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Diamonds (Balanchine)

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I watched my tape of Diamonds pdd danced by Farrell and Martins and noticed that, especially at the beginning, the ballerina dances as if oblivious of her partner: she hardly looks at him, and in general, dances as if he was not present. He, on the other hand, is constantly being attentive to her, etc.

Does someone know why Balanchine choreographed it that way, and what he meant on doing this? (if I am not over- analyzing, of course)


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silvy, there's a wonderful essay by Arlene Croce about this quality that you noticed - not only the inate remote quality Farrell had, but that the ballet showed how little physical support she needed (she could hold balances and also fall off balance in a way that defied gravity and showed how she could possibly dance a pas de deux without support), but Croce made the point (I'm paraphrasing) that while Farrell didn't need him (her partner) that didn't mean she didn't need Him (as a man). It was Farrell's dual nature as a virgin/sensualist. I think Balanchine saw and loved this quality in her, how she could give everything but also be mysterious. Some people found how she didn't always look at her partner cold, but I didn't - it made the moments when suddenly she did look at him that much more powerful. There is a moment like that in the Diamonds excerpt you have, a little bit towards the end of the pas de deux, she suddenly looks Martins straight in the eye, before whirling off in the other direction - did she just suddenly notice him? is she scared? is she challenging him? It's a wonderful question she asks, one of the reasons I loved watching her - she made me think and experience.

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I think this has as much to do with Suzanne Farrell as with Balanchine. Arlene Croce wrote about it in a review called "Free and More Than Equal." (1975). "Suzanne Farrell dances a long, supported adagio the point of which is to let us see how little support she actually needs. There is no suggestion here of a partnership between equals..." Croce goes on to say that when Farrell first danced the role, "it seemed the iciest and emptiest of abstractions with, in the woman's part, an edge of brazen contempt." But when she resumed dancing "Diamonds" upon her return to NYCB from the Bejart, her artistry had deepened. "She is every bit as powerful as she was before, but now she takes responsibility for the discharge of power...and her mastery implies no rebuke."

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Wonderful posts,both Dale and Farrellfan

Now I wonder: where can I read that essay you are referring to? Is it in any of Croce's books commercially available?

Also would like to know if that quality is still preserved in NYCB by the other ballerinas who have danced this same pdd - the only one I saw dancing the pdd was Wheelan (back in 1998), but this was BEFORE I got hold of Farrell's tape and also a live performance as New York State Theater, so I am unable to make comparisons now. I live in South America!! :clapping:


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silvy, the piece is in her first collection "Afterimages" which I think is out of print. I don't recall seeing it in the selection of essays "Writing in the Dark, Dancing in The New Yorker," of a few years ago, but it might be there.

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This relationship between the ballerina and her cavalier, while it reached its apotheosis in Farrell and her partners, had been present in Balanchine's vision for a long time. I think you can say that, in general, Balanchine liked to see his ballerinas as divinely powerful creatures whom the man (Balanchine's surrogate) could only stand back and helplessly admire, and occasionally give some slight support to in order to let her loose. He often told dancers dancing a pas de deux not to look at each other, I think because he wanted this quality in their relationship.

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I think his instruction for the ballerina to not look at her partner was based on the fact that her gaze would direct the audience's gaze to him, ergo away from her.

One of the most endearing moments of my early years watching NYCB was during Midsummer, Act II. :) Jacques and Suzanne were dancing the divert, and for several seconds, he was looking into the wings for her to make her entrance. It reinforced his devotion to her, his protectiveness of her, and our anticipation. So I don't think Balanchine wanted the man not to look at the woman.

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The Arlene Croce essay mentioned earlier is indeed included in her book "Writing in the Dark, Dancing in The New Yorker", page 98.

Another of her essays from that book that comments on Diamonds is "A Balanchine Triptych" page 449. It has a wonderful passage describing Farrell in the adagio,

"And when she bends her head low and stretches both arms out above a forward extension of her leg, "horse" passes into "unicorn," and the "hunt scene" becomes an allusion to the unicorn tapestries. Farrell is both the lady and the unicorn, and in a sense she's the hunter, too, on the scent of her own mystery."

A dancer I would have liked to have seen dance Diamonds is Allegra Kent. I believe she danced it for awhile after Farrell left the company in 1969.

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