“A ballet is a movement in time and space, a living moment. Like a hothouse flower, it blooms, then dies. A ballet is life.”
Continuing the exploration of Balanchine’s seminal Apollo, Kay Mazzo, Francia Russell and Suki Schorer coached the muses July 9-10, 2023 and were interviewed by Alastair Macaulay. American Ballet Theater’s principal dancer Devon Teuscher and soloist Chloe Misseldine were joined by principal New York City Ballet dancer Isabella LaFreniere and former principal Robert Fairchild to dance the pas d’action, pas de deux, three female variations, coda and the Apotheosis or ascent to Parnassus.
This Hans Christian Andersen-inspired duet, The Steadfast Tin Soldier, conveys the story of a tin soldier’s love of a paper doll, brought to life in the coaching on June 4, 2023 by current NYCB soloist Erica Pereira and principal Roman Mejia, accompanied by NYCB rehearsal pianist Michael Scales. Coaches Patricia McBride and Peter Schaufuss shared insights they learned directly from Balanchine as originals in the roles.
On May 1, 2023, Patricia McBride coached Erica Pereira in the sugar plum variation from George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, with Roman Mejia joining to be coached in the pas de deux and coda. McBride, known for her radiant and regal interpretation of the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy, shared her sense of wonder and experimentation with the polished dancers to bring out nuances of the choreography.
The Dance of the Angel of Death, from Orpheus, is a mysterious dance for two men. As coached by Adam Luders on April 10, 2023, it becomes clear this dance is more of a trio, with Orpheus’ lyre playing a significant role in the atmospheric dance demonstrated by New York City Ballet principal dancers Joseph Gordon and Russell Janzen.
On the same day, Stephanie Saland joined Mr. Luders to coach Miriam Miller and Mr. Janzen in the final section of Vienna Waltzes from Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. Here again is an example of choreography focused less on recognizable ballet steps and more on inventive partnering and the fluidity of the upper body.
Kammermusik No. 2, choreographed in 1978, is a musically and choreographically complex ballet that reveals new elements of peculiarities and ingenuity upon each subsequent viewing. Coached by Adam Luders and Colleen Neary on April 3, 2023, New York City Ballet dancers Emilie Gerrity, Mira Nadon, Gilbert Bolden III and Peter Walker clarified the various poetic complexities with aplomb.
In the first Video Archives coaching focused purely on the corps de ballet, Susan Pilarre coached Meaghan Dutton-O’Hara, Olivia MacKinnon, Mimi Staker and Emma von Enck in Valse Fantaisie on February 27, 2023. Simple in construction yet rich in spirit, this ballet prominently features the four corps dancers who execute sprightly steps throughout the work.
For the first filming of 2023 held on January 16, Merrill Ashley and Adam Luders coached the principal roles from Ballade on two Miami City Ballet dancers. Principal soloist Hannah Fischer and principal Renan Cerdeiro embodied the choreography as remembered by Ms. Ashley and Mr. Luders from the rarely performed work, demonstrating the dynamic changes in direction and momentum while also expressing the deep emotional relationship at the heart of the ballet.
On May 31, 2022, Patricia McBride and Helgi Tomasson coached NYCB soloist Erica Pereira and principal dancer Anthony Huxley in the roles McBride and Tomasson originated in Balanchine’s Divertimento from Le Baiser de la Fée. Shortly after its 1972 Stravinsky Festival premiere NY Times critic Clive Barnes called the Divertimento “quietly and yet also deafeningly entrancing. Just as Stravinsky gives us Tschaikovsky with a vital tinge of acid, so Balanchine provides us Petipa far more sophisticated than we might have expected.”
Thanks to a recently rediscovered Labanotation score found at Ohio State University and the impeccable memory of Barbara Walczak, the Video Archives recording on May 16, 2022 allowed for the original version of the Agon’s Gailliard to be recreated on India Bradley and Alexa Maxwell of the New York City Ballet. Ms. Walczak also coached Symphony in C and Bourrée Fantasque with Chun Wai Chan participating in the male roles.
March 14, 2022, Allegra Kent and Bart Cook coached dancers Mira Nadon and Davide Riccardo in the Agon pas de deux. Allegra Kent, though not the originator of the role, performed the role with Arthur Mitchell soon ofter the premiere and performed it for many years after with Bart Cook stepping in for her final appearances in the ballet.
In speaking about Agon, Balanchine said, “Agon is for me the quintessential contemporary ballet. Stravinsky composed it specially for us … In my opinion, it is his – it is our – most perfect work, representing a total collaboration between musician and choreographer.”