Yvonne Mounsey, a principal dancer with New York City Ballet and the longtime director of one of Southern California’s most prominent ballet schools, died Saturday from cancer at her Los Angeles home, reported the Los Angeles Times. She was 93.
Mounsey took over Academy West on Westwood Boulevard in 1967 with her close friend and former Royal Ballet soloist, the late Rosemary Valaire; the name was later changed to Westside School of Ballet and they moved to Santa Monica. Mounsey was one of the first alumni of New York City Ballet to establish roots in Southern California, teaching in the neo-classical style of choreographer George Balanchine.
Mounsey maintained her close connections with New York City Ballet, helping to open doors for her students there and at prestigious companies around the world, including American Ballet Theatre and San Francisco Ballet. At New York City Ballet alone, current and former students include Tiler Peck, Andrew Veyette, Jock Soto, Monique Meunier, and Melissa Barak.
The majority of Mounsey’s students, however, were not bound for the stage. She focused as much on the joy of dancing as on technique, and tried to bring out the artist in every boy and girl.
“I think she just got so much joy out of teaching, and she never stopped thinking about how she could make things better or help someone,” said her daughter, Allegra Clegg. Mounsey continued working at the studio until June.
Born Yvonne Leibbrandt in 1919 to dairy farmers outside Pretoria, South Africa, she started lessons at age 7 with a former member of Anna Pavlova’s company, left home at age 16 to train in Europe, and toured Italy, France, and Cuba before joining NYCB and dancing with the company for almost a decade until 1958.
Mounsey received the Jerome Robbins Award in 2011 and a Lester Horton Dance Award for lifetime achievement in 2002.
A public memorial will be held at October 14 at 3pm at the Wadsworth Theatre, 11301 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles. To see the full obit, visit http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-yvonne-mounsey-20121003,0,6481265.story.
Dancers Over 40—a not-for-profit that supports the needs of mature dancers, choreographers, and related artists—will present a tribute to the great George Balanchine, and the talented New York City Ballet performers who worked with the master, on October 8 at pm at St. Luke’s Theater, 308 West 46th Street, New York.
Broadway World reports that DO40’s first-ever ballet event will feature Merrill Ashley, Vida Brown, Marge Champion, John Clifford, Gene Gavin, Allegra Kent, Frank Ohman, Barbara Milberg Fisher, Bettijane Sills, Carol Sumner, Barbara Walczak, and Patricia Wilde.
Performances include excerpts from On Your Toes, Western Symphony 1st and 3rd movements, Sanguinic Square Dance, Divertimento #15, Pulcinella, Raymonda, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Who Cares? Rare film and video clips will also be shown.
Special guests include Barbara Horgan, director of The Balanchine Foundation, and Candice Agree, radio host for WQXR-FM; with moderators Nancy Goldner, author of The Balanchine Variations, and Robert Greskovic, dance critic for The Wall Street Journal. The event will be videotaped and donated to the Jerome Robbins Dance Collection at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.
Tickets are $40 and $65 (premium seats) and are available through Telecharge (212.239.6200) or online at www.telecharge.com.
Jacques d’Amboise, former principal dancer with New York City Ballet and one of the foremost interpreters of the role of Apollo, recently coached the masterwork for The George Balanchine Foundation’s Interpreters Archives.
The aim of the series is to document the insights of dancers who worked closely with Balanchine on some of his greatest ballets. The sessions were held September 4, 5, and 6 at the School of American Ballet studios in the Rose Building, Lincoln Center, New York.
D’Amboise worked with Robert Fairchild and Sterling Hyltin, both principals with the New York City Ballet. Solo pianist Susan Walters of the New York City Ballet Orchestra played for the coaching session. The taping was supervised by Nichol Hlinka, a former NYCB principal dancer who is the associate director of the Foundation’s video archives program, assisted by Nancy Reynolds, the Foundation’s director of research, and former film professor Virginia Brooks.
Apollo, or Apollon Musagète, the ballet’s original title, premiered on June 12, 1928 with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes at the Théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt in Paris. The composer, Igor Stravinsky, who possessed a strong interest in Greek mythology, conceived of and composed the score to Apollo as a ballet blanc. For Balanchine the ballet would be a turning point in his life.
Allegra Kent, who danced Terpsichore to his Apollo, called d’Amboise “swashbuckling,” adding, “in Apollo, he brought something special. He was like a god, born out of the rocks, sort of raw and strange in his emotions.”
For more information on the video archives, visit http://www.balanchine.org/balanchine/03/gbfvideoarchives.html.
In a New York Times article, author and former New York City Ballet dancer Toni Bentley tells of opening a mysterious email that contained links to a YouTube video tribute (which include some very rare images) to George Balanchine and to one of his first ballerinas, Tamara Toumanova—made by Toumanova’s first cousin thrice removed, a 13-year-old pianist in Tbilisi, Georgia.
Tamara G. Pkhakadze, named after her distant relative, has made, in the last year or so, about 20 such tributes to great 20th century ballerinas and dance legends. These video montages include homages to Anna Pavlova, Irina Baranova, and Olga Spessivtseva, as well as several to Toumanova.
Toumanova was born on a train in 1919, as her mother, Princess Eugenia Toumanishvili, was escaping the Bolshevik Revolution from her home in Georgia. Eventually winding up in Paris, and enrolled in ballet classes, the young Toumanova was discovered by Balanchine, who hired her for the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo.
Alongside her stage career, Toumanova took the rare grand jeté to film roles, making Torn Curtain with Hitchcock, Invitation to the Dance with Gene Kelly, and Days of Glory with Gregory Peck.
To view a selection of Pkhakadze’s videos, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2012/07/22/arts/dance/22tamara.html?ref=dance#index
For the full story, visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/22/arts/dance/balanchine-and-toumanova-in-a-teenagers-eyes.html.
Diablo Ballet’s 19th season will feature works by George Balanchine, Trey McIntyre, and Vicente Nebrada of Ballet Nacional de Caracas, plus the world premiere of its first holiday ballet.
The season begins November 16 and 17 at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, California, with a program of Latin flare and holiday cheer, including the west coast premiere of Lento a Tempe a Appassionato by choreographer Vicente Nebrada of Ballet Nacional de Caracas.
These shows also include the world premiere of A Swingin’ Holiday, created and choreographed by Sean Kelly, resident choreographer for the national tour of Billy Elliot: The Musical, and a former principal of Houston Ballet. Set to the swing music of the 1930s and ’40s by such legends as Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman, A Swingin’ Holiday will be performed with a live big band under the musical direction of Greg Sudmeier.
Following the November 17 matinee, ticket holders are invited to meet and mingle with the dancers, and children younger than 12 can have their photo taken with the dancers in costume.
Diablo Ballet’s Inside the Dancer’s Studio series returns March 1 and 2 and May 3 and 4, 2013, at the Shadelands Arts Center Auditorium in Walnut Creek. A wide range of both classical and contemporary works will be presented, including the west coast premiere of Trey McIntyre’s The Blue Boy, set to Beethoven’s “Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Major, Op. 15.” A Q&A with the dancers hosted by local celebrity moderators follows the performances.
Tickets for the November 16 at 8pm and November 17 at 2 and 8pm shows are available at www.LesherArtsCenter.org or by calling 925.943.7469.
Tickets for 2013’s Inside the Dancer’s Studio (March 1 at 8pm, March 2 at 2 and 8pm, May 3 at 8pm, and May 4 at 2 and 8pm) are available at www.DiabloBallet.org or by calling 925.943.1775.
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The Kirov Academy of Ballet (KAB) will present George Balanchine’s Valse-Fantaisieas part of spring performances set for May 24 to 26 at the Washington, D.C. ballet academy.
John Clifford, former principal dancer with New York City Ballet, and Mimi Paul, former principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, staged and rehearsed the work with the Kirov students. Valse-Fantaisie premiered on November 23, 1967, with Paul and Clifford in the original cast.
Giselle, Act II and other works, including the world premiere of Rossiniana by Eli Lazar, will also be presented.
KAB is the only dedicated ballet academy in the U.S. to offer ballet training plus a full academic curriculum with onsite faculty and a resident life program under one roof. Alumni of KAB are currently dancing as principals or soloists at American Ballet Theater, Royal Ballet in London, Dutch National Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet, Royal Swedish Ballet, English National Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Houston Ballet, Zurich Ballet, Universal Ballet, and many other companies throughout the world.
Performances will be held at 2:30 and 7pm at KAB, 4301 Harewood Road, Northeast, Washington, D.C. For more information, visit www.kirovacademydc.org.
Pacific Northwest Ballet continues its 39th season with a potent program of Greek gods and 13th-century monks, “Apollo & Carmina.”
Apollo, George Balanchine’s oldest surviving ballet, was his first international success as well as the start of his collaboration with Igor Stravinsky. Choreographed in 1928 for the Ballets Russes and known originally as Apollon Musagète, Apollo is widely regarded as the fountainhead of contemporary classicism.
Pacific Northwest Ballet founding artistic director Kent Stowell’s rendering of Carl Orff’s 1937 musical cantata, Carmina Burana, has played to sold-out audiences since its 1993 premiere. The famous cantata’s poems about the fickleness of fortune, the joy of renewal, and the perils of sin come to life in the shadow of Ming Cho Lee’s colossal 26-foot golden wheel.
“Apollo & Carmina” runs for eight performances April 13 to 22 at Seattle Center’s Marion Oliver McCaw Hall. Tickets start at $28 and may be purchased at 206.441.2424, www.pnb.org, or in person at the PNB box office, 301 Mercer Street, Seattle.
A joint production of George Balanchine’s Diamonds between Florida’s Sarasota Ballet and The Suzanne Farrell Ballet at The John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. October 12 to 16 will feature dancers from both companies with live orchestra.
Later, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet will join the Sarasota dancers in Florida for The Great Masters, featuring Diamonds along with Sir Frederick Ashton’s The Two Pigeons. The production, staged by Suzanne Farrell and Margaret Barbieri, will be presented November 18 at 2 and 8pm at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, and November 19 at 8pm at The Ruth Eckerd Performing Arts Hall.
The Sarasota Ballet’s official season opener will run October 28 to 30 at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts. The Sarasota Ballet and its affiliated Sarasota Ballet School will present Tchaikovsky’s Ballet Fantasy by choreographer Matthew Hart (Royal Ballet, Rambert Dance Company), who imagines the composer interrupting his best-loved ballets (Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake and Nutcracker), unwittingly causing comic chaos.
The program also includes Peter Darrell’s dramatic Othello, along with a world premiere set to the music of Dmitri Shostakovich and choreographed by Sarasota Ballet dancer Ricardo Graziano.
The 2011-2012 season continues with:
- December: From the Park to the Prairies, featuring Sir Frederick Ashton’s Les Patineurs, Christopher Wheeldon’s The American, and Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo
- January: Made in America, including Balanchine’s Donizetti Variations, Will Tuckett’s Spielende Kinder, and Salute by Johan Kobborg
- February: A Knight of The British Ballet, including the U.S. premiere of Sir Frederick Ashton’s Valses Nobles et Sentimentales
- April: “My Way,” including Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs and Balanchine’s Serenade
- April: Theatre of Dreams, including world premieres by Ricki Bertoni, Jamie Carter, Ricardo Graziano, and Kate Honea
For more details, visit www.SarasotaBallet.org or call The Sarasota Ballet box office at 941.359.0099 ext. 101.
Jillana, Conrad Ludlow, and Suki Schorer are the latest Balanchine dancers to participate in a video series that is preserving the thoughts and remembrances of dancers who worked with the great choreographer as he created his classic ballets.
The George Balanchine Foundation Interpreters Archive series, which now numbers more than 40 videos, seeks to document the viewpoints of those with whom Balanchine worked in the studio on the creation of his ballets, capturing his original intentions through coaching sessions with dancers of today. In the latest taping, Jillana and Ludlow will coach and teach the principal roles they originated in Liebeslieder Walzer and Schorer will teach and coach her soloist role in La Source. Taping will take place August 29 in the New York City Ballet studios in the Rose Building, Lincoln Center, New York.
Jillana and Ludlow will work with Rachel Rutherford, former soloist, and Tyler Angle, principal dancer with New York City Ballet; Schorer will work with Lauren King, a member of the corps de ballet. Roslyn Sulcas, a dance critic for The New York Times, will conduct interview segments with the coaches. The taping will be supervised by Nancy Reynolds, the foundation’s director of research.
For more information on the video archives, visit http://www.balanchine.org/balanchine/03/gbfvideoarchives.html.
Paul Kolnik’s “Balanchine: a tempo,” a digital installation of dynamic images from the New York City Ballet’s current season, will be on display at The National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, New York, through the rest of 2011.
Kolnik has been the New York City Ballet’s photographer since 1976 and created this exhibit to showcase NYCB’s current season and the pairing of Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky. Photographs from Agon, Apollo, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Symphony in Three Movements, and other ballets are in black and white to illuminate the line of Balanchine’s neoclassicism.
Also on display is a costume and historical display of the Balanchine classic Jewels.
Upcoming events at NMD include the ’70s-inspired fundraiser Disco Fever, the National Dance Day celebration, and the 25th Silver Anniversary Gala, where actress Ann-Margret will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. A display honoring the actress opens August 5.
NMD is located at 99 South Broadway and is open Tuesday through Sunday, 9am to 5pm during peak season. Admission is $6.50 (adults), $5 (seniors/students), and $3 (children 12 and under). For more information, visit www.dancemuseum.org.
A mild tremor of excitement ran through the New York City Ballet audience on Sunday afternoon as the cast of George Balanchine’s Slaughter on Tenth Avenue took a bow. The dark-suited and hatted dancer who had played the “Big Boss” in the tale of murder and mayhem at the ballet had just popped out of the wings, performed a quick, modest salute, and popped back in. It took a moment to realize that the Big Boss was in fact the Big Boss.
A story in The New York Times says that Peter Martins, the ballet master in chief of the company, had stepped in for an injured Ask la Cour the previous night, and reappeared at the matinee with no fanfare or announcement of the change in cast.
Martins, who retired from dancing in 1983, hadn’t appeared onstage since dancing in a pas de deux with Suzanne Farrell at her farewell performance in 1989. To see the full story, visit www.artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/05/30/at-new-york-city-ballet-the-big-boss-plays-the-big-boss/?ref=dance.
A La Francaix, a rarely seen George Balanchine comic ballet, will be part of a program of original ballets, character dances, and excerpts from ballets by Petipa and Bournonville during the Gelsey Kirkland Academy of Classical Ballet’s spring performance on June 2.
Approximately 45 dancers from the Gelsey Kirkland Academy, under the direction of Kirkland and Michael Chernov, will present excerpts from the Petipa ballets Paquita and Harlequinade, plus Bournonville Etudes, “Mime Scene” from Folk Tale, and “Ballabile” from Napoli by Bournonville. Also, Grand Pas Classique by Victor Gsovsky, “Waltz of the Hours” from Coppelia by Saint-Leon, Flames of Paris (excerpt) by Vasily Vainonen, and Stealing Time by Michael Chernov. Three character dances—“Gypsy Dance” from Don Quixote, Ukrainian Dance by Nadejda Loujine, and Hopak by Rostislav Zakharov—will also be included.
The show is set for June 2 at 7:30pm at the Miller Theater/Columbia University, 2690 Broadway (at 116th Street), New York City. Tickets are $28 and can be reserved at www.ticketleap.com. Located in downtown Manhattan and founded in 2010, the academy is celebrating its inaugural year. For more information, visit www.gelseykirklandballet.org.
The George Balanchine Foundation has expanded its archival video series, which documents detailed explanations of selected passages of Balanchine’s choreography, by seven new titles.
The videos feature excerpts from Davidsbündlertänze, Le Baiser de la Fée, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux, Ballo della Regina, Prodigal Son, “Emeralds” from Jewels, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, coached by dancers who originated or were major interpreters of these roles.
In a studio setting, the original dancers teach, coach, and discuss their parts with dancers of today. The overall goal of the Video Archives Program is to create an original “manuscript” of Balanchine’s ballets by preserving not only the steps, but the nuances of the choreography as Balanchine taught it to his original casts.
Coaches in the 2011 series include Merrill Ashley, Conrad Ludlow, Yvonne Mounsey, Mimi Paul, Helgi Tomasson, Violette Verdy, and Karin von Aroldingen. Participating are dancers from Los Angeles Ballet, New York City Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet.
The release of the seven new videos brings the series total to 35 videos. Edited masters are preserved in the Jerome Robbins Dance Division of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and for a nominal fee, copies of these are made available to non-circulating research repositories. Currently some 70 libraries worldwide house the collection.
Nancy Reynolds, dance historian, writer, and the foundation’s director of research, conceived and continues to direct the program, assisted by independent filmmaker and film professor Virginia Brooks and Nichol Hlinka, a former New York City Ballet principal dancer.
For a complete list of videos shot to date and the facilities housing them, visit: www.balanchine.org/03/gbfvideoarchieves_videos.html.
Florida’s Sarasota Ballet will help The Suzanne Farrell Ballet celebrate its 10th anniversary this fall when dancer from both companies take to the stage in George Balanchine’s Diamonds at the Eisenhower Theater of The Kennedy Center, Washington, DC.
The Suzanne Farrell Ballet will present two all-Balanchine programs, both featuring Diamonds, from October 12-16 at The Kennedy Center. Diamonds, one of Balanchine’s most famous ballets, features music by Tchaikovsky and was created for Suzanne Farrell in 1967. The Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra will accompany all performances under the baton of Emil de Cou.
“This is quite an honor for our dancers and the entire community,” says Sarasota Ballet director Iain Webb. “I believe this marks the first time one of Sarasota’s leading arts organizations has been invited to perform at such a prestigious venue and we are honored to be collaborating so closely with one of the nation’s fastest growing ballet companies.”
Farrell said she has been watching Sarasota Ballet closely in the past few seasons and has been very impressed with the consistent quality of performances. Farrell and her dancers will travel to Sarasota in early September for a week of rehearsals. The Sarasota Ballet dancers will then arrive in Washington for rehearsals prior to the October 12 opening night.
For ticket information, visit www.kennedy-center.org.
Pacific Northwest Ballet School faculty members Marjorie Thompson and Bruce Wells, former dancers with New York City Ballet, will discuss working with George Balanchine and their experiences with A Midsummer Night’s Dream during the next offering in PNB’s lecture series, April 7 at 6pm.
The lecture, at the Nesholm Family Lecture Hall at Seattle’s McCaw Hall, will be followed at 7pm by a dress rehearsal of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by PNB dancers. Tickets are $12 for the lecture, or $25 for the lecture and dress rehearsal.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs April 8 to 17 at McCaw Hall, 321 Mercer Street. Tickets are $27 to $165 in advance. Tickets for the lecture, dress rehearsal, or performances may be purchased by calling the PNB box office at 206.441.2424, online at www.pnb.org, or in person at the PNB box office at 301 Mercer St.
Video documentation preserves history and benefits dancers
By Nancy Reynolds
The ghost of George Balanchine indisputably hovers over New York City Ballet, and one day last fall it was more than usually present. The occasion was a taping session devoted to Balanchine’s La Source, undertaken by The George Balanchine Foundation for its Interpreters Archive.
The aim of this video series is to document the viewpoints of leading dancers on whom Balanchine choreographed his ballets, capturing his intentions at the time of creation through coaching sessions with dancers of today. What Balanchine imparted to those original dancers is perhaps the closest we can come to knowing what was in his mind. And since he was famously nonverbal about the effects he wanted, the best way to pass on his ideas is in the studio, through dancing.
The videos are about process rather than performance. The dancers wear practice clothes, and the atmosphere is that of a rehearsal. Twenty-eight earlier videos, covering many of Balanchine’s most important works, are now housed in some 70 educational institutions and research repositories around the world, and as of February another seven were to be available. A selection is also viewable, by institutional subscription, in streaming video. The videos are not for private sale.
The original ballerina of La Source, Violette Verdy, was on hand for the Foundation’s session, partnered by Helgi Tomasson, who did not originate the male role but frequently danced the ballet with her in the 1970s. (Verdy is now a distinguished professor of ballet at Indiana University–Bloomington and Tomasson has been artistic director of San Francisco Ballet since 1985.) The two were among some of Balanchine’s brightest stars of an earlier era, and he choreographed several roles on each. Here they worked with Sterling Hyltin and Gonzalo Garcia, present-day principal dancers with New York City Ballet.
La Source, which premiered in 1968, is unique in the Balanchine canon; he never created another work like it. Its melodious score by Delibes, composer of Coppélia, is almost too easy to listen to, with a lilting grace that can tempt one to pass it off as lightweight. Balanchine responded with an affectionate gloss on the Paris Opéra divertissements of the mid-19th century. As the French-born Verdy puts it, however, in its freedom and risk-taking it is really “France in America” 100 years later. And while its ballerina might be mistaken for a pink powder puff, its choreography—for both the ballerina and her cavalier—is intricate and demanding. In performance, a light tone must prevail throughout. As Verdy says, it’s “serious without being serious—serious fun. It’s a moment of incredibly refined French dancing—ornamented, very detailed, and with a lot of subtle nuances of charm, femininity, and coquetry.”
It is also a virtual lexicon of “old-fashioned” French style and technique. Key elements are nuance and épaulement, of which there can never be too much. Unlike the better-known Russian style, predominant in American training, which stresses croisé (crossed) positions, with the hips and shoulders “opposing” each other to create torsion through the body, French style more often calls for the body in effacé (open) positions. In contrast to the Russian school, with its jumps and arm movements reaching for the sky, the port de bras of the French is more contained than expansive, with rounded arms and the head directed into the cupped palm. The French excel in small jumps and beats and very fast movements of the feet—“perky feet,” as Verdy says. Balanchine, who valued contrapposto (opposition of the hips and shoulders), added many Russian touches.
As the cameras rolled, there was hardly a part of the body Verdy did not address. Articulation of the head and shoulders was paramount, but she also drew attention to the soles of the feet in pas de bourreé (for speed), initiating arm movements from the armpit and the “roof” of the hand (for lightness), gazing beyond the third finger of the extended arm (for a look of involvement), and overcrossing the feet on pointe (to accent precision). She was concerned with the sharpness of the fouetté (“whip”) of the body from developpé front to arabesque and had comments as well about elbows and chin. Hips should ripple in reaction to the shoulders, but not enough to shake the tutu—that would be vulgar.
Verdy also encouraged playing with musical accents, emphasizing rubato and retard. She urged contrast—a high arm complemented by a low one would be more interesting than both arms raised equally aloft. Not every step should be danced as large or as emphatically as possible; more modulation will give a richer texture. Above all, she said, one must dance with allegresse (which, roughly translated, means “joy”). That’s where the French atmosphere comes in.
One can scarcely imagine a better coach for this material than Verdy, the epitome of French style and chic as well as an artist of enormous intelligence and musicality. Now in her late 70s, she still has the most elegant arms and feet in the business.
Tomasson, the purest of classicists as a dancer, was quieter. The partnering secrets he shared with Garcia dealt revealingly with both practical matters and aesthetics. Balanchine partnering features light fingertip support, or sometimes no support at all—the woman often starts movements alone on a single pointe, trusting her partner to catch her at the last minute. Obviously, timing and a feel for the woman’s center of balance are crucial.
“With today’s rushed rehearsal schedules, young dancers often do not have time to ‘inhabit’ the style of a ballet and are inclined to fill out the choreography with generic movement, which results in a sameness in their dancing. I see myself as providing a context with which to approach a particular work.” —Violette Verdy
Tomasson underlined the ballet’s playfulness and its element of surprise. At one point in his variation the man must descend from a large beating step to the knee almost without the audience knowing it. He’s just there. In the coda, before the ballerina dives into her partner’s arms, the orchestra pauses as though holding its breath, and suddenly she’s arrived. Tomasson also called for a greater feeling of flow. “I think we ‘sang’ more in our day,” he said.
At the end of the session Verdy concluded, “With today’s rushed rehearsal schedules, young dancers often do not have time to ‘inhabit’ the style of a ballet and are inclined to fill out the choreography with generic movement, which results in a sameness in their dancing. I see myself as providing a context with which to approach a particular work. I think today we have also defined La Source within the context of Balanchine’s output.”
The coaching of La Source occurred over three intense hours, crammed with detail. The edited tape, which will include an interview with dance critic Robert Johnson, will probably run about two hours. Since the Balanchine Foundation tapes are about the insights of leading dancers on whom Balanchine created principal roles (not about performance), they include run-throughs in practice clothes of only the leading roles of the various sections. In the session for La Source, almost no movement or step—or nuance—was left undissected. For the dancers, this kind of careful, concentrated coaching is bankable gold. They danced full-out virtually the entire time. Says Hyltin, “From Violette I got an enlightening contrast to how I had originally interpreted the role. She conveyed to me that being understated in moments can be just as regal and oftentimes more effective—the idea that ‘less is more.’ This approach to dancing La Source is an idea I cannot wait to explore and incorporate not only into La Source but into my other roles.”
Says Garcia, “Working with Violette and Helgi is so inspiring. Violette gives you precise corrections that bring depth and dimension to each step, always dancing from the inside of the body, helping to reflect your soul. Helgi works on bringing that element of fluidity—arms and legs connecting—that makes dancing look easy and pleasing.”
Clearly, the videos are highly informative for the participating dancers and they also act as an aide-mémoire for those who stage the ballets. But they serve a broader educational purpose as well. All the commentary, not to mention the choreography itself, is preserved for non-professional dance students too, available in the classroom or studio. The material is there, for students of various backgrounds to absorb as they are able.
Beth Genné, professor of dance studies and art history at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, has used the videos both at the graduate level and in the introductory survey course. For her, “they are a new kind of educational tool that takes advantage of new technology. Students can study them the way they study texts. They are remarkably effective in conveying details of style that cannot be brought forward in any other way. And they give the students a vivid insight into the impact of the dancer-originator of a role on the choreography itself. They make Mr. B come alive in the student’s imagination—not as a remote historical figure but as a three-dimensional human being with his own distinctive personality and approach, as seen through the eyes of [a dancer] who worked closely with him on what was most important to him, rather than through the eyes of a critic or academic, who is always at a distance from the actual creative process.”
Mindy Aloff, adjunct associate professor in dance at Barnard College, New York City, finds that for her non-dance majors, curious to know how a dance is put together, the videos reveal some of the mysteries of creativity as well as the nuts and bolts of constructing a piece of choreography. For her more advanced students, they provide material for comparative analysis of how movements were danced in earlier times and now.
The videos serve dance history as primary source material. In addition they exist as a permanent record of an evanescent art.
George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream returns to the McCaw Hall stage in Seattle, Washington, as the fifth offering of Pacific Northwest Ballet’s 2010-2011 season.
Staged by PNB founding artistic director Francia Russell, this Midsummer brings the choreographer’s dramatic ideas to life scenically as never before. PNB has performed its production of Midsummer to great acclaim at the Edinburgh International Festival in 1998 and at Sadler’s Wells Theater in London in 1999, where the production was filmed by the BBC and released on DVD.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs April 8 to 17 at Seattle Center’s McCaw Hall. Tickets start at $27 and can be purchased by calling 206.441.2424, in person at the PNB Box Office at 301 Mercer Street, or online at www.pnb.org. Tickets also can be purchased (subject to availability) 90 minutes prior to each performance at McCaw Hall, located at 321 Mercer Street.
Oregon Ballet Theatre’s holiday season features one seasonal classic based on a familiar old tale, and one world premiere built around the holiday stories and memories of the company’s own dancers.
George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, with costumes and set design by Peter Farmer, will run in 14 performances December 11 to 24.
The ballet will also present A Holiday Revue, choreographed by OBT Artistic Director Christopher Stowell with live music by vocalist Susannah Mars and pianist Richard Bower, in four performances December 11 to 18. The new production features numbers that range from fun to classic, such as “Choreography” from the movie White Christmas and “Christmastime Is Here” from A Charlie Brown Christmas, and was woven out of the holiday stories and traditions of company dancers.
Both productions will be held at the Keller Auditorium, SW Third and Clay, Portland. Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com or at 503.2.BALLET, or at the OBT box office, 818 SE Sixth Avenue, Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Visit www.obt.org for more information.
The Festival Ballet of Providence, under the artistic direction of Mihailo Djuric, will present “All Balanchine” in November at the VMA Arts and Cultural Center, Providence, Rhode Island.
“All Balanchine” will showcase George Balanchine’s masterworks Who Cares?, Tarantella, Tchaikovsky Pas de Due, and Apollo on November 6 and 7. This is Festival Ballet’s 33rd season.
For tickets, call 401.421.ARTS or visit www.festivalballet.com.
After a successful 24-year career with Pacific Northwest Ballet, Principal Ariana Lallone will be leaving the company at the end of the 2010-2011 season.
“Ariana is an extraordinary dancer, an earnest PNB advocate, and a true friend,” Aya Hamilton, chairman of the board of trustees, says. “We hope all of her many admirers will be with us throughout the season as we look for ways to honor Ariana’s glorious career and celebrate her truly unique imprint on PNB.”
After one year on scholarship at the Pacific Northwest Ballet School, Lallone joined the company in 1987 and quickly made her mark as a dancer with a “singular style.” At 5-foot-11, Lallone was noted for her long lines, as well as her intensity, dramatic temperament, and individuality. During her final season, Lallone is scheduled to dance roles that she defined for PNB, in works by Jirí Kylián, Nacho Duato, Twyla Tharp, Mark Morris, Christopher Stowell, and George Balanchine.
A native of Woodland Hills, California, Lallone trained at the Rozann-Zimmerman Ballet Center (now known as California Dance Academy) in Chatsworth, CA. After joining PNB as an apprentice in 1987, she was promoted to corps de ballet in 1988, to soloist in 1993, and principal in 1994.
Kent Stowell created the title role in Carmen for Lallone in 2002 and roles for her in Carmina Burana, Cinderella, Fauré Requiem, and Silver Lining. Lallone also originated leading roles in Stephen Baynes’ El Tango, Donald Byrd’s Capricious Night and Subtext Rage, Val Caniparoli’s The Bridge, The Seasons, and Torque, Dominique Dumais’ Scripted in the Body and Time and other Matter, Nicolo Fonte’s Within/Without, Kevin O’Day’s [soundaroun(d)dance], Ton Simons’ The Tenderness of Patient Minds, and Twyla Tharp’s Afternoon Ball and Opus 111.
In 1997, Ms. Lallone performed the solo from Val Caniparoli’s Lambarena at the Benois de la Danse Gala in Warsaw. She also performed the role of Hippolyta in the BBC’s 1999 film version of PNB’s production of George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, filmed at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London. In 2005, she performed with Peter Boal and Company.
Cynthia Gregory, one of the 20th century’s greatest ballerinas, has been named artistic advisor to Nevada Ballet Theatre and its affiliated academy, and will coach aspiring dancers and established professionals from the new Cynthia Gregory Center for Coaching.
“We are honored to welcome Cynthia into the Nevada Ballet Theatre family,” says Beth Barbre, Nevada Ballet Theatre executive director and CEO. “Her perspective on artistic matters will be invaluable as we develop and grow. And she will no doubt draw many of the world’s great dancers to our facility as they seek to perfect their skills under her guidance.”
The Cynthia Gregory Center for Coaching will provide Ms. Gregory a place of residence for her active coaching regimen at the ballet’s Las Vegas studios. Ms. Gregory, who was once referred to by Rudolph Nureyev as “America’s Prima Ballerina Assoluta,” has been a Las Vegas resident since 2009.
“I hope to inspire the young students in the Academy of Nevada Ballet Theatre and enhance the already great work the company is doing under the direction of James Canfield,” Gregory says. “It will be wonderful to have a beautiful facility that I can call home, where I can continue to coach dancers, stage ballets, and teach master classes.”
Best known for her time with American Ballet Theatre from 1965 until 1991, Gregory danced in more than 80 works by the world’s most notable choreographers including Agnes DeMille, Jerome Robbins, George Balanchine, Glen Tetley, and Jose Limón among others.
Miss Gregory is the recipient of many awards, including the 1975 Dance Magazine Award, the 1978 Harkness Ballet Foundation Award, and two annual awards from the Dance Educators of America. She was made a Lion of the New York Public Library and an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at both Hofstra University and Purchase College. She has authored two books, Ballet Is the Best Exercise and Cynthia Gregory Dances Swan Lake.
After retiring from ABT in 1991, she became chairman of the board of Career Transition for Dancers, a not-for-profit organization which provides valuable services free of charge to dancers considering new careers. She continues to stage ballets and coach dancers throughout the United States and internationally.
For more information, visit www.nevadaballet.org
Roland Petit’s Carmen, which tells of the torrid and tragic affair between a temptress and her lover, ignites the Pennsylvania Ballet’s 2010-2011 season in five performances Oct. 21-24 at the Academy of Music at Broad and Locust streets.
The ballet, inspired by the opera of the same name and set to a score by Georges Bizet, headlines a triple bill of Concerto Barocco by George Balanchine and Penumbra by Matthew Neenan, Pennsylvania Ballet’s choreographer in residence.
In 1963, Concerto Barocco was the first ballet given by Balanchine to the company. Penumbra, an intimate work for five dancers, first premiered at Pennsylvania Ballet in 2008.
This will be the company premiere for Carmen, which will also be featured at the annual black tie Fall Gala on Oct. 20 at 6:30 p.m. at the Academy of Music. “Roland Petit’s Carmen expertly captures the drama of the theater in a beautifully choreographed ballet,” Artistic Director Roy Kaiser says.
Tickets to the Carmen Triple Bill are available at www.paballet.org, by phone at 215.893.1999, or at the Kimmel Center box office.
Miami City Ballet will hold auditions Saturday, September 11, for the children’s roles in its production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker, to be performed at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts this December.
Auditions will be held at the Southern Dance Theatre, 1203 Knuth Road, in Boynton Beach, Florida. Here’s the audition schedule for September 11:
12:30 to 1:00 p.m.: Registration for 8- to 10-year-olds with heights of 4′ to 4’4″, with auditions from 1:30 to 3:00 p.m.
2:30 to 3:00 p.m.: Registration for 11- to 13-year-olds, over 4’4″ to 4’10″, with auditions from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.
4:30 to 5:00 p.m.: Registration for ages 14 and older, over 4’10″ to 5’2″, with auditions from 5:00 to 6:30 p.m.
For more information, visit the Nutcracker link at www.southerndancetheatre.com or call 561.499.3231.
The Joffrey Ballet will perform with the Cleveland Orchestra over Labor Day weekend during the annual Blossom Festival in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
The Joffrey’s program on September 4 and 5 will include Gerald Arpino’s Reflections, George Balanchine’s Tarantella, and Pretty BALLET by James Kudelka.
Tickets are $23 to $93. To purchase, visit www.clevelandorchestra.com/event-detail/2010-Sep-04.aspx?pid=8213.
There’s also an all-inclusive getaway package that includes round-trip travel on a luxury motor coach from Joffrey Tower in Chicago to Cuyahoga Falls; admission to the September 4 performance; dinner with the Joffrey’s artistic director, Ashley C. Wheater; all meals; and accommodations at the nearby Sheraton Hotel.
The package costs $399 per person, based on double occupancy, or $499 for single occupancy. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 312.386.8921 for tickets or more information.
The Summer Intensive at Princeton Ballet School ended its five-week program on July 30 with a performance that included George Balanchine’s Serenade, restaged by Kyra Nichols, a former New York City Ballet principal dancer, and a suite from Giselle, restaged by Maria Youskevitch, a former soloist at American Ballet Theatre.
Also on the program were original works by Mary Barton, a former principal dancer with ABT and Joffrey Ballet, and Princeton Ballet School Director Mary Pat Robertson, as well as student choreography developed in a workshop led by former Twyla Tharp dancer Katie Glasner, who’s now assistant chair of the Dance Department at Barnard College.
The students attending the New Jersey workshop, now in its 29th year, were chosen last winter in auditions conducted across the United States, as well as in Paris and Rome. Attendees included eleven dancers from Italy, two from France, and one each from Spain, Switzerland, South Africa, and Japan.
Pennsylvania Ballet will present world premieres by Matthew Neenan, the company’s choreographer in residence, and Benjamin Millepied during its 2010-2011 season, the Philadelphia-based company has announced.
Both pieces are so far untitled. Neenan’s work, his 13th for Pennsylvania Ballet, will premiere October 21 on a bill with George Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco and Roland Petiti’s Carmen. Millepied’s piece, his first for the company, will debut April 14, 2011, alongside Balanchine’s Agon and Who Cares?
The season also will include two full-length ballets (in addition to Balanchine’s The Nutcracker)—Christopher Wheeldon’s Swan Lake (March 3 to 12, 2011) and Sir Frederick Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée (June 2 to 11, 2011).
Also, the company will perform a brand new version of the classic French ballet Pulcinella by Jorma Elo, choreographer in residence at Boston Ballet, at the first-ever Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts from April 7 to 10, 2011, in collaboration with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
For details on the company’s full program for the coming season, call 215.893.1955 or visit paballet.org. Individual tickets go on sale July 6.
Sebastian Kloborg, a soloist with the Royal Danish Ballet, will join the State Ballet of Georgia in its performances June 23 to 27 at the annual Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Becket, Massachusetts.
Kloborg will appear in George Balanchine’s pas de deux, Duo Concertant. Also on the program are Falling Angels by Jiří Kylián, Alexei Ratmansky’s Bizet Variations, and four rarely seen pas de deux by Sir Frederick Ashton.
Tickets to festival events range from $10 to $63, with $10 youth tickets available for Friday evening and Saturday/Sunday matinee performances. To purchase, visit jacobspillow.org or call 413.243.0745.
American Ballet Theatre ticket holders will enjoy a bonus June 10 and 11 with a pair of pre-performance talks in New York.
At 6:00 p.m. in List Hall at the Metropolitan Opera House, ABT dancer alumni will reminisce about choreographers who shaped the company’s 70-year history, such as Antony Tudor, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Sir Frederick Ashton, Jerome Robbins, George Balanchine, Agnes de Mille, and Leonide Massine. (The evening’s all-Ashton program includes Birthday Offering and The Dream.)
At the same time the following evening in the opera house, ABT alumni will share their memories of more than six decades of performances of Robbins’ Fancy Free, a 1944 ABT commission. The piece will be danced by Jose Manuel Carreño, Herman Cornejo, and Ethan Stiefel on that evening’s program.
Only ticket holders for the evening in question may attend that day’s talk. For more information, visit www.abt.org.
The event is also a celebration of retired Music Director Stewart Kershaw’s 25 years with the Seattle-based company. Kershaw will conduct the orchestra for the evening.
The program includes the Rose Adagio from The Sleeping Beauty, an excerpt from Marco Goecke’s Mopey, “Fall” from Val Caniparoli’s The Seasons, “Choleric” from George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, Ulysses Dove’s Red Angels, and the Act III pas de deux and finale from Coppélia. The company says a few surprises and special guests are planned.
The evening’s proceeds will benefit the PNB orchestra. Tickets range from $25 to $160. To order them, call 206.441.2424 or visit www.pnb.org.
Pacific Northwest Ballet will present the company premiere of George Balanchine’s evening-length Coppélia from June 3 to 13 as its final work of the season at Seattle’s McCaw Hall.
For its production, PNB has commissioned Italian scenic and costume designer Roberta Guidi di Bagno, who also designed the company’s staging of The Merry Widow.
Ticket prices range from $25 to $160, though there’s a special offer for the performances of June 3, 4, 10, and 11: patrons age 25 and younger may buy one ticket for $15 or two for $25. To buy tickets, call 206.441.2424 or visit http://pnb.org.
Ballet San Jose will present the company premiere of Donald Mahler’s Salut d’Amour, a ballet for three couples set to an Elgar score, in a mixed-bill program April 8 to 11 at San Jose Center for the Performing Arts in California.
Also on the program are George Balanchine’s Square Dance (1957) and Moments, set to a Mendelssohn piano trio by the company’s artistic director, Dennis Nahat.
Tickets range from $30 to $85. To buy them, call the box office at 408.288.2800 or order online at www.balletSJ.org.
Jacob’s Pillow Dance has received a $59,000 grant from the federal Save America’s Treasures program to support the digitization of a portion of its extensive archival photo collection. The Pillow marks its 78th anniversary this year as a dance mecca in Becket, Massachusetts, and is itself a National Historic Landmark.
The Pillow’s archives contain about 44,000 photographs and negatives, some of them more than 100 years old. Digitization will allow both preservation of rare materials and greater public access, the Pillow said in a press statement.
The collection includes vintage images of Ted Shawn, Ruth St. Denis, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Bronislava Nijinska, George Balanchine, and Joseph Pilates, who developed a portion of his Pilates technique on the grounds of the Pillow. The archives also house photographs of seminal dance companies that no longer exist, such as the Lester Horton Dance Theatre, featuring modern dance legends Carmen de Lavallade and Alvin Ailey.
The Pillow will digitize about 10,500 photographs and 500 slides, and the digital images will be loaded into a searchable database, allowing for greater access. In addition to photos, the Pillow collection includes correspondence, photographs, programs, books, costumes, posters, films, audiotapes, and scrapbooks.
Doug Fullington, education programs manager at Pacific Northwest Ballet, will discuss the influence of Marius Petipa’s choreography on the work of George Balanchine, particularly his choreography for men, in a Works & Process lecture-demonstration May 14 and 15 at the Guggenheim Museum in New York.
Joining Fullington as demonstrators at Balanchine’s Petipa will be PNB principal dancers Carla Körbes, Kaori Nakamura, Lucien Postlewaite, and Mara Vinson, and soloists Benjamin Griffiths, James Moore, Seth Orza, and Lesley Rausch. Allan Dameron, acting music director of the Seattle-based troupe, will accompany.
They will perform excerpts from 19th-century ballets, including The Awakening of Flora, La Bayadère, The Nutcracker, Paquita, Raymonda, The Sleeping Beauty, and Swan Lake. Excerpts from Balanchine ballets will include Apollo, Divertimento from “Le Baiser de la Fée,” Divertimento No. 15, Emeralds, Prodigal Son, Raymonda (1946), Raymonda Variations, and Theme and Variations.
For tickets, call 212.423.3587 or visit www.worksandprocess.org
Scarsdale Ballet Studio will offer an ambitious program March 20 and 21 at its seventh annual workshop performance, to be held at the Dance Theatre Lab at Purchase College, SUNY, in Purchase, New York.
In addition to Fokine’s Les Sylphides and a new work by Pedro Ruiz, a former principal dancer with Ballet Hispanico, the program will include George Balanchine’s Valse-Fantaisie (1967). The company’s artistic director, Diana White, worked with Balanchine as a former New York City Ballet soloist and has the permission of the George Balanchine Trust to stage his works on her students.
The performance will conclude with The Firebird, choreographed by White in collaboration with faculty members David Fernandez and Simon Kazantsev. White danced the role of the Princess in Balanchine’s Firebird at NYCB.
Tickets are $20. To buy them, call the Scarsdale Ballet Studio at 914.725.8754. For more information, visit www.scarsdaleballetstudio.com.
DLTV takes you to The National Museum of Dance & Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York. Established in 1986, it is the only museum in the nation dedicated to professional dance. The museum’s only permanent exhibition is the Hall of Fame, which honors Fred Astaire, George Balanchine, Katherine Dunham, Martha Graham, Doris Humphrey, Lincoln Kirstein, and Bill “Bojangles’” Robinson, among others. Explore one of the dance world’s best-kept secrets.