Dance History Quiz | An Avant-Garde NYCB Dancer

Fun facts for teachers & students

Karin von Aroldingen, the German-born New York City Ballet dancer who died early in 2018, was often cast in challenging roles in some of the company’s more avant-garde pieces, including which of these?

a. As a door in Variations pour une Porte et un Soupir
b. As a man-eating insect in The Cage
c. As singer Lotte Lenya’s shadow in The Seven Deadly Sins
d. As a playing card in Jeu des Cartes

a. As a door in Variations pour une Porte et un Soupir

Karin von Aroldingen did play Lotte Lenya’s double in The Seven Deadly Sins, which Balanchine originally choreographed in 1933, but that was during her tenure at Frankfurt Opera Ballet, in a new version by her teacher, Tatjana Gsovsky. At New York City Ballet, von Aroldingen danced Balanchine’s 1974 work Variations pour une Porte et un Soupir, set to composer Pierre Henry’s musique concrète of the same name. The piece is a pas de deux with 14 variations for a female Door and a male Sigh, corresponding with the sounds of creaking and exhaling. At the piece’s premiere, von Aroldingen danced the Door to John Clifford’s Sigh. In his review, New York Times critic Clive Barnes called Henry’s score “a crashing bore”—but Balanchine wasn’t the only choreographer to embrace the music: French choreographer Maurice Béjart created a piece to it as well.

For more information:
 Variations pour une Porte et un SoupirNew York City Ballet

The Ballet: Variations,” New York Times, January 19, 1974

Béjart: Variations pour une Porte et un Soupir