Balanchine at the Ballet
George Balanchine was one of the most important, influential choreographers of the 20th century, whose collaborations with Igor Stravinsky led to some of ballet’s most iconic scores.Read more…
Russian-born, Balanchine studied at the Imperial Ballet School in St Petersburg and later fused that training with the dance he encountered on Broadway to create his "neoclassical" style. Nobody has quite described the relationship between music and movement as wonderfully as Balanchine: "See the music, hear the dance."
His first collaboration with Stravinsky came in 1928 (Apollo) but there were many more, most notably Danses concertantes and Agon. But he set other composers too: Mendelssohn in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bizet in his joyous Symphony in C, even Verdi in his Ballet della regina.
"We are dancing on the edge of a volcano," wrote Maurice Ravel in his notes to his poème chorégraphique, La Valse. Sergei Diaghilev had commissioned it, but ultimately rejected Ravel’s music, describing it as brilliant, but "untheatrical". Balanchine's version, created for New York City Ballet in 1951, precedes it with the same composer's Valses nobles et sentimentales, a series of eight waltzes to set up the drama ahead.
Balanchine adored Tchaikovsky and used his music as the basis for dance works such as Ballet Imperial (the Second Piano Concerto), and his iconic Serenade, with its famous blue tutus which inspired the naming of the Balanchine Crater on Mercury! His most famous setting of Tchaikovsky was Diamonds (using four of the five movements from the "Polish" Symphony) which – along with Emeralds (Fauré’s incidental music for Shylock and Pelléas et Mélisande) and Rubies (Stravinsky’s Capriccio) – form his popular ballet, Jewels.
We close with a Valse lente, a charming miniature for piano. It was not choreographed by Balanchine, however… but was composed by him.