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What is "the central role in the Balanchine canon"


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For Helene, as she writes on the Darcey Bussell thread, it is "probably" Agon. (She hated Bussell in the part.) Although there's much to be said for Apollo, I guess that since "ballet is woman," it has to be a female role. Any opinions? From 1962 to 1989, for me the central role in the Balanchine repertory was whatever Suzanne was dancing that night. These days, I don't know.

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I wouldn't be sure that the "central role" in Balanchine's canon is female. I believe it was Don Quixote. It was the role Balanchine himself performed more than any other in the NYCB repertoire, and after the ballet was retired, all of the Old Men parts in the story ballets became him. Drosselmeyer became more "like Robespierre", to quote B's advice to Shaun O'Brien. In "Harlequinade" Cassandre, Columbine's father, went from the Bartolo-like Michael Arshansky to the, well, Quixotic Andrei Kramarevsky. In "Davidsbundlertänze", he may be the "missing man" in the last part of the ballet. I believe that it was one thing that made audiences uncomfortable about his Don. It was "too much information", and I, for one, was not glad of the sharing.

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Looking back, I think that Agon is Balanchine's greatest work, the pinacle of his collaboration with Stravinsky, and the work that pushed ballet to the farthest point to date. I think many of his ballets that followed were great, great works, but I think Agon is as close to being a perfect marriage of music and dance as it comes. That's why I think the pas de deux, which is at the center of the ballet, is at the epicenter of Balanchine's canon. I should have said that Adams' role is one of the two central roles, the other being Arthur Mitchell's role. But I never think of Mitchell's role that way, because I've never seen a performance of it that comes close to Mitchell's performance in the kinescope, while I've seen performances close to Adams', although the excerpt of hers in the PBS Balanchine biography is still my favorite.

That said, most of the time at NYCB through the 80's, live, in the moment, I agreed with Croce's statement that (Steadfast Tin Soldier and Variations pour une porte et un soupir notwithstanding) "the greatest Balanchine ballet is the one you happen to be watching."

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I tend to look at the roles that Acocella once referred to as "the goddess roles" as those central to NYCB's repertoire. So those would be 2nd movement Symphony in C, the lead in Concerto Barocco, the lead in Diamonds, the lead in Agon, the last of the Wilde variation in Divert. #15 (but sometimes also the Adams one), the so-called waltz girl in Serenade, the sanguinic ballerina in 4 Ts., Terpsichore in Apollo, to name a few. To bear this out, some ballerinas start out in the Hayden role in Agon and then "graduate" to the pas de deux (recently Whelan, Meunier, Kowroski). Same in 4Ts.

And it just happens that Farrell danced many (all actually) of these roles. So Farrell Fan was right in a way.

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