Lourdes Lopez or Shelley Troupe
ALLEGRA KENT AND TODD BOLENDER TO TAPE COACHING SESSION OF GEORGE BALANCHINE'S THE UNANSWERED QUESTION FOR THE GEORGE BALANCHINE FOUNDATION ON MARCH 21, 2004
The original performers of Balanchine's enigmatic ballet will teach their roles to today's dancers at the New York City Ballet studios in Lincoln Center.
New York City Video cameras will capture Allegra Kent and Todd Bolender, two of New York City Ballet's most individualistic principal dancers in past years, as they show six young dancers how George Balanchine created and coached their performance in The Unanswered Question section of his 1954 ballet Ivesiana. The dancers to whom Kent and Bolender will pass on Balanchine's instructions include Janie Taylor, soloist with the New York City Ballet, and Herman Cornejo, principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre, in the leading roles; and New York City Ballet soloists Jared Angle and Stephen Hanna and corps de ballet members Seth Orza and Henry Seth. Pianist Nancy McDill will play the score by composer Charles Ives.
Additionally, Robert Gottlieb, dance critic for The New York Observer, will interview Kent and Bolender to elaborate on their understanding of Balanchine's intentions for this ballet. Nancy Reynolds, the George Balanchine Foundation's Director of Research, will oversee the taping.
"The Unanswered Question, surely the most mesmerizing section of Balanchine's daring Ivesiana, is virtually unique in his body of work," says Reynolds. "It's all atmosphere, and it utterly departs from the ballet vocabulary. After half a century, the whole ballet still seems radical."
Over the years, critics have remarked on Ivesiana's unusual nature. "It is almost anti-ballet," wrote a London critic. The dancing "holds more slow motion and stasis than any other Balanchine work." According to the great American dance critic Edwin Denby, "Ivesiana is a somber suite, not of dances, but of dense and curious theater images."
In The Unanswered Question section, Denby described a beautiful young girl in white who "appears aloft, carried by a team of four men, and a shadowy fifth [who] precedes the cluster, turning, crawling, reaching toward her. Carefully, as in a ritual or a circus act, the girl is lowered and lifted, revolved in fantastic and horrifying fashions. In all the shapes her body takes, she is never any less beautiful or less placid. At moments her hair brushes the questioner's face. There is no awareness of his question or of his humiliation ... This scene, with its casual ghastly incident when the girl falls backward headfirst into space, is the central one of the ballet. As if to heighten the mystery, the spectral white figure never touches the ground."
Kent, on whom the female role was choreographed, explained it this way in her 1997 autobiography, Once a Dancer . . .: "The woman in this ballet ultimately represents the unattainable. She attracts and eludes the man who tries to grasp her. The mystery is never solved, the question never answered."
The taping of The Unanswered Question will provide the latest addition to the Foundation's Interpreters Archive, part of the Video Archives program created by Reynolds in 1994. The purpose of the Interpreters Archives is to preserve on videotape the original interpretation of Balanchine roles as recalled and coached by the dancers on whom he created them. Copies of the resulting tapes are now available in libraries around the world.
*At the request of the artists, we are unable to invite the press to attend this event. *
Allegra Kent joined the New York City Ballet as an apprentice in 1952 and became a principal dancer in 1957. Her first leading role was the girl in white in The Unanswered Question, which Balanchine created on her in 1954. Later Kent originated major roles in such celebrated Balanchine ballets as Divertimento #15, Bugaku, Stars and Stripes, and The Seven Deadly Sins, as well as in Jerome Robbins's Dances at a Gathering. Kent's autobiography, Once a Dancer . . ., is now available in paperback. In 1999 she participated in the Interpreters Archive by teaching her roles in La Sonnambula and Bugaku to Janie Taylor, then a corps de ballet member of the New York City Ballet.
Todd Bolender danced with all of Balanchine's American ballet companies, starting with American Ballet Caravan in 1941 and continuing through Ballet Society and the New York City Ballet. He originated major roles in the landmark Balanchine ballets The Four Temperaments and Agon and in Robbins's Age of Anxiety, Fanfare and The Concert. A prolific choreographer, after retiring from the stage he was artistic director of Kansas City Ballet for fifteen years. In 1997 he participated in the Interpreters Archive by teaching his Phlegmatic role in The Four Temperaments to New York City Ballet principal dancer Albert Evans. In 2000 he reconstructed Balanchine's 1947 ballet Renard, the rehearsals of which were taped for the Foundation's Archive of Lost Choreography. Todd Bolender recently celebrated his 90th birthday.
Janie Taylor joined the New York City Ballet as an apprentice in 1998. She became a corps de ballet member one month later, and in 2001 was named a soloist. Among her roles are the Sugar Plum Fairy and Dewdrop in George Balanchine's The Nutcracker and principal roles in Balanchine's Divertimento #15, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, Who Cares?, and La Valse, in addition to leading roles in several ballets by Jerome Robbins and Peter Martins. Ms. Taylor participated in the Foundation's Interpreters Archive in 1999 by learning Allegra Kent's roles in La Sonnambula and Bugaku. On March 21, 2004 she will once again work with Kent as she learns the girl in white role from The Unanswered Question.
Herman Cornejo, at the age of sixteen, became the youngest gold medal winner in the history of the International Ballet Competition in Moscow. He was a soloist with Ballet Argentino before joining American Ballet Theatre's corps de ballet in 1999, where he was promoted to soloist in 2000 and then to principal dancer in 2003. Among his roles are the Bronze Idol in La Bayadère, Alain in La Fille mal Gardée, and the third movement of Balanchine's Symphony in C.
Robert Gottlieb was formerly Editor-in-Chief of Simon & Schuster, Knopf and The New Yorker. He was associated with the New York City Ballet for many years. He currently writes dance criticism for The New York Observer.
Nancy Reynolds, Director of Research for the George Balanchine Foundation, was a dancer with the New York City Ballet. She is now a dance historian and author. Her most recent book (co-authored by Malcolm McCormick) is No Fixed Points: Dance in the Twentieth Century, a comprehensive history.
The George Balanchine Foundation is a non-profit corporation founded in 1983. Its mission is to create programs that educate the public and further the work and aesthetic of George Balanchine in order to facilitate high standards in dance and related arts.