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Kyra Nichols to retire in June

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From Sunday's New York Times:

"In its spring season the company will pay tribute to Balanchine’s co-founder of City Ballet, Lincoln Kirstein, on the centenary of his birth, and to Kyra Nichols, one of the company’s most beloved and exquisite ballerinas, who retires in June. April 24-June 24. New York State Theater, Lincoln Center."

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"In its spring season the company will pay tribute to Balanchine’s co-founder of City Ballet, Lincoln Kirstein, on the centenary of his birth, and to Kyra Nichols, one of the company’s most beloved and exquisite ballerinas, who retires in June. April 24-June 24. New York State Theater, Lincoln Center."

And how long will her time with NYCB be? I'm thinking she may be setting a record.

Richard

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I have notes from Kyra's talk in 2003.

Bios of Kyra start with her mother, Sally Streets, who was a corps dancer with NYCB in the 1950's. After Sally left the company, she married and had children. She then started a ballet school in Berkeley, and danced with Alan Howard's company in SF. Kyra started studying with her mother at age four, and at the seminar said she knew right away that she wanted to dedicate herself to dance. (Her brother was a lighting designer.)

Mr. Howard was Kyra's second teacher. He was in the film, Ballets Russes and died a year or two ago. Kyra was loyal to him all his life.

Her first professional job was as the Sugarplum Fairy for the SF Ballet's Nutcracker. She went to SAB for a several summer workshops, and was then recommended by Jillana for a scholarship at 15. She was quickly accepted into the company as an apprentice and then a corps member by the time she was 16.

When she got into the Company in 1974, she was not noticed or "favored" by Balanchine. But Jacques d'Amboise had known her mother, and used her in his own choreographies, until Balanchine started to notice and use her. She was made a principal in 1979.

I will always treasure my memories of Kyra as a dancer and a person.

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I doubt if such records are kept, but I'd bet she's danced more performances in Principal roles than anyone else in history. Quite simply because NYCB must, annually, have more performances of individual ballets than any other company (since usually 3 or 4 ballets per performance), and for so many years Kyra virtually carried the company, night after night. Well, one other less simple "because": because she was good enough to do it! Kyra Nichols is the Chateau Latour of dance, gaining depth and refinement and purity and beauty with every passing year. In ways that matter most, she'll be finishing at her peak.

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What about Patricia McBride or Melissa Hayden?

Hayden: 1948 to 1973 (25 years)

McBride: 1959 to 1989 (30 years)

Ashley: 1967-1997 (30 years)

Nichols: 1974-2007 (33 years)

Hayden was already 25 and a veteran of ABT when she joined NYCB.

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Am I correct in that Kyra's retirement will leave only one active NYCB dancer who danced under Balanchine - Darci Kistler?

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I like that I got to see her in 'Liebeslieder Walzer' in 1985 and 2006, and several other things from both periods. I asked somebody in the audience in 2004 about the 'record' myself, because I thought she had danced longest. She wasn't sure at the time, but it looks that way now.

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Well, I live in Berkeley and take class from Kyra's mother, and actually can claim as all Sally's students can, that I know Kyra Nichols. She's come home nearly every August for the last 20 years and taken class with us and sassed her mother and been very sweet to us; I've done the grand allegro from the corner with her, and the greatest thing about her is how easy she makes it to be around her. As the Baron says of the aviator at the end of Grand illusion -- or is it Rules of the Game? -- (s)he made it easy to forget (s)he was famous. She's nice to everybody. What a lovely person she is.

And what a fabulous dancer -- but on top of that, what a testimony to good training. Unbelievable execution. I'll never forget the first time i saw her do chaine turns -- she was like a tornado. And entrechat quatres, my jaw was hanging off, people were making fun of me. Correct training is good for you. She's had a career with -- as drb implies -- almost no injuries. A couple of foot problems, surgery once or twice -- but working correctly has been good for her.

Her mother has been a famously great teacher all this time -- even as ballerina of Pacific Ballet and then Oakland Ballet, Sally was already a famously brilliant teacher. Which she still is -- Saturday morning's pointe class was all about rolling down, and hard as it was (I was very glad to be in soft shoes), there was no denying it taught you a lot -- the entire adagio was done en face, so you could study every mistake in alignment and correct yourself.... but the exercise was musical at the core.

Chryssa Parkinson, who's made a great name in a modern repertoire, won a Bessie, I think, studied with Sally as a young person and when I saw her recently she remarked that Sally had opened her eyes as a young person to the possibility of seeing every dance exercise as first of all a musical problem -- since all her combinations, even the barre exercises, are musically conceived, and if you have the rhythm, you pretty much HAVE the combination --

I think Kyra's Sugar Plum Fairy must have been with Pacific Ballet, not with SF Ballet -- at the time, SFB was in the doldrums, and Pacific Ballet back in the 70s was regarded by most dancers as a much more interesting company.

And the other correction is that though Mr B may not have created roles on her, Jerome Robbins DID, and he used her a lot, and pretty much set her free, as she once told me, to "dance around the room." D'Amboise certainly gave Kyra big breaks; but it was her role in "Spring" in Robbins's "Four Seasons" that I believe i've heard made le tout New York start talking about her. So Robbins couldn' have been always awful to work with.

I'm thinking of coming to New York for her last week.

PS Thanks to Carbro for catching my mistakes.

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There are a lot of people on that roster who weren't born when Nichols joined NYCB in 1974.

I would say most of the people on that roster weren't born in 1974 - and many of them weren't born in 1983, when Balanchine died!

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I think Kyra's Sugar Plum Fairy must have been with Pacific Ballet, not with SF Ballet -- at the time, SFB was in the doldrums, and Pacific Ballet back in the 70s was regarded by most dancers as a much more interesting company.

And the other correction is that though Mr B may not have created roles on her, Jerome Robbins DID, and he used her a lot, and pretty much set her free, as she once told me, to "dance around the room." D'Amboise certainly gave Kyra big breaks; but it was her role in "Spring" in Robbins's "Four Seasons" that I believe i've heard made le tout New York start talking about her. So Robbins couldn' have been always awful to work with.

It's certainly true about "Spring," but I think that Kyra meant (in that 2003 talk) that d'Amboise was the first one to give her lead roles. I'm glad to hear that she worked with Pacific Ballet, not SFB in those dark days, but I may have misheard.

Thanks, Paul, for that wonderful description of Sally Streets' teaching. What you said about her teaching musicality: "Chryssa Parkinson, who's made a great name in a modern repertoire, won a Bessie, I think, studied with Sally as a young person and when I saw her recently she remarked that Sally had opened her eyes as a young person to the possibility of seeing every dance exercise as first of all a musical problem -- since all her combinations, even the barre exercises, are musically conceived" shows in Kyra's unique phrasing and "rubato."

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I've been sifting through Arlene Croce's reviews of Nichols in The New Yorker recently, and it's interesting to see how Croce viewed Nichols at the beginning of her career:

On the revival of Don Quixote (March 6, 1978):

"In the dancing roles, new and compelling images were created by Kyra Nichols in the Rigaudon Flamenco..."

On Jerome Robbins' Verdi Variations (July 10, 1978):

"Nichols' role contains some fascinating twists--the directional switches in the chaînés at the end of the solo, for example--but it doesn't supply her with the kind of technical challenge which is also an idealized definition of her potential."

On Robbins' The Seasons, in which Verdi Variations became the "Spring" section (February 5, 1979):

"Nichols is so controlled that the audience applauds her for a beauty and a lady, too."

On Serenade (February 5, 1979):

"Kyra Nichols gave the cleanest and most expressive Tema Russo I have seen in many years."

On Robbins' Rondo (December 1, 1980):

"Rondo...has only two soloists, Kyra Nichols and Stephanie Saland, in practice clothes. You think that some interest might develop from casting of two women--these two women, anyway, who are physically and temperamentally so different--and none ever does. Nichols, moreover, is a stronger dancer than Saland, and Salaand, who has a dark, warm, sensuous beauty, makes Nichols look plain--which she isn't. But nothing is done with that, either."

On Nichols (December 15, 1980):

"Nichols, who has been poised on the brink of stardom for some time and had been held back by injury, could make it this season. She's beautiful, strong, and scrupulous. Just now in The Nutcracker she's the company's most dazzling Sugar Plum. But she's not always fully present. In the first movement of Symphony in C, she has everything she needs to light up the stage except--one can't help thinking--the hunger to be there."

On Nichols as Sugar Plum Fairy (December 29, 1980):

"More specifically, [the role] bears the imprint of Maria Tallchief. Kyra Nichols is the first in a very long series to recapture fully the wide dynamics, chiselled épaulement, steady aplomb, and delicate musical accents that characterize the role. She even looks a little like Tallchief."

On Nichols as Dewdrop (December 29, 1980):

"Nichols as a crystalline Dewdrop dominates the performance. Here she looks like no one but herself. She has a special way of giving multiple pirouettes a slight renversé finish, so that the spiral peaks, then curls."

On Nichols in the Tchaikovsky Festival (June 29, 1981):

"Nichols, of course, is one of the strongest bravura ballerinas in the company, but the feats she performed in Valse-Scherzo barely registered, and I didn't think she functioned as well in Robbins's Piano Pieces as the two other principal women, Healther Watts and Maria Calegari. Give Nichols a Balanchine role, though, and the uncompromising terms in which she dances are lucid and complete. In a Balanchine-Tchaikovsky ballet like Piano Concerto No. 2 or Theme and Variations, she springs to life. The festival was lucky to have her."

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The theme of the NYCB Luncheon on 1 February 07 is In Honor of Kyra:

Program begins at 11:15 am on Stage

Program Participants: Kyra Nichols, Jenifer Ringer, Miranda Weese, Sean Lavery, Nilas Martins, Benjamin Millepied, Philip Neal, Damian Woetzel

Kyra Nichols' 33 year career with New York City Ballet will close this June. She is renowned for the crystalline purity of her dancing, her innate classicism and musicality, and the radiant warmth she projects on and off stage. These qualities have made her an audience and critical favorite. On this occasion, we will reminisce with Kyra and some of her partners, and see excerpts of a few of her emblematic roles.

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At $600 a head, I'm sure lots and lots of BT-ers will be able to report. :dry:

If anyone wants to start a fund for me, I won't object. :blush:

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It is unbelievable that Kyra is really the last Balanchine ballerina (excepting Darci of course). Her retirement will be the end of an era. It is also sad to think that the majority of the company, especially the corps de ballet is so new, most joined in the past three years or less, that they were never able to watch Kyra at her peak. Wouldn't it be a treat if Kyra were able to stay on and coach younger dancers in various parts? Wishful thinking!

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Just noticed this on NYCB's site:

Friday, June 22 at 8pm

Kyra Nichols Farewell

Serenade

Robert Schumann's "Davidsbundlertanze"

"Der Rosenkavalier" from Vienna Waltzes

Important Note: Tickets for June 22 have been on priority sale to NYCB subscribers and donors for several weeks. Only a few tickets remain in the Orchestra, First and Second Rings. You may place an order online for Third or Fourth Ring tickets only; but NYCB cannot guarantee that all orders placed can be honored. It is expected that these seats will remain available for only a brief time.

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I met Kyra when she was a student at Mr. Howard's. She was only 13, yet we all could see she had everything going for her, unbelievable beauty, the Balanchine body, the technique AND was a lovely person, not a sign of ego.

Anyone know what her plans for the future are? Will she stay in NY or come back to the West Coast to teach?

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I met Kyra when she was a student at Mr. Howard's. She was only 13, yet we all could see she had everything going for her, unbelievable beauty, the Balanchine body, the technique AND was a lovely person, not a sign of ego.

Anyone know what her plans for the future are? Will she stay in NY or come back to the West Coast to teach?

Back on March 18, BT's Links had a Newark Star Ledger interview with her. Unfortunately, it has expired on their site and now requires registration and payment to read it. As I recall, there was no mention of them leaving her husband's home town of Princeton, N. J., where they've lived since 1999. Her main focus seemed to be on enjoying rearing her two children.

P.S. NYCB's site today reports tickets are still available (4th ring, $15) for her Farewell.

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It may have been that article -- or maybe another -- but doesn't she teach at a ballet school near her home?

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It may have been that article -- or maybe another -- but doesn't she teach at a ballet school near her home?

I copied the article. Yes, she plans to stay and teach in Princeton, maybe coach the Princeton Ballet. Here's a bit from the article:

The prima ballerina on stage, a working mom in Princeton

Sunday, March 18, 2007

This is Kyra (pronounced KEER-ah) Nichols of Princeton, where she's lived for the last nine years and where she's better known as mother to Joe, 10, and Cameron, 5, than she is admired for her regal port de bras.

"She's unassuming. She's real," says Beth Van Hoeven, a friend from town whose daughter is in Joe's fourth-grade class. "You'd just never know she's a superstar."

Nichols -- prima ballerina with the New York City Ballet -- likes it that way.

"She's done this very public thing for 30 years, but you'd think she was performing in a closet," says her husband, David Gray, an arts administrator. "On the Upper West Side of Manhattan, people will stop and say 'That's Kyra Nichols.' (In Princeton), she's just another working mom."

Her Princeton world -- with its daily chores and parenting responsibilities -- has served as ballast for her performance career, a remarkable 33 years with one of the world's prominent ballet companies. As she gets close to retirement and her final performance June 22, her home life becomes more important than ever.

"I always felt that I'd come to the point in my career where I've done it, I've had my fill," says Nichols

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