New York City: On January 16, 2023, in the New York City Ballet studios at the Rose Building, Lincoln Center, New York, the George Balanchine Foundation Video Archives will record former NYCB principal dancers Merrill Ashley and Adam Lüders coaching Miami City Ballet principal soloist Hannah Fischer and Miami City Ballet principal Renan Cerdeiro in Ballade.
Choreographed in 1980, the rarely performed Ballade, set to Gabriel Fauré’s early sixteen-minute composition, Ballade for Piano and Orchestra, is one of Balanchine’s final works. People have speculated that Faure’s Ballade may have inspired the fictitious sonata Marcel Proust writes about in In Search of Lost Time. Mr. Balanchine choreographed the ballet on Ms. Ashley, Sean Lavery and ten women. Due to an injury Lavery sustained at the time, Ib Andersen replaced him at the premiere, and he and Adam Lüders alternated in the role dancing opposite Ashley in subsequent performances.
Following the ballet’s premiere, Arlene Croce wrote in the New Yorker, “Ballade is a small, perfect vanity case of a ballet, the kind of exquisite miniature that Balanchine fashions from time to time when he wants to make a fuss over one of his ballerinas.” Two years earlier he choreographed the bravura and pyrotechnical Ballo della Regina for Ashley. Ballade propelled her, an acclaimed allegro technician, into a realm of hyper lyricism. Croce further writes, “By calling on Ashley’s non-dancing resources as a ballerina, Balanchine may have issued her the most critical challenge of her career.”
Referring to the unexpected split-second changes in momentum throughout the ballet that catch the audience and dancers by surprise, Larry Kaplan responds in Ballet Review, “Ballade is a succession of these fugitive moments. And this indicates another theme of the work. The ballet appears to be about the elusiveness of sense experience – in this case of love. The essence of the relationship of these dancers the ballet portrays is deeper than can be summoned up at will. But the ballet itself, art, has recalled it. And if there is anything Proustian about the ballet, it is this.”
Paul Boos, Director of the Video Archives, will oversee the filming with Founding Director Nancy Reynolds. NYCB solo pianist Elaine Chelton accompanies the session, which ends with Ashley and Lüders being interviewed by John Meehan.
The GBF Video Archives document the insights of dancers, often principals from original casts or those who worked closely with Balanchine. The Archives mission is to preserve this knowledge and pass it on to today's dancers, scholars, and audiences. The Archives are available world-wide through public and university libraries. In addition, the interview components can be accessed on the Balanchine Foundation's YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/user/blnchn).
MERRILL ASHLEY was awarded one of the first Ford Foundation Scholarships to attend the School of American Ballet. In 1967, Balanchine invited her to join the New York City Ballet and in 1974 promoted her to soloist. In 1977, the year Balanchine choreographed his first ballet for her, Ballo della Regina, Ashley was promoted to principal dancer, and in 1980 Balanchine created Ballade on her. Ashley retired on November 25, 1997, at a gala celebration. In summing up her career, the Wall Street Journal said, "she basically taught the world how ballet is danced." Currently, Ashley stages Balanchine ballets and teaches at schools and companies all over the world. For the Interpreters Archive she previously taught and coached Ballo della Regina, Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2 and Diamonds with Jacques d’Amboise.
ADAM LUDERS first studied dance at the Royal Danish Ballet School and graduated to become a member of the Royal Danish Ballet in 1968. He was a principal dancer with London Festival Ballet (1973–5) and New York City Ballet (1975–94) creating roles in Balanchine's Davidsbündertänze, Kammermusik No. 2, and Walpurgisnacht, as well as Robbins's In Memory of… among others. Since retiring he has taught widely, including at the School of American Ballet, and staged Balanchine repertory for the George Balanchine Trust. Trained in the Bournonville tradition, Lüders was the classic ‘danseur noble’. He is part of the last generation of dancers who worked closely with Balanchine at the New York City Ballet and has danced most of the Balanchine and Robbins repertoire. Lüders is famous for his skill in pas de deux, and he has partnered most of Balanchine’s ballerinas as well other international stars. For the Interpreters Archive he has coached the first movement of Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet and Davidsbündlertänze.
HANNAH FISCHER was born in New York City and trained at Canada’s National Ballet School. She joined The National Ballet of Canada in 2012 and was promoted to first soloist in 2017. At NBC she was featured in Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Odette/Odile in Swan Lake choreographed by James Kudelka, Myrtha, Queen of the Willis in Sir Peter Wright’s Giselle, Tall Girl from George Balanchine’s Rubies, among many more. In 2015 she was awarded the Patron Award of Merit and won The Eleventh International Competition for The Erik Bruhn Prize. She joined Miami City Ballet as principal soloist in 2020.
RENAN CERDEIRO began training in various dance styles in Rio de Janeiro. In 2008, Cerdeiro was named a finalist at the Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland, and that same year was awarded a scholarship to train at Miami City Ballet School. Within two years, founding artistic director Edward Villella invited him to join Miami City Ballet, and in 2013 he was promoted to principal dancer by current artistic director Lourdes Lopez. Since joining MCB, Cerdeiro has toured with the company performing at the New York City Center, the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris, in Ottawa and Vancouver, Canada, as well at the Bolshoi in Moscow as part of the Benois de la Danse Gala. Cerdeiro was named by Dance Magazine as one of the world’s “Top 25 Artists to Watch in 2011.”
JOHN MEEHAN is an Australian ballet director, choreographer, professor, and retired ballet dancer. He first appeared with the Australian Ballet, rising to the rank of principal dancer, creating roles in several works. Subsequently, he danced with American Ballet Theatre and was a guest artist with National Ballet of Canada and the New York City Ballet. Meehan was appointed as the artistic director of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company and in 2006 -2009 directed Hong Kong Ballet before accepting a teaching position at Vassar College where he now chairs the Vassar Dance Department.
NANCY REYNOLDS, founding director of the George Balanchine Video Archives. She is a former dancer with New York City Ballet and has been Director of Research for The George Balanchine Foundation since 1994, when she conceived the Video Archives program. Among her books are Repertory in Review: Forty Years of the New York City Ballet; No Fixed Points: Dance in the Twentieth Century (co-authored with Malcolm McCormick); and Remembering Lincoln. In 2013 she received a “Bessie” award for “outstanding service to the field of dance.”
PAUL BOOS, Director of the Video Archives since 2021, is a former dancer with NYCB and répétiteur for the George Balanchine Trust. His work for the Trust has been presented at several theaters, including the Maryinsky, Bolshoi, Paris Opera, La Scala, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and Boston Ballet. He also guest teaches abroad and locally.
The George Balanchine Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation established in 1983 with the goal of creating programs that educate the public and further Balanchine’s work and aesthetic. Among the GBF’s major initiatives are the Video Archives, in which dancers who worked closely with Balanchine teach and coach their roles with the dancers of today (Interpreters Archive) or recreate sections of ballets that are rarely performed or in danger of disappearing (Archive of Lost Choreography). Legendary dancers who have taken part in this project include Alicia Alonso, Jacques d’Amboise, Suzanne Farrell, Frederic Franklin, Melissa Hayden, Allegra Kent, Alicia Markova, Patricia McBride, Maria Tallchief, Violette Verdy, Patricia Wilde, Edward Villella, and others, working with dancers from such companies as New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and San Francisco, Boston, Pacific Northwest and Suzanne Farrell ballets.
In 2007 the Foundation announced 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 and supplemented by lists of companies staging his ballets, a bibliography, a videography, reference resources, a database of roles Balanchine performed, and related information. The project was made possible by a leadership grant from The Jerome Robbins Foundation. An expanded and updated version, enhanced by visuals, was introduced in June 2022 (www.balanchine.org).
The George Balanchine Foundation expresses its profound gratitude to the following donors: The Brown Foundation, Agnes Gund, Barbara D. Horgan, The New York State Council on the Arts, the Pettit Foundation, Nancy. R. Reynolds, The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and Louisa Stude Sarofim; and to Leslie Tonner Curtis, Nancy S. Furlotti, Jeffrey A. Horwitz, The National Endowment for the Arts, Meryl Rosofsky and Stuart H. Coleman, The Evelyn Sharp Foundation, Resa and Heiner Sussner, and I. Peter Wolff.