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Farrell to tape Meditation coaching session for GB Foundation

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The release:


The choreographer’s Muse to coach the romantic Meditation pas de deux

New York City & Washington, DC—Suzanne Farrell, director of The Suzanne Farrell Ballet and a principal dancer with New York City Ballet for nearly three decades, during which she was the major inspiration for several of Balanchine’s late works, will teach and coach Meditation on camera for The George Balanchine Foundation’s Interpreters Archive video series. The aim of the series is to document the viewpoints of dancers on whom Balanchine choreographed his ballets, taping them in a rehearsal studio coaching and explicating their roles with dancers of today and reflecting on Balanchine’s intentions at the time of creation. Taping will take place September 10 and 11, 2009, in the Eisenhower Studio at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C.

Ms. Farrell will work with two dancers from The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, principal dancer Michael Cook and soloist Elisabeth Holowchuk. George Jackson, whose dance criticism has appeared in a wide variety of publications, will conduct interview segments with Ms. Farrell. Nancy Reynolds, the Foundation’s Director of Research, will supervise the project.

Created in 1963 for Suzanne Farrell and Jacques d’Amboise, Meditation, to Tchaikovsky’s composition of the same name for piano and violin, is unlike other work by Balanchine in both mood and movement vocabulary. Matching the music’s high emotional pitch, two figures—a man and a woman--meet, embrace, and eventually part. She, dressed in flowing white and with her hair falling freely over her shoulders, is perhaps a lover, perhaps a vision. Balanchine called the work “contemplative.”

Ms. Farrell commented (in remarks appearing in Repertory in Review by Nancy Reynolds), “Choreographically it is very interesting because in all the technical things we do together, all the partnering, the ‘how’ of it is camouflaged. This contrasts with something like Agon, where the audience sees all the mechanics, where the more your arm shakes when you’re holding onto your partner, the greater the suspense. In Meditation the handwork is all hidden, and that’s the beauty of the pas de deux.”

Mr. Jackson observed, “Meditation, despite its special character, evokes the rich history of courtship. It extended the craft of partnering into territory that became very productive for choreography because Balanchine reconciled his radical emphasis on anatomic line and the continuity of movement with the tradition of poetic imagery.”

* * *

SUZANNE FARRELL joined the New York City Ballet in 1961 and was soon dancing leading parts. In 1963, with Movements for Piano and Orchestra, she appeared in the first of a long series of brilliant roles choreographed for her by Balanchine, a series that ended only with his death in 1983. After Movements came Balanchine’s Meditation, Don Quixote (in which she sometimes danced the lead opposite Balanchine himself), Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet, “Diamonds” from Jewels, Metastaseis and Pithoprakta, Tzigane, Chaconne, Vienna Waltzes, Walpurgisnacht Ballet, Davidsbündlertänze, and the sublime Mozartiana, among others. Jerome Robbins and Maurice Béjart are among the choreographers who also composed works for her. Suzanne Farrell gave more than two thousand performances with the New York City Ballet, retiring from the stage in 1989. Since then, under the auspices of The George Balanchine Trust, she has staged Balanchine ballets all over the world.

Ms. Farrell began her association with The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1993, working with the Education Department. In 2001, she created the Kennedy Center’s own company, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, of which she remains artistic director. The company holds annual seasons at The Kennedy Center and tours nationally and internationally. In 2007, the company announced the formation of the Balanchine Preservation Initiative, dedicated to the performance of rarely seen or “lost” Balanchine works. To date nine ballets have been part of the program, including Ragtime, Divertimento Brillante, and Pithoprakta.

In 2000. Ms. Farrell accepted a position as professor in the dance department of Florida State University at Tallahassee. Her autobiography, Holding On to the Air, was published in 1990. In 1997, Suzanne Farrell: Elusive Muse, directed by Anne Belle and Deborah Dickson, was an Academy Award nominee for Best Documentary Film. In 2005, Suzanne Farrell was a Kennedy Center Honoree in recognition of lifetime achievement in the performing arts.

MICHAEL COOK (principal) received his dance training from the Tempe Dance Academy in Arizona and the School of American Ballet. While performing with Ballet Arizona, Mr. Cook originated leading roles in Ib Andersen’s Romeo and Juliet, Mosaik, and Swan Lake. His repertoire includes works by Paul Taylor, Julia Adam, Twyla Tharp, and Dwight Rhoden, as well as many by Balanchine. He was promoted to principal with The Suzanne Farrell Ballet in 2009.

ELISABETH HOLOWCHUK (soloist), born in Canada, received her early training from Christine Melgar Taylor and continued her studies at the School of American Ballet. She has been a member of The Suzanne Farrell Ballet since 2001 and was promoted to soloist in 2008. Her repertoire includes leading roles in Pithoprakta, Concierto de Mozart, Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, Ragtime, and Clarinade. Ms. Holowchuk also owns the design company Stylish Ink and has created a line of Farrell Ballet merchandise that can be found in the Kennedy Center gift shop.

GEORGE JACKSON has reviewed dance for the general media (Washington Star, Washington Post, London Times, NPR, PBS) and for specialized sources (Ballet Review, Dance Chronicle, danceviewtimes.com, et al.). He has resided in Austria, Britain, and the USA and became aware of criticism at the University of Chicago (“the unexamined pleasure is not worth enjoying”). He also took ballet class and studied microbiology, teaching that topic and doing scientific research at Rockefeller University and the FDA.

NANCY REYNOLDS, a former dancer with the New York City Ballet, has been The George Balanchine Foundation’s Director of Research since 1994. She conceived and continues to direct the Foundation’s Video Archives series. Also an author, her most recent book is No Fixed Points: Dance in the Twentieth Century (co-authored with Malcolm McCormick).

* * *

The George Balanchine Foundation (www.balanchine.org) is a not for profit corporation established in 1983. Its mission is to create programs that educate the public and further Balanchine’s work and aesthetic, with the goal of advancing high standards of excellence in dance and its allied arts. Among the Foundation’s major initiatives are the Video Archives ( http://www.balanchine.org/balanchine/03/gb...eoarchives.html ), in which important Balanchine dancers teach and coach roles created on them by Balanchine with dancers of today (Interpreters Archive) or recreate Balanchine ballets that are rarely performed and in danger of disappearing (Archive of Lost Choreography). Legendary dancers who have taken part in this project include Alicia Markova, Maria Tallchief, Frederic Franklin, Alicia Alonso, Melissa Hayden, Allegra Kent, Todd Bolender, Merrill Ashley, Suzanne Farrell, Rosella Hightower, Marie-Jeanne, Violette Verdy, Edward Villella, Patricia Wilde, Yvonne Mounsey, and Helgi Tomasson, working with leading dancers from such companies as New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, among others.

In 2007 the Foundation announced the completion of another major initiative, the online publication of the Balanchine Catalogue, a fully searchable database giving first-performance details of all known dances created by Balanchine, supplemented by lists of companies staging the ballets, a bibliography, a videography, reference resources, a database of roles Balanchine performed, and additional related materials ( http://www.balanchine.org/balanchine/03/ba...taloguenew.html ). The project was made possible by a leadership grant from The Jerome Robbins Foundation.

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This is exciting news for me, not least because Elisabeth Holowchuk will be dancing Farrell's role. Elisa has worked with Suzanne at Cedar Islands, the Kennedy Center, and as a member of the Farrell Company. I am looking forward to seeing both Suzanne and Elisa at the Macarter Theater in Princeton, N. J. next month. Be still, my beating heart!

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These tapings are not open to the public. There's usually a few invited people, the writer/interviewer and some Balanchine Foundation people.

Of course some of these sessions have been described in loving detail in DanceView. And of course George Jackson is a writer for Danceview. So we can hope for a report!

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i just checked w/ Nancy Reynolds and while Dale is correct that there have been past allowances for some observers to sit in the background of such sessions - as has been pointed out by the reports published in DV etc. - and that this was most certainly true for the archive's MONUMENTUM/MOVEMENTS sessions in NYC, the MEDITATION session in D.C. does not allow for this opportunity.

apparently the Kennedy Center studio is not very roomy, so no observers can accommodated.

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Have anyone but Farrell and d'Amboise ever danced this (in public, I mean)? It certainly put Farrell on the map as the Balanchine dancer of the future.

I believe this was performed on television. Although I'm tired of hearing myself ask this question, and getting the same old "no" for an answer, is there any chance of a release on video now ... (for us groundlings who are not invited to these special events)? Tchaikovsky's dead/ Karinska's dead,/ Farrell and d'Amboise are around to give their permission/ the Balanchine Trust has nothing to lose: why NOT make a video of one of the early performance available?

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i suspect the 'rights' issue goes beyond the individuals suggested here, to include the television people who worked on the program referred to with MEDITATION from '65.

i presume this is the one noted below as given in the NYPL cat.

(actually i think. tho' the info doesn't spell this out that MEDITATION is the only work given complete, the others, i think, are cut in some way or other, if mem. serves.)

New York City Ballet [videorecording] 1965. 30 min. : sd. b&w

Telecast on WNET/13 in 1966. Producer: Jac Venza. Director: Charles S. Dubin. Written by Bo Goldman.

Choreography: George Balanchine.

Costumes for last three ballets: Karinska. Performed by members of the New York City Ballet Company.

Summary: Balanchine briefly discusses his views on dance (throughout program). Comments by the male dancers precede each of the four works performed.

CONTENTS: Agon: Pas de deux. Music: Igor Stravinsky. Danced by Arthur Mitchell and Suzanne Farrell. -- Tarantella. Music: Louis Gottschalk, orchestrated by Hershey Kay. Danced by Patricia McBride and Edward Villella. -- Meditation. Music: Peter Tchaikovsky. Danced by Suzanne Farrell and Jacques D'Amboise. -- Grand pas de deux. Music: Peter Tchaikovsky. Danced by Melissa Hayden and Jacques D'Amboise.

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A brief bit of "Meditation" was, I think, in the Farrell film, with some film effects.

I have to hold my stomach in agony when I see the lists of the performances on these (and the CBC) films, ones that we'll seemingly never get to see outside of visits to NYC libraries or the Museum of Television and Broadcasting.

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Have anyone but Farrell and d'Amboise ever danced this (in public, I mean)? It certainly put Farrell on the map as the Balanchine dancer of the future.

I saw Meditation danced by Farrell's company in New York; I don't recall the dancers -- possibly Christina Fagundes in the Farrell role -- but, in any case, it was nicely one.

Because of the choreography's seemingly quite deliberate, even confessional, role in the Balanchine-Farrell mythology, Meditation looms larger in significance than it would otherwise. At least I think so. I'm happy to see it lovingly preserved, but it's not a Balanchine work in which I have much investment.

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I saw Meditation danced by Farrell's company in New York; I don't recall the dancers -- possibly Christina Fagundes in the Farrell role -- but, in any case, it was nicely one.

Fagundes danced it with Ben Huys in 1999 in D.C. and New York.

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Villella was taped coaching Rubies & Tarantella ... I believe it's still in the pipeline...


Wasn't "Meditation" one of the few, if the only, ballet to which Balanchine willed the rights to Farrell? I don't know whether she turned the rights over to the Balanchine Foundation, as while most people did, not everyone did.

I believe you mean the Trust rather than the Foundation. It gets confusing, but it's the Trust that oversees the rights to ballets while the Foundation.. hmm... their mission statement from the website now looks pretty broad... I thought they were a non-profit to support the quality of the Balanchine legacy, but they don't license the ballets, even if they work to keep the quality up, they don't have a say in who gets and who doesn't get the ballets... I believe...

Here's the Trust's website: http://www.balanchine.com/

Balanchine.org = Foundation

Balanchine.com = Trust

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