Here’s my interview with Susan Jones, a ballet mistress at American Ballet Theatre in charge of the corps de ballet. Jones joined ABT in 1970 and stayed for nine years. In that time, she danced every corps role in the rep, plus Lizzie in Fall River Legend, Cowgirl in Rodeo, and a few other choice parts that suited her dramatic side. She quickly showed a skill for remembering steps, which became handy when working with Twyla Tharp on Push Comes to Shove. Baryshnikov made her a ballet mistress, and she never left. This fall, she is re-staging Tharp’s Bach Partita, which hasn’t been done for almost thirty years.
The company kicked off its spring season — a.k.a. the American Music Festival — on April 30, with an all-Balanchine program. (The date also marked the thirtieth anniversary of Balanchine’s death.) On the program: Who Cares?, Tarantella, Stars and Stripes, and the revival of that most mysterious ballet, Ivesiana (not performed since 2004). The cast of Ivesiana was mostly new, and included Ashley Laracey in her first big role since being promoted to soloist int the spring. And what a striking, chilling ballet it is. You can read my review (for DanceTabs) here.
And here’s a short excerpt:
“Made in 1954 (the same year as Western Symphony, of all things) for a cast of dancers that included Janet Reed, Allegra Kent, Tanaquil LeClercq, Francisco Moncion, and Todd Bolender, Ivesiana is one of Balnachine’s simplest, and most unnerving, compositions. Four ideas, four sections, not many steps, and no pointe-work – except in the crazed third chapter, “In the Inn,” which is crammed to the gills with steps and performed on pointe…. The entire thing is steeped in an atsmophere of suffocating irresolution, of irratonal occurrences and otherworldliness.”
I recently sat down with the dance historian Nancy Reynolds to talk about her life in dance, which began in 1957 when she joined the New York City Ballet. After five difficult years in the company she went on to study art history, edit Lincoln Kirstein, collaborate in the creation of the International Encyclopedia of Dance, and write a series of essential dance books including Repertory in Review and No Fixed Points. Since 1994 she has been involved in the Balanchine Archives, a project which she conceived and which consists of filming working sessions with the original creators of Balanchine roles as they pass on the choreographer’s instructions to a new generation of dancers. She has filmed Maria Tallchief coaching Firebird, Alicia Markova recreating her solo from Le Chant du Rossignol, Frederic Franklin remembering steps from the version of Baiser de la Fée that he danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and many others.
Here is a link to the interview.
And here is a short excerpt:
“Balanchine was a god. Everybody says that, but it’s absolutely true. Most people who were there just worshiped him. I knew Stravinsky was around, and I saw some Agon rehearsals. It was obvious that Agon was an extraordinary event. Balanchine was around all the time; it was nothing special to see him in the hall. But I will tell you, there were lots of empty seats at City Center. We had Sunday evening performances, and from the stage you’d see rows and rows of empty seats. Balanchine said the same thing about Diaghilev’s company: there were full houses on glamorous opening nights, but often many empty seats after that. I was always a little embarrassed to say I was with NYCB, because the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and Ballet Theatre seemed like much more important companies. But I felt I was a pioneer, bringing Balanchine to the great public.”