At the Saturday matinee, ABT presented a program consisting of Fokine’s Les Sylphides, Stanton Welch’s Clear, and Balanchine’s Theme and Variations. The most interesting aspect was seeing the contrast between Sylphides and Theme. Two sumptuous works about the nature of ballet itself. I reviewed the show here.
A short excerpt: “In many ways these two works illustrate what we think about when we think about ballet. The first is a vaporous homage to the aura of mid-nineteenth century works like La Sylphide and Giselle. The latter, a luminous affirmation of the classical style, specifically the high classicism of the Russian Silver Age and its exemplary ballet, Sleeping Beauty.”
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.
“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.”