on the plaza. Always with a young lady. And never the same one twice.

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In 1981, I was interviewing Edward Villella for a radio program. NYCB had given me a room in the basement of the State Theater for the occasion. After we finished taping, Mr. Villella--who was, I have to admit, totally devastating--offered to take me upstairs to meet "Mr.B." ("You've never met him?") A few minutes later, I found myself on the STAGE of the New York State Theater, where Mr. Balanchine was contemplating a collection of long lucite tubes hanging at the back of the stage. He was wearing his usual shirt and string tie, and a jacket. He seemed pleased to see his prodigal son, offered me his hand most graciously, and gave me a quick appraising once-over. He looked amused. Of course Mr. Villella does not remember this--I once reminded him of it, to thank him for the introduction--but I always will.

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