PATRICIA McBRIDE and HELGI TOMASSON COACH PRINCIPAL ROLES in the DIVERTIMENTO from ‘LE BAISER DE LA FÉE’ for THE GEORGE BALANCHINE FOUNDATION VIDEO ARCHIVES
New York City: On May 30, 2022, in the New York City Ballet studios at Lincoln Center, former principals 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. At its conclusion, Nancy Reynolds, the Foundation’s Director of Research, interviewed the coaches on camera about their experiences with Balanchine as he created the choreography. Filming was supervised by Archives Director Paul Boos. NYCB solo pianist Elaine Chelton accompanied the session.
A ballet of subliminal and foreboding mystery, shortly after its 1972 Stravinsky Festival premiere NY Times critic Clive Barnes called Divertimento “quietly and yet also deafeningly entrancing. Just as Stravinsky gives us Tchaikovsky with a vital tinge of acid, so Balanchine provides us a Petipa far more sophisticated than we might have expected.” In 1974 Balanchine expanded the ballet to include a new ending. At the time, critic Arlene Croce termed it “something more than a divertissement, something less than a drama,” implying that pure dance passages were inflected with a pronounced theatrical atmosphere. She noted, “The sinister-sweet elements in McBride’s nature are perfect for the role.” Of the male variation, critic Paul Gellen wrote that Tómasson’s “very special timing . . . projects in the space of a few moments a whole world of contradictory emotions.” Seeing him dance the variation at his farewell performance in 1984, NY Times critic Anna Kisselgoff wrote, “With his outstanding technique and elegance . . . he enabled Balanchine, who had never had dancers of Tómasson’s caliber, to show off his own choreography for men at its most classical.”
The GBF Video Archives document the insights of dancers, often principals from original casts or those who worked closely with Balanchine, with a mission to preserve this knowledge for today’s dancers, scholars, and audiences. The Archives are available worldwide through public and university libraries as well as to qualified non-profit institutions by subscription through Alexander Street Press. In addition, the interviews can be accessed on the Foundation’s You Tube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/blnchn).
PATRICIA McBRIDE, in a long and illustrious career with NYCB, had an extraordinarily large number of works choreographed on her by George Balanchine, including “Rubies” (Jewels), Tarantella, Who Cares?, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Hermia), Harlequinade (Columbine), Brahms-Schonberg Quartet (Intermezzo), Union Jack, Coppelia (Swanhilda), and Divertimento from Le Baiser de la Fée,’ among several others. McBride was also favored by Jerome Robbins, who created principal roles for her in Dances at a Gathering, The Goldberg Variations, The Four Seasons, and Opus 19/The Dreamer. With her frequent partner Edward Villella she performed on concert stages around the world. Among her other partners were some of the most noted dancers of her generation, including Mikhail Baryshnikov, Helgi Tomasson, and Peter Martins. McBride danced for five presidents. She is recipient of a Dance Magazine Award and the Kennedy Center Honors. After her retirement from performing in 1989, she joined the faculties of the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music and the Chautauqua Institute, before taking up a senior position at the Charlotte Ballet in 1996, where she continues to teach. For the GBF Video Archives she has been recorded coaching her created roles in “Rubies,” Tarantella, Who Cares?, Harlequinade, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet.
A native of Iceland, he began his early ballet training in Reykjavik and his professional dance career at age 15 with the Pantomime Theatre in Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens. At age 17, Jerome Robbins arranged a scholarship for Tómasson to study at Balanchine’s School of American Ballet in New York City. He went on to join the Joffrey Ballet and later the Harkness Ballet. In 1969, at age 27, Tómasson entered the First International Ballet Competition in Moscow, representing the United States, and returned with the Silver Medal, the same year the Gold Medal was awarded to Mikhail Baryshnikov. A year later, Tómasson joined NYCB as principal dancer and remained for 15 years, partnering noted ballerinas Violette Verdy, Patricia McBride, and Gelsey Kirkland, among others. During his tenure Balanchine created several roles on him, including a lead in Symphony in Three Movements and in three works in which Balanchine paired him with McBride: Divertimento from ‘Le Baiser de la fée’, Coppelia (Frantz), and Vienna Waltzes (“Voices of Spring”). Robbins created roles on him in The Goldberg Variations and Dybbuk, both opposite McBride, and in several other works. Upon his retirement from dancing in 1985, Tómasson became artistic director of San Francisco Ballet, a position he held until stepping down in May 2022, and during which he choreographed more than 50 ballets. For the GBF Video Archives he has coached La Source with Violette Verdy and his solo from Divertimento from ‘Le Baiser de la fée’.
ERICA PEREIRA, while an apprentice with NYCB, danced Juliet in Peter Martins’s Romeo + Juliet in Spring 2007 and soon afterward joined NYCB as a member of the corps de ballet. In December 2009 she was promoted to soloist and has since appeared in several roles originally premiered by McBride.
ANTHONY HUXLEY joined NYCB in 2007 and was promoted to soloist in 2011 and principal in 2015. He has danced leading roles in Duo Concertant, “Emeralds” and “Rubies” from Jewels, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Oberon), and Symphony in C (3 rd Movement), among others, as well as in Robbins’s Goldberg Variations and Bournonville’s La Sylphide (James). For the GBF Video Archives, he was coached by Jacques d’Amboise in the little-known Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux solo Balanchine first staged for him.
PAUL BOOS, Director of the Video Archives since 2021, is a former dancer with NYCB and repetiteur for the George Balanchine Trust. His work for the Trust has been presented at several theaters, including the Maryinsky, Bolshoi, Paris Opera, La Scala, and Pacific Northwest and Boston ballets.
NANCY REYNOLDS, a former dancer with NYCB, 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; and Remembering Lincoln. In 2013 she received a “Bessie” award for “outstanding service to the field of dance.”
The George Balanchine 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, 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.