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Farrell's Remarks in Washington

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I attended a "Corps de Ballet" presentation in the Eisenhower Theatre at the Kennedy Center on 3rd October and part of a rehearsal the previous afternoon, and I thought I might offer some of Suzanne Farrell's remarks for those of you who would find them as interesting as I did:

After a couple of pas de deux demonstrations (I'm embarrassed to admit I don't remember the first one, but Fournier and Huys then did the second "Slaughter" one; Ron Matson played the piano for both), she told us, crossing her legs and slouching a little in her chair, "I don't want you to look at ballet like this, I want you on the edge of your seat" (putting both feet on the floor and demonstrating) "Mr. Balanchine's values were similar."

Soon she got up: "I'm going to stand. I can't talk sitting down."

Opening the occasion to questions, she said, "There's no difference teaching a ballet I danced from one I didn't... I don't try to impose myself on the dancers, you can't get the best from someone that way."

"Tempos change - All we have is now."

"I am the beneficiary of every dancer who came before me, and I wanted to give back to ballet what it had given me. I wanted to give to other people."

She told us that the island in the Hudson River she and Paul Mejia own, where they give ballet camps and so on, has become named "Ballerina Island" by the tour-boat guides.

Bejart's "Romeo and Juliet" was cancelled because Bejart was ill and his regiseur was unable to fly here and teach.

Balanchine cut "Apollo" because the first scene shows Apollo looking like he can hardly stand up, and Balanchine had trouble getting that out of dancers who had trained so hard to dance very well; Farrell restored the ballet "because I like it".

Balanchine "opened cuts in Serenade because Tchaikovsky wouldn't let him sleep" about them.

The rehearsal was for "Divertimento No. 15", and at one point the boy and girl are traveling in the same direction, but the boy, in back, overtakes the girl, "like planets passing in their ... orbits," Farrell said, and I wondered where she learned about astronomy until I remembered that Balanchine used to read Fred Hoyle, the English popularizer of cosmology.

And the other explanation I remember was in a similar situation, where the girl was facing her direction of travel, knowing she would be lifted in that direction. "No," said Farrell , "that telegraphs to the audience what's going to happen. Face front so they won't know ahead of time, and give him your back," the girl turned her upper body and bent back - "so he won't have to reach like this" - reaching out with straight arms. The little details that make it magical!

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I was in NYC/NJ in October and was able to see

Farrels ballet.It was a very pleasent performance

and the only negative was a small problem with the

audio/music in the beginning.


Edited by Alexandra to delete the review posted. Kevin, posting long excerpts is a violation of copyright so we ask that people not do it. We post links reviews every day on the Links forum; we put up Jennifer Dunning's review from the Times the day it ran. (Please be careful about posting excerpts from books, too. A short quote is fine, but anything over 250 words violates fair use laws.)

[ December 13, 2001: Message edited by: alexandra ]

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Thanks for the report on Farrell's remarks. I was wondering why the Bejart had been cancelled. I was in DC from Sept. 27 to Oct 1, and saw each of her two programs twice. Then I went to NJPAC for that one-afternoon stand. I guess I should have realized that the music at NJPAC would be on tape. Still, it was an unpleasant surprise, particularly when the sound system failed a minute or two into Sonambula. Nevertheless, I thought her company did wonderfully well, whether dancing to live or taped music. But I'm prejudiced.

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The Jim Lehrer NewsHour did a segment about

Farrel's dance company this evening on PBS.

The NewsHour talked about Farrels history with

the NYCB,showed some old clips with Farrel

and Martins in Apollo & Diamonds,then talked about

the Farrel Ballet and a interview with S.F.

The NewsHour reporter said that the Farrel

Ballet Company toured 7 cities this year and

planned to expand their tour next season.

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Luckily, a friend called me to alert me to that mini interview with Suzanne Farrell.

I was particularly glad to see it because I've been reading her autobiography and had never ever seen her dance! I was very helpful to see those clips - it really illustrated what I'd only had a chance to read about before.

I know a young lady who attended her Cedar Island program last summer and loved it... Ms. Farrell is obviously a very interesting and strong personality. I can imagine it would be a wonderful opportunity to study with her.

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To BW -- a very good complement to the book is a documentary called "Suzanne Farrell, Elusive Muse," which was nominated for an Oscar in 1996, but lost out to a film about Muhammad Ali. It is available on video. This shows lots of clips, including some priceless footage of her dancing Balanchine's "Don Quixote," with Mr. B himself as the Don. Jacques d'Amboise has a prominent part in the film. There are also appearances by Arthur Mitchell and Edward Villella, among many others. The story of her relationship with Balanchine, marriage to Paul Mejia and subsequent exile from NYCB is told very movingly by Suzanne. There's also considerable footage of her teaching, coaching, and preparing such dancers as Susan Jaffe and Maria Calegari for the Kennedy Center performances of "Suzanne Farrell Stages Balanchine" in 1995. It runs 105 minutes.

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Maybe this is a good place to remember that Farrell can also be seen to good advantage in some of the Balanchine Library videos published by Nonesuch:

On 40162, she's in "Robert Schumann's Davidsbundlertanze" (with d'Amboise),

on 40177, in "Tzigane" (with Martins),

on 40178, in "Diamonds" pas de deux (with Martins), and

on 40179, in "Chaconne" (with Martins).

In the original broadcast of the program on 40180, she dances in "Allegro Brilliante" with Martins, but this is missing from the published video.

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