Lincoln Center Festival put together a big show this week: a multinational staging of George Balanchine’s 1967 ballet Jewels, with performances by the Paris Opera Ballet, New York City Ballet, and the Bolshoi. The contrasts were fascinating, and paradoxically, had the effect of focusing attention on the ballet itself, revealing more clearly than ever why Arlene Croce described it as an “unsurpassedbBalanchine primer, incorporating in a single evening every important article of faith to which the choreographer subscribed”. My review is at DanceTabs.
Violette Verdy died this week, a terrible loss.
I had the good fortune to spend time with her last year, when I was preparing a profile of her for The Nation magazine. Those hours were amongst the most delightful I have spent with anyone. I brought her maccaroons and tea, which we ate in her hotel while we talked. One night, we went to the ballet. It was a privilege to sit next to her.
I miss her, as do many, many other people.
“Phrasing is a recognition of the values of talking, of thinking; it’s an evaluation, an itinerary,” says Violette Verdy, the great ballerina, coach, and storyteller. My profile of Verdy just came out in The Nation. You can read it here
A Violette Verdy coaching at City Center from a few years back. Jenifer Ringer’s rendition of Liebeslieder with Jared Angle, which starts at 34:14, is seared into my brain from that day. So simple, and intimate, and true.
New York City Ballet is performing an all-French program this week, with ballets by Liam Scarlett (Acheron), Jerome Robbins (Aftenoon of a Faun), and Balanchine (Walpurgisnacht Ballet and La Valse). Here’s my review for DanceTabs.
And a short excerpt: “Two of the works on the program (Afternoon of a Faun and La Valse) were created for the ballerina Tanaquil LeClercq, Balanchine’s third wife, struck with Polio at the age of twenty-seven, and now the subject of a moving documentary, Afternoon of a Faun. LeClercq’s dramatic intelligence, sense of chic, and air of knowingness – she was half-French, born in Paris – hover over the evening.”
Jenifer Ringer danced her last dance yesterday at New York City Ballet, in a program that combined Robbins’ Dances at a Gathering and Balanchine’s tribute to the British Isles, Union Jack. Unsurprisingly she seemed relaxed, dancing with her usual musicality and emotional transparency. Here’s my review of the show, for DanceTabs.
I’d love to hear people’s memories of her dancing. I’ll never forget a public coaching of Liebeslieder with Violette Verdy. Dressed in rehearsal clothes, under bright studio lights, Ringer and Jared Angle conjured a completely enclosed world in which only they existed. After they finished Verdy said simply, “that was perfect, I have nothing to say.”
It was just announced that four principals will be retiring from New York City Ballet next winter and spring. I’m especially sad to see Jenifer Ringer go. She hasn’t danced much lately–she’s been busy with her two children–and she’s been missed. Ringer was one of the first dancers I fell in love with, unsurprising since she is a particularly warm, welcoming presence onstage. She seemed to me to represent something essential to American dancers: a kind of easy-going naturalness, musicality, and sense of freedom. She is always herself onstage. I’ve loved her in so many ballets, including as Sugarplum in Nutcracker, in which she exuded beauty and almost maternal warmth. She was the essence of femininity and interiority in Emeralds and Dances at a Gathering. And she could be sophisticated too, as when she danced the fabulous role of the cigarette girl in Ratmansky’s Namouna (see above). And then there was Liebeslieder, most especially the duet in which the woman slowly slides her leg along the floor beneath her dress, and miraculously rises up, like a ship on the seas, then floats down again. I’ll never forget watching Violette Verdy at a public coaching of Liebeslieder with Ringer and Jared Angle; after the pas de deux, Verdy said only: “how lovely.” I’ll be at her farewell performance, on Feb. 9, and I’m sure I’ll shed a tear or two.
In this video, the divine Violette Verdy (and a very fine Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux) dance Sonatine, a pas de deux made for them by Balanchine on the occasion of the 1974 Ravel festival. Her musicality, and sense of style, are astonishing.
Edward Villella is back in town, unbowed by his Miami City Ballet experience and ready to begin the next chapter of his life. I sat down with him recently at a café around the corner from his Hamilton Heights brownstone to talk about his life in dance, Balanchine, his experiences in Miami, and his plans for the future. You can read the interview here, in DanceTabs.