VIOLETTE VERDY and HELGI TOMASSON TO TAPE VIDEO SERIES FOR THE GEORGE BALANCHINE FOUNDATION
New York City — Violette Verdy and Helgi Tomasson will teach and coach their roles in La Source for The George Balanchine Foundation's Interpreters Archive. The aim of this video series is to document the viewpoints of dancers on whom Balanchine choreographed his ballets, capturing his intentions at the time of creation through coaching sessions with dancers of today. La Source was created on Verdy, partnered by John Prinz, in 1968; Tomasson performed the ballet with her in the 1970s. Taping will commence November 7, 2010, in New York City Ballet studios in the Rose Building, Lincoln Center, New York.
Verdy and Tomasson will work with Sterling Hyltin and Gonzalo Garcia, both principal dancers with New York City Ballet. Robert Johnson, staff dance critic for "The Star-Ledger" (Newark, NJ), will conduct interview segments with the two coaches. The taping will be supervised by Nancy Reynolds, the Foundation's Director of Research.
La Source, a rare example of a Balanchine ballet in the French style, is set to the melodic and highly danceable music of Delibes. The French-trained Verdy described it as "a moment of incredibly refined French dancing—ornamented, very detailed, and with a lot of subtle nuances of charm, femininity, and coquetry. There is a certain use of sophistication in the sense of a civilized social encounter with the audience." The form of the ballet is unusual in that it has two pas de deux and two variations each for the man and woman, in addition to the usual coda. (There are also sections for a corps de ballet and a female soloist.) Anna Kisselgoff, chief dance critic of The New York Times, observed, "[In the material for Verdy], there is a perfect entente cordiale between a choreographer and a dancer. She brings the Parisian piquancy and pizzicato that Balanchine requires to the ballerina's solos, to differentiate them from the more formal classicism of his 'Russian' style" (May 24, 1973).
Both Verdy and Tomasson have participated in earlier Interpreters Archive tapes. For The Balanchine Foundation cameras, Verdy has coached her created roles in Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, "Emeralds" from Jewels, Liebeslieder Walzer, and the pas de deux from the Act II Divertissement of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Tomasson has coached his solo from Divertimento from 'Le Baiser de la Fée.'
VIOLETTE VERDY began ballet training in her native France. After dancing with Roland Petit's Ballets des Champs-Elysées, London Festival Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre, she joined New York City Ballet in 1958. While there she danced more than 25 principal roles in a performance career that extended through 1976. In addition to La Source, Balanchine created roles for her in Episodes, Sonatine, Tschaikovksy Pas de Deux, "Emeralds" from Jewels, The Figure in the Carpet, Liebeslieder Walzer, and the Act II Divertissement from A Midsummer Night's Dream, among others. Jerome Robbins created roles for her in Dances at a Gathering, In the Night, and Beethoven Pas de Deux. Verdy also made guest appearances with major ballet companies in America and Europe.
After her retirement from performing, she became the first woman to be artistic director of the Paris Opera Ballet and was later artistic director of the Boston Ballet. Verdy has been a guest teacher throughout the world and has been awarded many honors. Since 1996, she has been a Distinguished Professor of Ballet at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, Bloomington.
HELGI TOMASSON has been Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer of San Francisco Ballet since 1985. After early ballet training, he was discovered by Jerome Robbins in his native Iceland and offered a scholarship at the School of American Ballet. He subsequently began his professional career with The Joffrey Ballet, followed by The Harkness Ballet. In 1970 he joined New York City Ballet, where he remained for fifteen years, becoming one of the finest classical dancers of his era. Both Balanchine and Robbins created ballets with major roles for Tomasson, notably Balanchine's Symphony in Three Movements, Vienna Waltzes, Coppélia, and Divertimento from 'Le Basier de la Fée, with a male solo unprecedented for its lyricism and emotional gravity; and Robbins's Dybbuk and The Goldberg Variations.
Under Tomasson's direction, San Francisco Ballet has emerged as a world-class company with a strong classical base. At his invitation, such internationally distinguished choreographers as William Forsythe, James Kudelka, Mark Morris, Paul Taylor, and Christopher Wheeldon have created works on the company, and he has further enriched the repertory by acquiring ballets by Balanchine, Robbins, Frederick Ashton, August Bournonville, Nacho Duato, Agnes de Mille, Roland Petit, and Antony Tudor, among many others. He has also choreographed over 40 works himself, performed not only by his own company but by New York City Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, Houston Ballet, and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal. In addition he has set a number of the classics, including full-length productions of Giselle, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and Don Quixote (with Yuri Possokhov).
Tomasson is also the director of the San Francisco Ballet School. He has been honored with numerous awards.
STERLING HYLTIN, a native of Amarillo, Texas, entered the School of American Ballet in 2000. In 2002 she became an apprentice with New York City Ballet, a full member in 2003, a soloist in 2006, and a principal dancer in 2007.
Her repertory encompasses leading roles in a wide range of Balanchine ballets, including Coppélia (Swanhilda), Danses Concertantes, Divertimento No. 15, Duo Concertant, George Balanchine's The Nutcracker® (Dewdrop, Sugar Plum Fairy), "Rubies" from Jewels, La Source, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Symphony in C (Third Movement), Symphony in Three Movements, and Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3 (Theme and Variations); Robbins's The Concert and Interplay; Peter Martins's Calcium Light Night, Morgen, and The Sleeping Beauty (Aurora); and Susan Stroman's Double Feature.
In addition Hyltin originated the role of Juliet in Martins's full-evening Romeo + Juliet, the lead in Alexey Miroshnichenko's The Lady with the Little Dog, and a role in Christopher Wheeldon's Rococo Variations.
GONZALO GARCIA, born in Zaragoza, Spain, studied ballet with Maria Avila and in 1995 attended a summer session at San Francisco Ballet School. Following this, he participated in the Prix de Lausanne, becoming the youngest dancer to receive a gold medal. Garcia joined San Francisco Ballet in 1998 and was promoted to soloist in 2002 and principal dancer in 2002. His repertory included leading roles in works by Balanchine, Robbins, William Forsythe, and Christopher Wheeldon as well as the leads in Tomasson's stagings of classical works, including Albrecht, Romeo, Bluebird, Prince Siegfried, and Basilio (Don Quixote). In addition, Garcia originated the roles of the Nutcracker Prince (Tomasson), Aminta in Sylvia (Mark Morris) and a role in Wheeldon's Continuum.
Garcia joined New York City Ballet as principal dancer in 2007. From the Balanchine repertory, he has performed Frantz in Coppélia, Oberon in A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Theme and Variations section of Tschaikovsky Suite No. 3, as well as leads in Donizetti Variations, "Rubies" from Jewels, and Tarantella, among others; Robbins's Dances at a Gathering, Opus 19, Other Dances, and the Robbins/Twyla Tharp Brahms/Handel; Martins's A Fool for You, Swan Lake, and Sleeping Beauty; Wheeldon's Mercurial Manoeuvres; and Bournonville's Flower Festival in Genzano pas de deux. He has originated roles in Martins's Grazioso and Alexei Ratmansky's Concerto DSCH.
For The Balanchine Foundation's Interpreters Archive video series, he was coached in Divertimento from 'Le Baiser de la Fée' by Helgi Tomasson.
ROBERT JOHNSON is staff dance critic for "The Star-Ledger" in Newark, New Jersey. Over the past twenty years, his articles on dance have appeared in both general interest and specialty publications, including "The New York Times," "The Village Voice," "Ballet Review," and "Dance Chronicle." He is currently writing a history of Garth Fagan Dance.
NANCY REYNOLDS, a former dancer with New York City Ballet, has been Director of Research for The George Balanchine Foundation since 1994. She conceived and continues to direct the Video Archives program. Also an author, her most recent books are No Fixed Points: Dance in the Twentieth Century (co-authored with Malcolm McCormick) and Remembering Lincoln.
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 (https://balanchine.org/03/gbfvideoarchives.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 (https://balanchine.org/03/balanchinecataloguenew.html). The project was made possible by a leadership grant from The Jerome Robbins Foundation.
Earlier projects include Popular Balanchine, comprising forty-two boxes of material pertaining to Balanchine's commercial work, housed at the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library; and Music Dances: Balanchine Choreographs Stravinsky, a video by Professor Stephanie Jordan of Roehampton University, London.