A printed listing of the works of George Balanchine may be set alongside the Köchel catalogue of Mozart: the works of choreographer and composer share many qualities.
Balanchine has been extremely prolific. For over fifty years his invention has been uninterrupted. There has been hardly a season since he was a boy of eighteen when he has not brought out something new in the nature of dancing.
A catalogue is not a visualization, yet even a list demonstrates the extraordinary variety and inclusiveness of Balanchine’s musical support and his unprecedented use of musical literature since the seventeenth century. A trained musician, he has been able to have always at his fingertips the quality of structure and sonority that fills his needs at a certain moment of development or necessity.
If he is to be compared with anyone in his time in the frame of his own talents, visual or plastic or musical, these must be Picasso and Stravinsky. Painting and musical composition, however, have had their universal acceptance for more than five hundred years, while classic academic dance, which issued from court-shows in the seventeenth century and court theaters in the nineteenth, has only in our own century begun to compete on an equal level of popularity with the repertories of opera and orchestra.
He has specialized in pièces d’occasion, creating musical celebrations. Certain events summon or suggest appropriate answers. He has operated on the order of public official as well as very private experimenter. He has been profligate in stage production when patronage was available, and parsimonious when decoration would have been superfluous or patronage was absent.
Balanchine issued from a school which inherited an imperial tradition. He left Russia at a time when the Soviet Union froze taste and attempted to stabilize artistic expression as a lowest common denominator. Entering the Diaghilev company in London at the age of twenty, he was plunged into an ambience of extreme artistic license for which he had prepared himself by student experiments before leaving Leningrad. When Diaghilev died, five years later, Balanchine attempted to continue the formula of elegant improvisation with whatever means were at hand. Russia was closed, the Soviet schools were no longer a source for recruitment, and the efforts of European impresarios proved haphazard and without institutional stability.
Balanchine decided to come to the United States as if the decision was almost a foregone conclusion, although there were other possibilities which might have been attractive had he not already had the experience of the Diaghilev years. When he came to America late in 1933 he founded a school which would commence teaching American dancers, toward forming an eventual American company. The School of American Ballet was conceived to be a national service school like the Imperial School in St. Petersburg, which held parity with the military and naval academies.
The first company Balanchine organized was called the American Ballet. Balanchine’s present company, founded in 1948, bears the name of the town that is its home, New York City, the cultural capital of the nation. The name of the school has remained the same. It is now a national service institution with students from forty states and more than a dozen nations. The city built Balanchine the theater he required. National foundations, recognizing their importance, gave his school and the New York City Ballet the support they needed.
His imperial ambitions as a servant of social democracy seem to have been fulfilled according to a logical schedule and a simple history. Reading the catalogue of his work, however, one may deduce some of the difficulties in the path, and along the way. The conditions of theatrical production, the size of companies, the presence or absence of patronage or money, the requirements of seasonal circumstance, all determine the state of repertory at a given moment. Just as certain ballets were abandoned and the effort ploughed under, so certain expenditures in nerve and work have served to braid sinew toward further strength. Many ballets are no longer performed, yet parallels and portions can be recognized as resurrected in subsequent dances.
The present adoption of classic dance throughout the country continues to appear a mystery to those who have come to its performances relatively lately. In one form or another, however, formal stage dance has been available to be seen in America for more than six decades. But now, in large measure due to Balanchine’s insistence on a rigorous profile and authoritarian practice, classic ballet is less confused with other forms of dance, and its training has advanced toward highly professional criteria and performance. It is granted the status of peak virtuosity — as hard to attain and as quick to be recognized as the violin, the piano or the Olympic categories.
One aspect of ‘modernism’ has been its effort to annihilate history, to create an art without precedent, to renovate sensibility, to canonize the New. We have had more than a half-century of newness, and suddenly it has aged. The classic ballet, born in the seventeenth century, combines historical legitimacy with contemporary manner. Its gestures are courtly, yet respond in accent, celerity and syncopation to the colloquial cadence of the day. Balanchine has defined the ‘modern’ direction of classic ballet.
Our century has licensed extremes of chaos and violence on the grandest scale known to man. The reflections in literature, music and the plastic arts of two world wars scarred the whole structure of the imaginative process. The fragmentary, the night-marish, the mad, exploited to their capacity of excess, have become mechanical, repetitive, dead-end.
The essence of ballet, on the other hand, is order. What one sees in Balanchine’s ballets are structures of naked order, executed by celebrants who have no other aim than to show an aspect of order in their own persons, testifying to an impersonal purity and a personal interest.
There has undoubtedly occurred what must be called an unfocussed but active revival of religious interest in the West, seeking unfamiliar access to an absolute. It is not too much to consider a well-performed ballet a rite, executed and followed with intense devotion, that shares in some sort of moral figuration. The response of the audience to good dancing is a release of body and breath, a thanksgiving that is selfless, generous, complete, and leaves the spectator corroborated in the hope that, despite the world and its horrors, here somehow is a paradigm of perfection.
The consideration of last things, millennial factors, the approach of another century, wars and the rumor of war, surround us. We have a sense that the times we live in are extremely frail, that frailty is the single cohering net that connects. Nothing is more frail or transient than a ballet. Every action is evanescent, and after its enactment it is gone for good, or until a next time, when the same conditions obtain. Human bodies are frail. The design the dancers thread is also frail, and to a degree entirely imaginary. It can be learned, but never completely documented.
The whole operation of a ballet company is a microcosm of a civil condition. The frailty of its operation is that of any artistic or cultural institution in a civilization that prefers to spend its bounty on armament and consumer goods. However, a ballet company, existing in the interstices of the community, almost vaunts its hardy frailty. In an infinitesimal way, each good performance clears a small area of menace, and for the moment reminds us of the possible which, if it is not perfection, approaches it.
In this process of asserting the importance of the classic dance, Balanchine acts as a public servant of order. He is a maker and teacher. The twentieth century has specialized in the metrics of time and space. Nobody before has ever danced as fast as a Balanchine dancer; no one has ever had such markedly separate structures of steps to dance. No dancers before have been obliged to analyze with their feet the kinds of musical composition that Balanchine has set for them. Only a dancer dancing can say for him, what he says to them.
Adapted from ‘Documenting Mr. B,’ by Nancy Reynolds (Dancing Times, June 1983), with additions by Harvey Simmonds.
A year or so before Lincoln Kirstein’s seventieth birthday, Leslie Katz, president of the Eakins Press Foundation, began work on a bibliography of Kirstein ’s voluminous writings in his many fields of endeavor. On the seventieth itself–May 4, 1977– Kirstein was presented with a bound copy of the as-yet-unfinished manuscript, packed in an ingenious box that included a sharpened pencil. The idea was to enlist the assistance of Kirstein himself. This presentation took place at a surprise birthday party at the School of American Ballet, with Balanchine among the guests.
After the party, as he walked across Lincoln Center Plaza to the New York State Theater with his assistant Barbara Horgan, Balanchine said as a sort of aside, ‘I wish someone would do that for me.’ Barbara Horgan’s telephone call to Leslie Katz the following morning set in motion the work that engaged dozens of researchers across the world over the next five years.
Katz invited Nancy Norman Lassalle and Harvey Simmonds to join him as directors of the project, and Simmonds was also to be the editor of the manuscript. The book would be a chronological listing of every work by the choreographer from his beginnings in Russia to the most recent ballet he had completed at the time of publication, with first-performance details and a few special notes. It would be printed by the master printer Martino Mardersteig at his Stamperia Valdonega in Verona, which had also been responsible for printing Elie Nadelman, the book that marked the first collaboration between Kirstein and the Eakins Press.
Simmonds established an initial chronology and records of premiere performances in the United States through published sources and materials housed in the Dance Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, uncovering such obscurities as Balanchine’s 1943 staging of the Saint Matthew Passion with Stokowski conducting. In the winter of 1978-1979 he widened the search to London, Paris, and Monte Carlo. Richard Buckle’s enthusiastic support led to meetings with Dame Marie Rambert (who demonstrated at the barre), Anton Dolin, and Irina Baronova. The London collections of the Garrick Club, the Theatre Museum (then a part of the Victoria and Albert Museum), the Mander and Mitchenson Collection, and the archives of the London Coliseum were mined, and there were interviews with Dame Ninette Valois, Dame Alicia Markova, and Lydia Lopokova.
In Paris, consultations at the Collection Rondel of the Bibliothèque de l’ Arsenal uncovered some invaluable Diaghilev programs, and in Monte Carlo, where Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes spent the summers, the archives of the Opéra de Monte-Carlo, the Societé des Bains de Mer, and the Centre Presse de la Principauté de Monaco were consulted. Boris Kochno, at one time Balanchine’s collaborator, spoke at length about Les Ballets 1933 and told of an impromptu dance he performed at a costume ball in the south of France with Balanchine and Mme. Georges Auric at three o’clock in the morning. He also corrected the widespread misapprehension that he took his inspiration for the libretto of Prodigal Son from Pushkin–rather, he said, it came from the Bible.
This European research brought numbers of new works to light, and on his name day, April 23, 1979, Balanchine was presented with a model of the book-to-be, including printed sample pages. When, later in the spring, Nancy Reynolds accepted the position of research director for the project , the preliminary notes filled a foot-square file and a 5 x 8” index-card box. After a further three years, materials she gathered had expanded to some nine feet of files and a myriad of boxes and notebooks.
The timing of the endeavor could hardly have been more propitious. Balanchine, after a lifetime of indifference to anything in print about himself or his work, influenced by Reynolds’s Repertory in Review as well as the completed Kirstein bibliography, had begun to see the value of leaving a written record of his achievements. His active involvement in the project was not only an inspiration; it provided information and clues to further discoveries that could not have come from any other source.
For Reynolds, no lead was too small, no hint too obscure or unpromising, to be pursued. Under her direction, research was undertaken in the Soviet Union, in Denmark, where Balanchine spent the winter of 1930-1931, and in resorts on the Rhine, where the tiny group calling itself the Principal Dancers of the Russian State Ballet (Balanchine, Alexandra Danilova, Tamara Geva, and Nicholas Efimov) toured in 1924.
London publications, especially Era and Dancing Times, were consulted at length for information about Balanchine’s music-hall creations between 1929 and 1931. Two dancers from his company, “16 Delightful Girls 16 ” (which actually included one man), Doris Sonne and Natasha Gregorova, remembered wisps of things–a Chopin étude, a ‘statue ’ ballet – – and particularly recalled Balanchine’s musicality, unflappability, and financial generosity. (He also taught them to drink vodka ‘Russian style.’) The most fruitful contact was another of the ‘girls,’ Betty Scorer, who later danced with de Basil and became a journalist under the name Elizabeth Barron. Of Sir Oswald Stoll’s 1931 variety shows at the Alhambra and Coliseum, at Reynold’s she wrote, ‘[Balanchine’s] audition was a revelation. Instead of allowing us to do our prepared party pieces, he . . . gave us a protracted enchaînement which he demonstrated himself and which we had to reproduce as clearly as possible, a far better way for him to judge than from the stereotyped solos carefully chosen, diligently worked upon, and safely within our individual powers. ’
It was no secret that Sir Oswald’s orchestra (sometimes conducted by his son Dennis) was unable to play Balanchine’s selections: Stravinsky and Auric. As Barron described it,
‘George approached the footlights and addressed the top-hatted figure in the empty stalls. “Sir Stoll,” he asked politely, “what pieces does your little boy know?” Sheaves of music were passed up. George looked through them: Liszt’s Liebestraum, the 1812 Overture, Offenbach’s can-can from Orpheus in the Underworld. “Right,” said George, “we will do our ballets to these, since you know how to play them.”‘
The most amusing result must surely have been the Liebestraum, in which the huge stage of the Coliseum became a revolving phonograph record, complete with ‘His Master’s Voice’ dog and trumpet-tube; the girls were needles. ‘I may say getting on and off stage was a challenge,’ Barron recalled; ‘I had the good luck to be one of the four girls who, dressed in Train Bleu– type beach pajamas, performed in a fascinating quartet with convoluted head movements [that] I have never forgotten. ’ She added, ‘As a personal note, I would like to mention that such was Balanchine’s prestige that, after he had departed for Denmark, the distinguished director of musicals John Murray Anderson hired me for his coming production in London . . . without an audition.’
All the ‘girls ’ spoke of the admirable accompanist Balanchine brought with him–a Mrs. Fox, probably of Russian origin, who had married an Englishman and perhaps had played for Diaghilev. She had been with Balanchine in Monte Carlo when Grigoriev, Diaghilev’ s régisseur, was distributing the final payment of a season. Marching into the Casino, Balanchine threw it all–his entire capital–on Number 32 and, after watching the game for a few moments, dejectedly left the hall. Mrs. Fox lingered, then rushed out, and finding him sunk upon the beach, delivered the news that his number had come up: his original sum had multiplied by at least ten. When Les Ballets 1933 played London, Balanchine saw to it that all the Coliseum girls had tickets.
Researching Balanchine’s Russian years presented enormous obstacles, particularly since there was no word from the Leningrad researcher for more than a year. Eventually Reynolds established an informative correspondence with the Moscow-based dance historian Elizabeth Souritz, author of Soviet Choreography in the 1920s, but it seemed clear that in order to find exactly what was required it would be necessary to send a researcher with whom we could communicate freely. Thanks to Professor John Malmstad of Columbia University, Susan Summer of the New York Public Library at Lincoln Center’s Dance Division, and the Slavonic Reference Service at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, a reasonably clear understanding had developed of the probable sources for Balanchine material not available in Bernard Taper’s Balanchine: A Biography, and Yuri Slonimsky’ s ‘Balanchine: The Early Years.’ Dr. Gunhild Schüller of the University of Vienna was sent to investigate.
Souritz and Schüller consulted the newspapers Krasnaya gazeta and Zhizn ’ iskusstva and several periodicals. The weekly publication of the Petrograd/Leningrad Academic Theaters gave news of Balanchine’s appearances at the State Theater of Opera and Ballet (formerly Maryinsky), of which he became a member in June 1921, and also recounted school activities. Balanchine’s April 1921 diploma was signed by Vaganova, Gerdt, Leontiev, Ponomariev, Chekreguin, and Shiraev, among others, and possibly as early as 1922 his choreography was danced at school graduation performances. At the State Theater his most celebrated role was as soloist in the Trepak from The Nutcracker (perhaps first danced on March 26, 1922); Balanchine reproduced Ivanov’s choreography exactly for this dance in his 1954 version of the ballet for the New York City Ballet. He was considered a member of the company until September 1, 1924, when he was fired, although he had sailed for the East Prussian port of Stettin three months earlier, never to return. The Soviet press tracked the Russian State Ballet during its travels through Germany, often featuring Danilova, who was the most accomplished of the four dancers–and it was even reported, long after its dancers had officially been ‘released ’ by the State Theater, that the group’s success had resulted in an invitation to London.
No programs were found for Balanchine ’s experimental company the Young Ballet (ca. 1923-1924), but research in newspapers brought to light several concert numbers not mentioned either by Taper or Slonimsky, set to the music of Kreisler, Anton Rubinstein, and Rachmaninoff, among others. These were often performed in nightclubs and outdoor theaters, or sometimes on platforms in public gardens. Balanchine was occasionally the pianist.
According to Pëtr Gusev, a member of the Young Ballet, who was interviewed by Poel Karp in Leningrad in 1981, Balanchine and Geva danced at the Hôtel de l’ Europe on the same program with Nikolai Foregger and several other acts. Gusev said Balanchine’s early pas de deux should really be referred to as duets, and that he was already using bridges and ‘ non-classical’ formations. Lopukhov was a great champion of Balanchine’s work: ‘To his face,’ said Gusev, ‘Lopukhov spoke very sternly with Balanchine; not seldom he reproached him for incoherence, lack of selectiveness, and for putting in too much. But behind his back he said, ‘Keep quiet; such a choreographer has not been seen since Fokine.’ Although Balanchine admired Lopukhov’s movement vocabulary, he did not like his complicated philosophical symbolism. And while at the time it was fashionable to criticize Petipa, Balanchine had a different opinion. He always said ‘We cannot reach Petipa.’ Foregger, with his machine dances and agit-prop presentations, they considered nonsense; they were also horrified by Isadora Duncan.
Neither Balanchine at this young age nor his little company went unremarked by the critics. An unsigned article in Krasnaya gazeta (Leningrad, May 20, 1924), notes that Fokine is not the only one ‘searching for new paths and styles in ballet ’; it mentions Goleizovsky, Lukin, Lopukhov, and Balanchivadze, who was twenty years old at the time. In the same article, Balanchine’s foxtrot is characterized as ‘close to Suprematism. ’ Souritz commented, ‘Foxtrots were used very often–by Meyerhold, by choreographers–as a satire against the bourgeois society.’ It is probable that Balanchine choreographed more than one. In Zhizn’iskusstva (May 27, 1924), A. Voyesev welcomes the Young Ballet as ‘a new touch to classical ballet, ’ then warns Balanchine against ‘Moscow ’s decadence’ (presumably a reference to Foregger’s homosexuality).
The Catalogue of Works presented much of this material in English for the first time. When Gunhild Schüller and Nancy Reynolds interviewed Balanchine using Schüller’s notes from Russia, he was most responsive and seemed very excited that things long forgotten had been dredged up from the past. The two then talked to Danilova, posing the same questions: thus, the early Russian information came not only from combing the written sources, but also from talking with three of the people who had been part of that world. Danilova, who was associated with Balanchine off and on from their childhood until his death, also spoke of his unrealized idea while still in Russia for a major work to Scriabin, which Gusev confirmed.
Published information about individual works was augmented by discussions with dancers and scholars. Tatiana Leskova was interviewed about Balustrade, Marie-Jeanne about Sentimental Colloquy (a ballet featuring a bicycle and turtle, with Dalí décor). Documentation of the South American tour of 1941, Balanchine’s Concierto de Mozart for the Colón (1942), and various stagings of his works in South America came from the Dance Division, the cooperation of many local theaters, and through the assistance of Antonio José Faró, a former dancer living in Rio de Janeiro. From Maria Tallchief we learned of her first Balanchine assignment: understudy to Anitra ’s Dance in Song of Norway. She recalled Balanchine’s gloominess about his future on their 1947 trip to Paris, where he was guest ballet master and she the first American ballerina to perform since Augusta Maywood more than a century before. Later, for Ballet Theatre, he refurbished the Don Quixote and Black Swan pas de deux for the ballerina who would soon attract international acclaim as his Firebird. Tanaquil Le Clercq remembered (by humming) which movements of the Mozart Quintet in G Minor were used for Resurgence (1946) for a March of Dimes benefit — in which, with tragic irony, she danced a young girl stricken by polio.
Aspects of de Basil’s Ballets Russes, with which Balanchine was associated for a year, were clarified by Kathrine Sorley Walker, and Annabelle Lyon revealed that in the early performances of Serenade she danced the Waltz alone: the male partner–William Dollar–was not added until 1936. Lew Christensen and Ruthanna Boris talked about the Metropolitan Opera years (1935-1938).
Patricia McBride spoke of a ‘vision’ solo Balanchine had choreographed for her in a regional production of Sleeping Beauty and said he often helped with her concert appearances. From Geneva came news of a complete Swan Lake (1967), the first and third acts in good measure rechoreographed by Balanchine in a week. The collection of Nathalie Branitzka, then in the possession of her son André Hoyer of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, yielded many programs of the Diaghilev years, which were especially useful for the roles Balanchine danced. This treasure trove contained, among many mementos, candid films of the de Basil dancers on a boat, probably bound for Australia.
From the beginning, significant revisions in choreography, costumes, and scenery were noted. Information of this kind is rarely reflected in programs or reviews–the source is usually conversations with the performers. For the repertory as it stood in the 1980s Rosemary Dunleavy, Ballet Mistress of New York City Ballet, was essential. For earlier works, Reynolds discussed the Ballet Russe Raymonda (1946) with Frederic Franklin, Nikita Talin, and Maria Tallchief; the La Source / Sylvia ballets with Suki Schorer, Melissa Hayden, and Jacques d’Amboise; Swan Lake (ca. 1927; Balanchine removed the mime) with Balanchine, information corroborated by Kochno, Dolin, and Markova.
Balanchine’s help, of course, was crucial: each of the three versions of Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, he said, was completely different; the many incarnations of Chaconne, in and out of opera, were essentially the same. Of Mozartiana, three productions were similar, one completely new. What were the permutations of Ballet Imperial? Since these works were created over a span of fifty years, only Balanchine could deal with them all–although many people, especially such long-term stagers as Una Kai and Francia Russell– confirmed his memories.
Stagings by non-Balanchine companies were included in the Catalogue as an important part of the works’ theatrical history, documenting the number of companies that have taken a particular ballet into repertory, and in what parts of the world it has been seen. Itineraries of New York City Ballet tours were also provided. Material of this nature gives some idea of the durability of a dance, something mere premiere listings do not reflect.
In purely musical matters, Balanchine provided a great deal of information– about Cotillon, Chaconne, the orchestration of Serenade, and Divertimento No. 15 with its specially-composed cadenza, to name several instances. Kochno, Auric, and Vittorio Rieti helped with the pre-American days; Robert Irving and Gordon Boelzner with the repertory of Balanchine’s later period. Boelzner was especially helpful on choreographic revisions of some of Balanchine’s musically difficult ballets–late Stravinsky, for example: as rehearsal pianist he had been involved with these scores by the hour. He also pointed out that the beautiful violin cadenza in Act I of The Nutcracker was actually from The Sleeping Beauty, but as it had the same musical theme and key as The Nutcracker ‘tree-growing’ music, Balanchine inserted it just before that passage to extend the mime. Swan Lake was hummed over the telephone with Roland John Wiley, a professor specializing in Tchaikovsky, and with Arlene Croce, who also sang parts of Sylvia / La Source / Coppélia to discover their musically overlapping moments.
One musical matter may never be settled: there is some question as to who conducted the premiere of Prodigal Son. According to the program it was Prokofiev (‘l’ auteur), and Prokofiev claims this in his autobiography, an assertion Stravinsky repeats. In his essential source book, Grigoriev names Désormière, which Balanchine believed to be correct. According to Richard Buckle, Stravinsky was in the theater that night for the premiere of Renard–but Balanchine said that Prokofiev wasn’t there at all: he hated the production. Contemporary reviews are not clear on the subject, and Kochno did not remember, although he remarked that the dancers far preferred professional conductors to composers in the pit, no matter how eminent the latter might be.
Balanchine was proud of the advanced camera techniques used under his direction in his abbreviated Swan Lake for the film I Was an Adventuress. The Walt Disney company provided the information that although Balanchine was not formally involved with the animated film Fantasia, his Water Nymph Ballet from the Goldwyn Follies of 1938 inspired the Fantasia Dance of the Ostriches and Hippos. Independently of Balanchine’s participation, Baronova was used as a model for some sequences in the film.
Tracking down original television work presented particular challenges, since there were no programs or indexes for the earliest years (late 1940s and early 1950s). Dredging uncovered a Coppélia story called One, Yuletide Square, with Tanaquil Le Clercq and Robert Helpmann; and a Cinderella with the comedian Jimmy Savo as a Fairy. It was already known that Balanchine created several dances for André Eglevsky to perform on the Kate Smith Hour.
American musical comedies presented a different kind of problem: dances were often by many hands, unspecified, and some dance sequences were not listed on programs. Close examination of newspapers, including Variety, helped, but often it was Balanchine or one of the dancers who held the final clues: Fred Danieli on Where ’s Charley? and Edward Bigelow on Rosalinda (his first job) were particularly informative. Tamara Geva, of course, was a source for On Your Toes; Katherine Dunham wrote of her collaboration with Balanchine on Cabin in the Sky.
After scrutiny of the printed sources, followed by the querying, pondering, piecing, and deducing made possible by the contributions of others, Reynolds brought her conclusions to Balanchine. While his usual wry wit was very much in evidence during interviews, it was his memory that was so invaluable. The kinds of things that came to him were extraordinary; for example, who was the composer of the Polka Mélancolique he choreographed for Ruth Page in 1925, long forgotten by Page herself? At first, Mr. B. hadn’t a notion; then he reflected, hummed a little, and– inspired–went to the piano and started to play a truly melancholy polka. Composer? Anton Rubinstein.
Although he mainly kept his mind on the business at hand, occasionally a remark caused Balanchine to think of other matters–for instance, that he had applied for an exit visa from the Soviet Union to the Far East as early as 1923. This was refused, and the following year he tried for Germany, hoping that because some German actors had recently come to the Soviet on exchange (encouraged by Lenin, who wanted foreign currency), he stood a chance of getting out. As we know, this strategy was successful. However, it might have seemed an empty victory in the short run since, said Balanchine, the heat in Berlin that summer was excessive, leading to very low attendance for the Principal Dancers of the Russian State Ballet. He also confirmed what others have said about attendance at Diaghilev ’s Ballets Russes: a crowd of trendsetters appeared on first nights and for premieres; at other times, this most famous ballet troupe in the world played before sparse audiences indeed.
He spoke of how hard it was to think of things that had happened as long as sixty years before, but seemed to enjoy talking of the 1930s and 1940s musicals, fondly remembering an airplane number (Night Flight) for Harriet Hoctor in the 1936 Ziegfeld Follies, for which he also did his innovative ‘shadow ’ ballet and a Conga for Josephine Baker. Balanchine remembered Hoctor as well trained, although from his description it seems he produced a version of one of her standards: endless bourrées in an enormous backbend. At the time of Reynolds’s last conversations with him in the spring of 1982, Balanchine was planning another foray into the world of musicals, to help in the revival of On Your Toes . His serious illness began before rehearsals started, but the show went on anyway, with Peter Martins patching the choreography where needed. Natalia Makarova won raves in the role created by Tamara Geva in 1936.
Occasionally, Balanchine was truly surprised by something the researchers had discovered–his own performance in Le Spectre de la Rose in Copenhagen (with a picture to prove it), or his staging of The Dying Swan for Toumanova in Holland in 1949. In Copenhagen, where he was guest ballet master for the season 1930-1931, he completely rechoreographed four old chestnuts: Three-Cornered Hat, Schéhérazade, La Boutique Fantasque, and The Legend of Joseph, and he also performed as a substitute for Peter Martins ’s uncle in Les Sylphides. The more one reads and sees of Balanchine, the more one recognizes his extensive background in the standard repertory, despite his many departures from it. From the Maryinsky he inserted an episode from Giselle in the 1946 Ballet Theatre production (to which Antony Tudor also contributed): in Act II, Albrecht lays Giselle on a bed of flowers, but she sinks away, and only the flowers remain. Also from the Maryinsky–he didn ’t remember from which ballet–he got the idea for the mechanical device in The Nutcracker by which the ballerina is led across the floor by her partner, balancing on a single pointe.
Balanchine never really said anything bad about anybody, but he did reveal that his Concierto de Mozart was created for a company that could not dance–‘just could not dance!’–and thus was choreographed to show off Tchelitchew ’s ornamental costumes. He also spoke of his dissatisfaction with his finale for Four Temperaments, and how he finally got a chance to put it right when the New York City Ballet was rehearsing for a television taping in 1977, some thirty years after its first performance. He was known to have carried things around in his head for years, waiting for a chance to act on them. La Valse is a case in point: Balanchine told Francisco Moncion of a change he had in mind–an earlier appearance for the Death figure–that he did not implement for several seasons. And who knows how long he had thought about truncating Apollo? One section was dropped in 1978, another–since restored–in 1979; in 1972, he said the ballet would never again be performed by a company of his, seeming to indicate that he had permanently lost interest in it. But, of course, the work remained a staple of the New York City Ballet repertory during his lifetime and beyond.
Aware that his reputation was primarily that of a character dancer, Reynolds questioned him about a picture of The Sleeping Beauty taken in 1926, in which he appears as Prince Charming to Vera Nemtchinova’ s Aurora. Well, said Balanchine, he was just filling in, a frequent practice in the Diaghilev company. He was there simply for the partnering: the Prince’ s variation was omitted, and even the coda was performed by others, the Three Ivans. Along these lines, he confided that he was also often asked to rechoreograph numbers on the spot to accommodate the absence of essential dancers. Sometimes these creations lasted one night and, of course, they were not recorded anywhere. ‘So,’ said Mr. B.with a twinkle, ‘you ’ll never get everything on paper!’ Balanchine confirmed Baronova’s double fouettées in the Paris production of Orphée aux Enfers (1931), the vehicle for her stage debut; he confirmed as well his discussions with Pavlova about creating a Scarlatti piece for her. Dandré, he thought, vetoed that project, but Balanchine did produce two miniatures for the company, Aleko and Polka Grotesque, and he also attended Pavlova’s funeral accompanied by Betty Scorer. It seemed extraordinary that he would entertain the idea of working with a ballerina approaching fifty, and one with a reputation for the retardataire at that. But it should be noted that Pavlova was one of the few steady employers in the dance field throughout the twenties. The Diaghilev company was subjected to many layoffs, and dancers, virtually stranded and with little money, could use extra work; Balanchine mentioned that he created opera dances for provincial houses in France during these periods and, according to A.E. Twysden, Danilova’s biographer, the two spent their ‘honeymoon ’ dancing for René Blum, probably in 1927. No written proof of any of this has been located.
With the research coming toward an end, an extensive bibliography and notes were prepared; a chronology of Balanchine ’s professional life was drawn up, including the roles he danced and the festivals he directed; and the book was indexed by Louis Silverstein of Yale University. Howard Gralla developed the design, experimenting with numerous type styles and entry arrangements to create the greatest possible legibility and clarity of presentation.
By the summer of 1982, Balanchine’s failing health had increased the level of urgency. It became clear that Variations, set to the music of his most important collaborator over sixty years, Stravinsky, and made for the muse of the last stage of his creative life, Suzanne Farrell, would be his final work. In early December, Harvey Simmonds traveled to Verona for the last proofreading and approval as sheets came from the press. Three sets of folded and gathered signatures were hand-bound in Belgian linen by the Milanese firm that was to bind the full edition, and on December 23, Simmonds arrived from the printer with the first three copies of Choreography by George Balanchine: A Catalogue of Works.
Balanchine was given the book at Roosevelt Hospital on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, as Tanaquil Le Clercq entered his room, he stretched his hand out to the book on the bedside table and said, ‘You see, Tanny, the Bible!’
Compiled by Monica Moseley
This guide concentrates primarily on George Balanchine’s work for the ballet stage. See notes about Balanchine’s work for Broadway and films at the end of the list. Major international centers for dance research are given below. They contain published and/or video sources about Balanchine’s career, even though not all have archival sources about him. Every large library in the United States contains published works about Balanchine as well as published criticism describing his ballets. The American libraries listed here are those containing significant collections of original materials relating to Balanchine.
Margaret Herrick Library
Fairbanks Center for Motion Picture Study
333 S. La Cienega Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
36 Battersea Square
London SW11 3RA, United Kingdom
444 North Rexford Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Place Charles Garnier
FR-75009 Paris, France
FR-75706 Paris Cedex 13
Maison Jean Vilar
8, Rue du Mons
FR-84000 Avignon, France
21 Stephen Street
London W1P 1PL, United Kingdom
London NW9 5HE, United Kingdom
Jordan College of Fine Arts
4600 Sunset Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46208
953 Eden Park Drive
Cincinnati, OH 45202
60322 Frankfurt am Main, Germany
Im Mediapark 7
D-50670 Cologne, Germany
2, rue Soeur Bouvier
F-69005 Lyon, France
Photographs by Alfred Eisenstadt, Ernst Haas, Gjon Mili, and other Time-Life photographers, Agence France Presse, and the Hulton Archive Picture Collection. All access is via the Web site and contact with a sales representative. Complete searching of Hulton is at www.hultonarchive.com. Partial searching of Time-Life images is available at www.timelifepictures.com/TimePix/CFW/home.aspx
Muzei Akademii Russkogo Baleta im. A. Ya. Vaganovoi
Museum of the Vaganova Academy of Russian Ballet
ul. Zokchago Rossi 2
St. Petersburg 191011, Russia
Ul. Pushkinskaya 8/1
Moscow 103031, Russia
6, Pl. Ostrovskogo
St. Petersburg 191011, Russia
Ul. Bakhrushina 31/12
Moscow 113054, Russia
Harvard Yard, Harvard University
Cambridge, MA 02138
32-37 Vernon Boulevard
Long Island City, NY 11106
358 George Carter Road
Becket, MA 01223
www.ndl.go.jp/en/ (English version)
University of Copenhagen
DK-1308 Copenhagen, Denmark
DK-1055 Copenhagen, Denmark
7 East 20th Street
New York, NY 10003
London SE8 3DZ, United Kingdom
James Madison Memorial Building
101 Independence Avenue SE, Rm. LM113
Washington, DC 20540-4710
See Gosudarstvennaya Tsentralnyi Teatralnaya Biblioteka
11 West 53rd Street
New York, NY 10019
25 West 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019
465 North Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
1220 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10029
135 No. Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Parkes ACT 2600, Australia
GPO Box 1150
Canberra ACT 2601, Australia
Canberra ACT 2600, Australia
Photographs of Balanchine’s choreography performed in Australia by various companies, performance programs, and published criticism. A finding aid to research materials on New York City Ballet’s Australian tours is online via the Library’s Australia Dancing site:www.australiadancing.org/subjects/2801.html
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
New York State Theater
20 Lincoln Center Plaza
New York, NY 10023
2861 Broadway, 2nd Floor
New York, NY 10025
60 West Walton Street
Chicago, IL 60610-7324
1430 Lincoln Tower
1800 Cannon Drive
Columbus, OH 43210-1230
166 Sullivant Hall
1813 North High Street
Columbus, OH 43210
Casino de Monte-Carlo
Monte Carlo, Monaco
CH-4051 Basel, Switzerland
London WC2E 9DD, United Kingdom
401 Van Ness Avenue, 4th floor
San Francisco, CA 94102
550 Water Street
Baraboo, WI 53913
Via Solferino, 15
50123 Florence, Italy
700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20408
Derra de Moroda Dance Archive
A-5020 Salzburg, Austria
Fayetteville, AR 72701-4002
University of Arkansas Libraries
365 No. Ozark Avenue
Fayetteville, AR 72701-4002
Doty Fine Arts Building, levels 3, 4, and 5
23th and Trinity Streets
Austin, TX 78713
600 Main Street
Hartford, CT 06103
4700 Keele Street
North York, Ontario M3J 1P3, Canada
On the Yahoo homepage, click on Images. Type Balanchine in the search box and find over 2,900 images; type New York City Ballet and find over 3,600. As in any Web index search, not every find is relevant. An extraordinary wealth of visual information can be located this way, however, and should not be overlooked for seeing portraits of Balanchine and images of his choreography. Similar results are available on www.google.com
George Balanchine’s choreography for musicals and films was researched and documented in a large project commissioned by the George Balanchine Foundation and carried out between 1999 and 2005 by more than forty researchers. See detailed information on this Web site under Foundation Projects. The collected dossiers of Popular Balanchine are available at The New York Public Library’s Dance Division: www.nypl.org>Research Libraries>Archives & Manuscripts>Jerome Robbins Dance Division>Finding Aids to Selected Archival Collections>Popular Balanchine Dossiers.
The dossiers include oral history interviews, reproductions from numerous archives, and research histories with contact information about each production. Photographs, performance programs, reviews and articles, and advertising are among the items copied and brought together in the dossiers. Before beginning research anew in this area of Balanchine’s work, the documents and memoirs in the dossiers should be consulted. The research notes and collected sources will provide clues to further individual exploration.
The electronic edition of Choreography by George Balanchine: A Catalogue of Works, published in 2007, is a project of The George Balanchine Foundation, Paul H. Epstein, President, Barbara Horgan, Chairman
Lourdes López, Delia Peters
Susan Au, Robert Greskovic, Monica Moseley
Susan Au, Barbara Palfy
Susan Au, Barbara Palfy
Web site development services provided by Electronic Scriptorium, Ltd.
Ashley Cyber Services, LLC, Computer Aces
Ashley Cyber Services, LLC, Computer Aces
Choreography by George Balanchine: A Catalogue of Works was originally published in 1983 in a limited print edition, a project of the Eakins Press Foundation. The 1983 edition, with new and additional material, was issued in 1984 as an Eakins Press Foundation Book by Viking.
Leslie George Katz, Nancy Lassalle, Harvey Simmonds
Howard I. Gralla
Marion-Clare Kahn, Katherine Matheson, Ruth Schorer
Diana Phelan Davies (England), Mark Fishbein (Italy), Mary Fraker (Denmark), Martine Kahane (France), Vera Krasovskaya (Soviet Union: Leningrad), Petra Maier-Schoen (Germany), Gunhild Schüller (Austria, East Europe, Soviet Union), Elizabeth Souritz (Soviet Union: Moscow)
Lloyd Fonvielle, Dawn Horwitz, Hoyt Rogers, Susan Summer, Robin Woodard
Louis H. Silverstein
Electronic edition, 2007
The electronic edition of Choreography by George Balanchine: A Catalogue of Works is a project of The George Balanchine Foundation.
The Jerome Robbins Foundation, by a gererous gift made in recognition of Mr. Robbins’ great respect and affection for George Balanchine, has made this edition possible.
Additional funding for this edition has been provided by Furthermore: A Program of the J. M. Kaplan Fund and by the National Endowment for the Arts.
Special thanks are due to Barbara Horgan, whose twenty years as personal assistant to Balanchine, followed by lengthy service as Managing Trustee of The George Balanchine Trust, have given her an intimate knowledge of the Balanchine repertory, and the Eakins Press Foundation for its support and permission to use materials from the original print edition
Elizabeth Aldrich, Mindy Aloff, Jacques d’Amboise, Susan Au, Sally Banes, Judith Chazin Bennahum, Virginia Brooks, Christopher Caines, Claude Conyers, Richard Dryden, Thomas F. DeFrantz, George Dorris, Iris Fanger, Doug Fullington, Lynn Garafola, Beth Genné, The George Balanchine Trust, Susan Gluck, Nancy Goldner, Robert Greskovic, Camille Hardy, Heather Heckman (New York City Ballet Archives), Constance Valis Hill, Marilyn Hunt, L’Institut Nationale de l’Audiovisuel (Paris), Stephanie Jordan, Peter Kayafas (Director, Eakins Press Foundation), Dawn Lille, David Leopold, Kate Mattingly, Simon Morrison, Monica Moseley (Dance Division, New York Public Library), Barbara Newman, Madeline Nichols (Curator, Dance Division, New York Public Library), Andrew Noren (The Research Source), Barbara Palfy, Charles Perrier (Dance Division, New York Public Library), Maria Ratanova, Janice Ross, Tim Scholl, Sally R. Sommer, Elizabeth Souritz, Tobi Tobias, David Vaughan, Andrew Mark Wentink, Martha Ullman West, and Leland Windreich.
Original print edition, Eakins Press Foundation, 1983
The preparation and publication of Choreography by George Balanchine (1983) was made possible by grants from Gillian Attfield, Ballet Society, Mr. and Mrs. Sid R. Bass, the Doll Foundation, the Eakins Press Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Lassalle Fund, Earle I. Mack, the National Endowment for the Arts, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Paschen, Frances Schreuder, and the Wallace Fund.
Mr. Balanchine’s personal participation was vital.
Special thanks are due Barbara Horgan and Edward Bigelow of the New York City Ballet. Ruth Schorer made available the results of Mark Schorer’s research toward a biography of Balanchine. In addition, important assistance has been given by the following (and often in the case of persons with institutional associations, their staffs): Barbara J. Allen (Consulate General of the United States of America, Leningrad), Jacques d’Amboise, Peter Anastos, Leda Anchutina, Sergio Mascarenas del Angel (Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Mexico City), Bene Arnold, Karin von Aroldingen, Dame Sonia Arova, Erik Aschengreen, Suzanne Aubert (Grand Theatre de Geneve), Daniel Aubry (Archives, Opera de Monte Carlo), Georges Auric, Irina Baronova, Ann Barzel, Nicole Beausejour (RM Productions, Munich), Marika Besobrasova, Gordon Boelzner, Todd Bolender, Ruthanna Boris, Vida Brown, Kirk Browning, Richard Buckle, Gage Bush, Miguel Cabrera, Alfonso Catá, Yvonne Chouteau, Lew Christensen, Marie-Francoise Christout (Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, Paris), Mary Clarke, Heinz Clauss, John Clifford, Selma Jeanne Cohen, Roberta Cooper (American Shakespeare Festival, Stratford, Connecticut), Mari Cornell, Fred Danieli, David Daniels, Alexandra Danilova, Karen Davidov, Kensington Davison, Roxanna Deane (Martin Luther King Memorial Library, Washington, D.C.), Carole Deschamps, Fernand Detaille, Deutsche Oper am Rhein (Berlin), Charles Dickson, Anton Dolin, William Dollar, Felia Doubrovska, Paul Draper, Lucille Duncan (Center for Inter-American Relations, New York), Katherine Dunham, Rosemary Dunleavy, Marina Eglevsky, Richard Englund, Antonio Josée Faró, Olga Ferri, Enzo Valenti Ferro (Teatro Colón, Buenos Aires), Charles France, Frederic Franklin, Julia Gade, Beth Genné, Tamara Geva, Nancy Goldner, Solange Golovine, Edward Gorey, Susan Gould, Margaret Graham, Natasha Gregorova, Robert Greskovic, Nicholas Grimaldi (National Association for Regional Ballet), Ivor Guest, Pëtr Gusev, Marianna Hallar (Library of the Royal Theater, Copenhagen), Carolyn Harden (Theatre Museum, London), Camille Hardy, Russell Hartley (San Francisco Archives for the Performing Arts), Henley Haslam, Baird Hastings, Melissa Hayden, Susan Hendl, Laurie Horn, Marian Horosko, Olga and André von Hoyer, Merle Hubbard, Heinrich Huesmann (Theatermuseum, Munich), David Huntley (Boosey & Hawkes, Inc.), Robert Irving, George Jackson, Jillana, Robert Joffrey, Clark Jones, Martine Kahane (Bibliothèque et Musée de l’Opéra, Paris), Una Kai, Poel Karp, Tibor Katona (Orchestre National de Monte Carlo), Allegra Kent, William P. Kiehl (United States International Communications Agency), Lincoln Kirstein, Anna Kisselgoff, Boris Kochno, Horst Koegler, Gabriella Komleva, Bernard L. Koten, Svend Kragh Jacobsen, Nadia Lacoste (Centre de Presse, Principauté de Monaco), Moscelyne Larkin, Niels Bjorn Larsen, Juan Ubaldo Lavanga, George Laws, Tanaquil Le Clercq, Sara Leland, Tatiana Leskova, Library of Congress Newspaper Annex, Rolf Liebermann, Michael Lland, Lady Lousada, Conrad Ludlow, Pamela Lumsden (Library of the Garrick Club, London), Annabelle Lyon, Shona Dunlop MacTavish, Patricia McBride, Don McDonagh, Martha Mahard (Harvard Theatre Collection), John E. Malmstad (Department of Slavic Languages, Columbia University), Raymond Mander and Joseph Mitchenson (Mander and Mitchenson Collection, London), Giora Manor, Marie-Jeanne, Dame Alicia Markova, Francis Mason, Carlos Heria Massardo (Teatro Municipal, Santiago, Chile), Larry Miller, Arthur Mitchell, Yvonne Mounsey, John Mueller (Dance Film Archives, University of Rochester), Betty June Myers, Colleen Neary, Patricia Neary, Vera Nemtchinova, Barbara Newman, Jack L. Noordhorn (Columbia University Libraries), Frank Ohman, Arbie Orenstein, Genevieve Oswald (Dance Division,The New York Public Library), Ruth Page, Susan Pilarre, Freda Pitt, Richard Ploch (Library of the Dance Notation Bureau, New York), Nina Popova, Ulla Poulsen, Ali Pourfarrokh, Denise Prézeau (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), Børge Ralov, Dame Marie Rambert, Jack Reed, Janet Reed, Susan Reimer-Torn, Karl Reuling, Rupert Rhymes (London Coliseum), Vittorio Rieti, Claire Robilant (Library, London School of Contemporary Dance), Raul Roger, Francis Rosset (Société des Bains de Mer, Monte Carlo), Francia Russell, Richard Temple Savage (Music Library, Royal Opera House, London), Jorgen Schiott, Suki Schorer, Betty Scorer, Joysanne Sidimus, Jill Silverman, Victoria Simon, George Skibine, Boris Skidelsky (Royal Opera House Archives, London), David R. Smith (Walt Disney Archives, Burbank, California), Arkadi Sokolow (Leningrad State Institute of Theater, Music and Cinematography), Zachary Solov, Doris Sonne, Marco Sorgetti, Mary Stuart (Slavic and East European Department, University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign), Mark E. Swartz (Harvard Theatre Collection), Kay Swift, Nikita Talin, Maria Tallchief, Marjorie Tallchief, John Taras, Alberto Testa, Brigitte Thorn, Giampiero Tintori (Museo Teatrale, La Scala, Milan), Roy Tobias, Rojelio Tristam (Argentine Consulate, New York), Alexander Trubizin, Hilda Soto U (Archivo Municipal de Ballet, Santiago, Chile), Dame Ninette de Valois, David Vaughan, Violette Verdy, Celida Parera Villalon, Edward Villella, Lynn Visson, Kathrine Sorley Walker, Barbara Weisberger, Andrew Mark Wentink, Joachim Wenzel (Hamburgische Staatsoper), Elaine Whitelaw (March of Dimes, White Plains, New York), Patricia Wilde, Roland John Wiley (School of Music, University of Michigan), E. Virginia Williams, Joseph Wishey, Sarah Woodcock (TheatreMuseum, London), Rochelle Zide Booth, Vera Zorina, and the artistic directors, administrators and archivists who assisted in establishing the record of stagings. The final quatrain of Gide’s Persephone was translated by Richard Wilbur.
The manuscript of this Catalogue was read with essential corrective attention by Edward Bigelow, Gordon Boelzner, Betty Cage, Lew Christensen, Arlene Croce, Rosemary Dunleavy, Nancy Goldner, Barbara Horgan, Robert Irving, Lincoln Kirstein, Anna Kisselgoff, Boris Kochno, Deborah Koolish, Tanaquil Le Clercq, John Martin, Francis Mason, Ruth Schorer, John Taras, David Vaughan, and Henry Wisneski.