Tag Archives: George Balanchine

On The Balcony With Edward Villella


 

Edward Villella as Apollo with Suki Schorer, Carol Sumner and Patricia McBride 1964
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet production of “Apollo” with Edward Villella and Patricia McBride, Carol Sumner and Suki Schorer, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1964. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/cf2b7020-2566-0132-40dc-58d385a7b928
Dances at a gathering rehearsal 1969
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet rehearsal of “Dances at a Gathering” with Patricia McBride and Edward Villella, choreography by Jerome Robbins (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1969. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/4ea19e90-1f3d-0132-37a8-58d385a7b928
Edward Villella as Apollo in Agon 1958
UNK, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet production of “Agon” with Edward Villella, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1958. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/2c8625c0-4e92-0133-cac5-00505686a51c
Edward Villella 5
Edward Villella in George Balanchine’s Prodigal Son
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "New York City Ballet - Publicity photo Patricia McBride and Edward Villella on the balcony of the unfinished New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, in "Tarantella" costume, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1964. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/5baf78c0-2565-0132-8aa0-58d385a7b928
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet – Publicity photo Patricia McBride and Edward Villella on the balcony of the unfinished New York State Theater at Lincoln Center, in “Tarantella” costume, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1964. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/5baf78c0-2565-0132-8aa0-58d385a7b928
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. "New York City Ballet production of "Dim Lustre" costumer Beni Montressor with Patricia McBride and Edward Villella in dressing room, choreography by Antony Tudor (New York)" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1964. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/a0756e90-2618-0132-beed-58d385a7b928
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet production of “Dim Lustre” costumer Beni Montressor with Patricia McBride and Edward Villella in dressing room, choreography by Antony Tudor (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1964. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/a0756e90-2618-0132-beed-58d385a7b928
Edward Villella 1
Edward Villella, The Prodigal Son. Photographer unknown.
edward villella and patricia mcbride
Edward Villella and Patricia McBride

 

New York City Ballet "The Nutcracker"   Edward Villella as a Candy Cane (Hoops), choreography by George Balanchine
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “Edward Villella as a Candy Cane (Hoops) in a New York City Ballet production of “The Nutcracker.”” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1958. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/77808970-9e34-0131-8409-58d385a7bbd0
villella with Patricia McBride in Rubies 1967
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet production of “Jewels” (Rubies) with Patricia McBride and Edward Villella, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1967. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/f24c63e0-1fdc-0132-761a-58d385a7bbd0
villella oberon
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet production of “A midsummer Night’s Dream” with Edward Villella as Oberon and Patricia McBride as Titania, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1969. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/516da190-1fff-0132-c986-58d385a7bbd0
Trantella Edward Villella
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet production of “Tarantella” with Edward Villella and Patricia McBride, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1965. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/61e90650-2565-0132-3802-58d385a7b928
Edward Villella coaching Mikhail Baryshnikov
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet rehearsal for “Jewels” (Rubies) with Mikhail Baryshnikov, Edward Villella & Patricia McBride, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1978. Villella coaching Baryshnikov http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/16280ba0-2584-0132-30c0-58d385a7bbd0
George Balanchine and Edward Villella
UNK, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet production of “Swan Lake”; George Balanchine rehearsing Edward Villella, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1964. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/123cf740-3f81-0133-cf5c-00505686d14e
edward villella jerome robbins dance martha swope
Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. “Edward Villella lunging holding out two very long canes” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1972. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/b12b9b47-94aa-4f66-e040-e00a18066d80
edward villella featured
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “Edward Villella, Boni Enten and Ted Mann” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1976. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-fb45-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Edward Villella Brahams Quartet 1967
Billy Rose Theatre Division, The New York Public Library. “New York City Ballet – “Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet” with Edward Villella, choreography by George Balanchine (New York)” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1967. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/84330590-2ad9-0132-4e71-58d385a7b928

Enter. Edward Villella, former dancer and artist of The New York City Ballet. Who has not heard of Edward Villella? Well, until a few years ago it seems like not many of the new generation had, that is, until he built, over several years time, against much opposition, a ballet company in Miami-The Miami Miracle-from the ground up. From then on, we have enjoyed regular articles, references and symposiums featuring him although his videos are still a little scarce. Older, and wiser, but clearly fit, with the same, recognizable posture as Balanchine, D’Amboise, and other former male dancers of the era, steps up Mr. Villella, or “Eddy,” as friends call him. Older, yes, but not less handsome or engaging, intelligent, or talkative, than other dancers of the era who, now mature in years, seem to have something to say, are not merely saying something. He does a little jazz shuffle, entering stage right, and hops up onto the podium, clearly happy to be there, and talk about his passion-dance-with the assembled fans; it’s a full house.

The discussion, led by Jennifer Homans of The Center For Ballet and the Arts at NYU, and author of “Apollo’s Angels”, didn’t need much prodding; Mr. Villella was as ready as ever to discuss his viewpoints and perspective,  relate stories, critique management, recent choreography, and his directorship, as well as probe the deeper meanings behind the ballet arts, at least from his position as a premier dancer for The New York City Ballet, when it was at its peak circa 1954-69. Ms. Homans and the Ballet Center have provided these evenings of intimate discussion and reception free of charge as part of their mission to make ballet more recognizable, accessible, and to also discover what is or has been there already and to preserve this information and knowledge, add to it, share it, and possibly look into the future of what may possibly be, by bringing a discussion about of the past, and its examples.  It was in all a very interesting and inspiring evening particularly with the guest last night. A short q&a and a reception followed.

Edward Villella talked about his history with Balanchine and shared three short video segments which gave dancing interludes to the dialogue (much as I should do with these photos), reminding the participants that Balanchine was intricate, musical, and an artistic director who employed artists and gave them the opportunity to expand when they seemed ripe and ready, encouraging them to make their own statements, and to imbue each role with their own take and style, and often leaving them, as Mr. Villella put it, to discover what was already there, learn about it, listen to it, bring it out, highlight it, but not to actually create it, only to interpret it in their own way.

Edward expanded on how Balanchine communicated the intricacy and layers of the ballets, described how you felt it, and you were inspired by his stories, descriptions and development of the roles, and how ballet really is of the moment. He also explicated what seems to be missing nowadays is the passion that Balanchine brought to the ballet with his fellow dancers, and how inspirational he was to them,  what that impact was like, and how it is not observable today in many cases. Ms. Homans commented on how many of those movements may be being lost-nuances-information-a concern of everyone important in the dance world today. These things were also “of the moment,” need to be recorded, and you feel that this is something that she wants to bring about, a larger vocabulary of dance-for dancers-in a world where colleges are teaching the perfect 15-word email. Know more, think more, be more studious!

This point of search, discovery, fortitude, and especially commitment was repeatedly interwoven in Villella’s short speeches by recalling past history and examples. And this, he explained, was his art, his passion, his whole life, even despite a break of nearly four years as a young man due to pressure by society, and by his father, not to pursue the career of a male ballet dancer (another fully-attempted profession which left him thinking only of dancing).  He abandoned a future desired by others for him in order to fulfill his passion for dance; maybe, in part, because of George Balanchine. Mr. B., he made clear, was inspiration personified and he provided this inspiration to his dancers to perform their best and to continue dancing.

Edward Villella is part of the iconoclasm of American Ballet and that legacy of artists, muses, composers, visionaries, etc., the “geniuses” Balanchine’s period, carefully assembled and cultivated by Balanchine, Kirstein, Stravinsky, et al., into a New York City ‘local ballet company’ which would serve New Yorkers and the world more dutifully and consistently, it might be argued, than many public or government office-holders have, for now almost a century. Art is part of the fabric of New York, and not least among those provided services is ballet. But how Mr. Villella seems at odds with the current ballet mindset and panorama clearly and quickly becomes apparent as he is eager to live up to his own self-given mission to give not only his best, but also his opinions, viewpoints and perspectives fueled by a life lived in the arts, and to also voice his considerable concerns for the future, by example, comparing and contrasting those myriad differences from then and today. The audience sees plainly his position as a scholar and spokesperson, aptly done. He then proceeds to narrate, punctuate, clear up, and skillfully guide us through a brief engaging and informative personal history. It is obviously planned, laid out in advance of this evening, how his own point of departure was different from anyone else’s, but he never boasts this directly. Ms, Homans accentuates by giving her own opinions, too, and asking direct questions in a nice self-effacing way, without apologizing for them. The discussion seems frank enough. He expresses just how thankful he was to have the opportunities to dance the parts he did, and how amazed he was that Mr. Balanchine gave him the parts he did to work with, to create, and how this is his responsibility, and that of others, to pass on, what he thinks is, a very serious undertaking.

He said he was not sure of the present mindset of younger dancers being given this role and he seems desirous to reach them, and teach them, and he stressed this need and its importance. A few recognizable young dancers from NYCB sit in the audience, aloof, somewhat overwhelmed and intimidated, I would imagine by their responses. We are definitely not sure these people are aware how much is vested in them, or can handle that pressure or position, or even care-especially after viewing his videos, in one of which Mr. Villella is at the point of physical collapse due to his dancing exertions; he pushed himself to the limits of physical endurance. It was really quite moving. Perhaps, it is only the difference of years of maturity and reflection to cast this formidable shadow, but one cannot picture these students with the silver spoon mentality even reaching that juncture. What students have today is the inability to appreciate some other dancer’s humble beginnings, immense talent, and fire, but they do not fail to appreciate their own embraceable luck and good fortune. They do not understand what exactly this all means to the people who have been before them-what they will have to pass on, live up to. Maybe they will learn, if they try. You get the feeling that, if possible, Mr. Villella is not going to let them slip away without considering his proposition and challenge. His emphasis is that you bring technical ability and you learn the rest: acting, art, music and performance. The picture and responsibility get bigger, not smaller, not easier. It’s already there, but you must discover “it” for yourself.

Though not much of the laborious schedule and rigors of ballet under Balanchine were discussed, Tanny LaClerq’s death, the females of the NYCB, other male dancers, or the recent changes at the company, but the emphasis on his opinion was as clear as a bell. Afterall that is what we usually hope to see and hear, and we don’t usually, so we come to expect the worst from the best. But have you ever-could you ever-doubt Edward Villella? Doubt that he would deliver? He never fails. It was an honor and a privilege. Video segments are what we know of his previous accomplishments, unless we lived in that era-his unique physical accomplishments, his dynamic was different, his remarkable stamina, verve and bravado, are evident in some of those videos, our common history of ballet to us older folk, but to younger audiences this might seem extreme, a little too hard, too much, and too fatiguing. But what is there to dance if the spirit is not in it? Why are you here, his whole body seemed to say. It was the narrow margin of art versus the talented, but absent, unmusical, shallow and competitive performer of today-the poser- which Villella obviously chastises, and puts up for discussion and exhibition by saying, “this is what we don’t do” by showing dancers, “this is what you do.” There is nothing in between, or so it would seem, for Edward Villella. This could be similarly expressed by many great dancers of the past, is repeated in many interviews of former great dancers, but was handled differently here by a living legend.

Instead of limiting his listeners by these evidentiary great videos, he also gave them verbal assurances and confidence to see exactly how this might be accomplished firsthand, a directive, a mission. It was not surprising to see it attempted again, but it was handled differently, expertly. No artist’s message, expressed in their own inimitable way could fail to make it clear, and none of them (really) ever shirk the duty of the confidence, from their responsibility and openness to lay it on the line, despite some people’s aversion to hearing it, we understand their missive. But, Mr. Villella’s wisdom was much more gentle and urging. His points were clearer and accentuated with proof by example, and that, so many of the other artists of today cannot demonstrate. There is a world of difference in the actions. Mr. Villella’s actions just speak louder than anyone else’s I’ve heard. His examples are better. He truly practices what he preaches and he doesn’t preach much.

Much has been heard about Mr. Villella’s troubles, fatigue, exhaustion, injuries, and his unrivaled performances, which in my opinion, were all the more brilliant because it seems that if he was going to be a dancer, defy his father’s wishes, he had to be the greatest male dancer of his era, and possibly he was. He adds, that a lot of that was PR, played up, by the media, to show he was a rare performer to see, to promote the ballet, make it news, as a world-class performance of dancing. He claimed that his reputed speed, stamina, strength and agility, such as you might expect to see at a sporting event, were fabricated, but then you see the videos and remember. But he doesnt come across as insincere. But what of art? Perhaps he, like many other dancers always feel lacking, they don’t know the stories today, maybe they don’t seem believable. But looking at him in those roles, I would believe. I would! His attotude seemed to be that art could be exciting, death-defying, and a real punch in the face as well as all the rest. He brought it to life for generations of ballet-goers. Art for the he-man, the boxer, the street kid, the thug, the athlete-and Mr. Villella, was at one time or the other, all of those things. A regular guy, a New Yorker. He points out that he is married, has a wife-that ballet is not for sissies, but for real men, too, and family men, with family values. He makes ballet accessible for everyone. Maybe in his life his real ability, and he needed it to make a point to himself, in order to find acceptance from his own father, to keep an audience glued to their seats, and became one of the best at, was his ability to reach people-to communicate-he is expert at reaching people. He is obviously a skilled teacher and supporter of education and youth, and dance.

Maybe Balanchine played on Villella’s own personal conflicts, in selecting roles for him, those involving a father, because he knew this was in Edward’s vocabulary, his nomenclature, to state and to express it. It is clear from his perspective at least, that Balanchine’s suggestions to his artists invoked the best performances from them, and Villella said, “he knew you, he was a genius.” He gave praise, he thanked, he was lovable, and no wonder his dancer’s tried very hard to please him, or so Edward seemed to be saying, and is evident in all their admiration for him, the wide acceptance and repeating of his works, and the way his legacy is carried on by his proteges. Nowhere else is this more apparent than The New York City Ballet, or was, even though it is purported that more Balanchine works are performed in Europe than in the US. Balanchine had the gift of being able to use psychology, music, spectacle, different genres of dance, and hype, to create magic and everyone at his factory were in reality living their dreams. Part of that super-reality mixed with theatricality involved bringing to life ballets which demonstrated deeper and deeper levels of emotion brought about by human experiences to increase human understanding.  Is that is what is being done today at the NYCB?

It is also very clear that the audience and their response was elemental to this process, the final countdown. But they were conditioned to expect greatness by Balanchine-not the reverse. Mr. Villella’s jumps were always just a tad higher, and his movements slightly more intense and large, and his acting at its best onstage, a performer of the highest caliber. Balanchine clearly knew how to elicit these performances from his artists, how to discipline them, and how to train them. Do they alone see this now, appreciate this, because without a force like him, they cannot recreate his masterpieces. Yet, they continue to share their unique perspective of this man, perhaps the organization’s most valuable asset is its dancers, and it should be the dance. It is also of major importance to younger dancers, and the future of ballet, to see exactly what is passed on in ballet, with many other things as well, and only they can teach. So why aren’t they all there? You definitely got the feeling that he feared for this future. But, Edward Villella remains one of the very few tangible ‘elite’ even if you catchphrase it as an “era”, those dancers dreamed of even greater things. It was hard work, day and night, for you the public and for Mr. B, whom they all sought to please. The New York City Ballet is still one of the foremost companies in the world attached to the major education division of ballet in this country, and therefore is the U.S.’s greatest ballet company. Perhaps the artists and director of that company needed to hear this talk even more than the audience did.

Edward Villella said that he would never describe himself this way, a “jumper,” he says, as though in all the roles he danced in this was the perceived reason he was selected, how he was featured, why, and his main “selling point.” He did not, was not made to, see himself this way. All the dancers were encouraged to think as a group, then. But it was plain to us, to the audience, why this charismatic and exciting performer was featured so often-maybe not enough if public videos serve right. His acting was exciting, his masculinity and energy palpable, his stamina was fatiguing just to watch, and he had bravado in spades. At that time, by dancers in this country, he was truly unmatched, and unique. Ironically, he remains alone today in that regard to a large extent. If memory serves there were many unheralded fine dancers of that institution, and where are they today? They are needed to reinforce the ideals of American ballet. The public, everyday people. because of Edward Villella, began to view ballet differently. They began to attend ballet performances in overwhelming and unprecedented numbers. He sold tickets! His impression was felt across the country, through tv, and by description, by millions of people in their homes, and ballets became popular-attendance was up!

He made an impact around the world, too, but in America, where he was needed most, he did the most good for our ballet. His presence must have been felt too, in Russia, and London, and the rest of the world, where later dancers followed his path exactly, seemly inadvertently, benefiting from the swathe he tore. It became a competition-he was not the man to follow. He was not only a major star of ballet in the 1950’s and 1960’s, he paved the way for others, such as Rudolf Nureyev, and Mikhail Baryshnikov, to appear in the the forefront of future ballet productions, in roles he had made famous, and increasingly made more famous in those ballets over a long career, and which he alone performed, often, when others were out due to injury, staples of The New York City Ballet and the world. As Edward Villella says, although these roles were worked on him, their difficulties are evident in the lack of ability of most performers to do them today, with perhaps the exception of a few similar stars, such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Daniel Ulbricht, and some of the dancers Edward Villella has trained himself, such as at The Miami City Ballet, possibly. Not all of them shine in exactly the same or numerous ways in them, that Edward Villella did, or they would be household names.

Consequently, the search for dancers to recreate his original roles, brought us dancers of the same ilk, and then Russian, gradually, since the late 60’s-70’s, and not so many after the 1980’s were able to perform them as imaginatively or as well as he did at all. Now it is a feat just to teach and stage some of them once per year or decade. Edward Villella did them every night. He was a blueprint for what made ballet acceptable to major audiences in the public sense, what was to be expected, and allowed, and he set the barre higher, though he probably did not realize it at the time. No wonder so many of them fall short of it today! Now he does a tour, making up for lost time, by putting forth his presence and knowledge today and sharing that with others, letting people know that he is more than willing, anxious even, to convey those secrets to young hopefuls, companies, and audiences. Edward Villella was really one of the first American male dancers, along with Jacques D’Amboise, and others, who set the stage for an American prototype of the male ballet dancer, with the help of a Russian choreographer and composer, Balanchine and Stravinsky. The videos and discussion also included : an excerpt of A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream with Villella as Oberon, Jewels (Rubies tcherzo-furioso, specifically), and discussions of The Prodigal Son, Agon/Apollo, and a few of his other roles (Sleeping Beauty, Scotch Symphony, Nutcracker) were alluded to, including some I have never heard of, such as Stravinsky’s Violin Concerto, which had a deeper meaning for Villella (he says) too. But to Villella, all of these roles, and Balanchine’s choreography, are conveyed with the caveat that the choreographer’s role is not to create a stamped role for a performer, but is the role of a teacher- to give the performer the chance to ‘discover’ it himself. By inspiring the dancer, suggesting, and individualizing his approach to a role, and so that the line where the choreography, music and dancer or artist begin, as well as the live impact or performance, is nearly invisible or becomes one unique blend or “a moment in time.” “Dated” Villella says, possibly, but rife with meaning and ‘great things’. Mr. V does not think, and this is my interpretation, that performers today work hard enough, take ballet seriously enough, or convey enough emotion or passion in their dancing. I think this is perhaps the most important thing he said last night.

Several times, he spoke of his concern today, for Balanchine ballets, the loss of their details, and the ignoring of the many layers of his productions, the dancer’s lack of investigation and art, even ability to dance(!). He also spoke of his desire to work on coaching and teaching these things, passing down those details to new dancers and entire companies, successfully, as he has tried to do with Miami City Ballet. He wants to encourage ALL dancers to dig deeper into the legacy and history of the art of ballet, art and cultural history, to discover new meanings relevant to them, and to today, seek to convey more to the audience, not less, and to especially add something besides a smile, behind which, apparently, lies “nothing.” He repeated these warnings and concerns often, also criticizing the current mode of the backers of the art, critics, and board members, in taking the egotistical ‘front seat’ ahead of the art of ballet. He said in some ways for this reason alone “art suffers”, and a little of his particular problems with Miami Ballet in general, but also other institutions.

He is a Balanchine expert, and despite his many other performances, roles, and directorships, he remains a student of Balanchine, so why would they hire him if they didn’t want the Balanchine/Villella influence? This also emphasizes the need for organizations and individuals to do their research before pursuing a line of art they do not understand and he feels we all, they all, need to know more. We do, and we need to communicate about it more, not just in pictures, but in words, and in art-our impressions, our versions, even if we’re wrong, it opens discussions about it, if only to correct, or argue-it is something. SOmething is always better than nothing. Always. Dry critiques, tweets, and posts do not do art justice. All in all, this was a very enjoyable, provocative evening well-spent, and as you can see, INSPIRING. Spent in the company of one of my life-long favorite dancers, Mr. Edward Villella. Thank you very much Center For The Ballet and the Arts and readers of Mysylph.

To find out more about their objectives, programs and even possible excerpts from this evening, visit https://balletcenter.nyu.edu/

To find out more about Edward Villella, read his book Villella, Edward, with Larry Kaplan. Prodigal Son. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992. Levin, Jordan. (another is in the works concerning the “two” Golden Ages of Ballet-one being ‘George Balanchine’s’ age, the other the previously known of Russia)

 

Videoed segments of interviews and background

#1-3 The Man Who Dances

 Ballet’s Greatest Hits Featurette: Edward Villella

Lolita Khosla. A&E Revue: Edward Villella

 

Other published articles and references:

Dancing for Mr. B, and Everything After by Roslyn Sulcas (NYT)

“Bitter Departure for Miami’s Ballet Patriarch” by Daniel J. Wakin (Nov. 13, 2011 NYT)

Dance Heritage Collection: Edward Villella by Lisa Traiger

 

To see an introspective grouping of performance and rehearsal photographs which often deliver the ‘moment’ in many productions, please visit The Billy Rose Theatre Division Collection at The New York Public Library. Search term: ‘Edward Villella.’   The New York Public Library Digital Collections

KEEP ON DANCING!

 

 

 

 

 

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Patricia McBride-Still Living the Dancer’s Dream (Protege of George Balanchine)


Patricia McBride lived a dancer’s dream: Her mentor was George Balanchine

2   Patricia McBride and George Balanchine

Patricia McBride rehearsing with choreographer George Balanchine.

This was normal for McBride, then the New York City Ballet’s principal dancer (now the associate artistic director at the Charlotte Ballet), but working with Balanchine would have been a dream come true for aspiring ballerinas around the world.

He is known as an artistic genius in the ballet world. A gifted choreographer responsible for changing the face of dance and famous for the New York City Ballet’s ” Coppélia” and “The Nutcracker.” And this man personally invited McBride to join his company when she was just 16 years old.

Balanchine and McBride would work alone in a studio, not speaking much. Balanchine would cue the music and dance in front of McBride. A pianist himself, musicality was of the utmost importance to Balanchine. He wanted the dances to flow naturally, so he let the music do the speaking. McBride followed along behind him, learning the steps. Forty-five minutes later, McBride would have a new solo in her repertoire.

“He worked so quickly and he didn’t have to experiment with you. He knew exactly what you could do,” McBride said in a phone interview. “Once something was made to you, you had to remember it forever. You were the guardian of the choreography.”

Balanchine trained McBride for a 30-year career with the New York City Ballet. She danced over 100 ballets in that time, including 30 choreographed just for her. When she performed her final ballet in 1989, McBride was showered with 13,000 roses and a standing ovation.

But McBride did not leave dance behind. She went on to teach at Indiana University and then took over the Charlotte Ballet in North Carolina with her husband and dance partner, Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux in 1998. She’s now 72 and still teaches eight ballet classes at a time, on top of running rehearsals for performances like The Nutcracker.

This lifelong dedication to dance has been noticed by the outside world, too.

Earlier this month, McBride walked down a red carpet in Washington, D.C., to be honored for her commitment to the performing arts. She mingled with Tom Hanks and Sting, had dinner with John Kerry and met the Obamas. She was given a rainbow-colored Kennedy Center Honors ribbon and listened to actress Christine Baranski praise her accomplishments.

It was a celebratory weekend all about honoring the ballerina (among other honorees), but McBride was quick to thank others in our interview. Especially Balanchine, her mentor.

Theirs was an intimate setting to work in, but Balanchine was more than a teacher to McBride. She looked up to him as a role model and desperately wanted to please him. McBride‘s own father left her family when she was just 3 years old, so Balanchine stepped in to fill that role.

“I grew up without a father so he was everything to me — the man I most admired and just the most wonderful role model anyone could have,” McBride said.

And their relationship was not lost on the outside world.

“A true muse for George Balanchine, he created many ballets especially for her,” said Larry Attaway, executive director of ballet at Butler University. “She was one of the most remarkable ballerinas of the 20th century.”

McBride still remembers leaping for joy when Balanchine invited her to join the New York City Ballet Company all those years ago — and did not hesitate to give up a normal teenage life for one of endless rehearsals, travel and intense dedication.

Balanchine took McBride under his wing and trained her to dance his ballets, many of which are still performed around the world today. She traveled to Tokyo, Italy, Germany, London, Paris, South America and Russia to dance, including five performances for U.S. presidents. Leading roles in her repertoire include the Sugarplum Fairy in “The Nutcracker” and Colombine in ”Harlequinade.”

“I cherish the ballets made for myself by Mr. Balanchine,” McBride said in a phone interview. “He never lost his temper. He was quiet, humble, the genius of the 20th century. He changed the face of what dance is today.”

Balanchine was her teacher, her mentor and inspiration during her long-lived dancing career. He pushed her and drove her to perform at the highest possible level, but he was also kind and patient — a notable trait in the perfectionism-driven world of ballet.

“In the beginning, he taught you how to hold your fingers, use your head, hold your shoulders, how you glissade, bourre — the exact way he wanted you to do the steps,” McBride said. “It was relearning the whole Balanchine technique.”

He was not a man of many words, but when he did offer praise, it stayed with McBride for years to come.

“After performances he would say, ‘Good, good.’ He never really gave a harsh word. I don’t ever remember him saying, ‘That was awful,’ ever. He didn’t praise that much, but when he did, it was wonderful. He would say, ‘I loved how you used your eyes, you were mysterious.’ It would make you feel like a million dollars.”

Balanchine passed away in 1983, but McBride carries on his legacy by teaching her students his ballets with patience and kindness. She gives her students at the Charlotte Ballet Academy praise and talks highly of her “beautiful dancers.” She believes in nurturing her students and making them feel secure in themselves.

“Mr. Balanchine wanted me to be myself. He didn’t want me to look like anyone else,” McBride said. “I love teaching our company dancers the Balanchine ballets. I try to give them what was passed down to me and what I learned from him. They dance it so beautifully. It also keeps me close to Mr. Balanchine. He’s with me every single day.”

Celebrate ‘The Nutcracker’ Tradition in Indianapolis!


Posted: Thursday, December 4, 2014 11:23 am

By VICTORIA DAVIS/Reposted by Mysylph

Now that stomachs are full, Black Friday shopping has ended and thousands of pounds of turkey have been sold, it’s the time of year to truly appreciate our loved ones through rich traditions. Maybe your family cherishes the moment the star is placed on the peak of the family Christmas tree, or enjoys visiting holiday shows such as “The Nutcracker.”

The Indiana Ballet Conservatory (IBC) will be putting on six shows of “The Nutcracker” at two different venues, the Murat Theatre at Old National Centre and at the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s “The Toby.”

Miko Fogarty, who plays Princess Masha (Clara) and Sugar Plum said she began rehearsing for this season’s Nutcracker about a month ago.

“Each ballet is different in terms of the storyline and characters,” said Fogarty. “Dancers feed off the energy in the audience. When you ‘feel’ the audience reacting to your performance, you can’t help but rise to the occasion. That type of collaboration is exhilarating.”

Since Fogarty has been playing these two roles for the past five years, she finds many similarities in her characters and herself as a ballerina.

“Masha is a young girl who opens her heart to an ugly nutcracker doll. Her kindness and love help to transform the doll – and herself – into the prince and princess,” said Fogarty. “They go on a spectacular journey and awake the next morning to wonder if it was magic or a dream. Really, the life of a dancer is similar.”

She continues, “For those of us who are pursuing ballet as a career, we recognize this gift is not something to keep to ourselves, but to share with an audience. When we give our all on the stage and embody the character, the audience gets taken on a journey of their own. It is our goal to ensure that each person leaves the theater feeling something special and is transformed in some way.”

While there are a variety of “The Nutcracker” productions happening around the city, Alyona Yakovleva-Randall, founding artistic director, master teacher, and coach at IBC mentioned that this production’s version is closest to the original staging from nearly 100 years ago where it debuted in Russia.

“Even the names of our characters are true to the original storyline, Masha (Marie) instead of Clara. Even the backdrops, which were commissioned to be painted, match the original sets,” noted Yakovleva-Randall.

IBC’s Camel studios are bustling with over 170 dancers ranging from 3 years old to adults, countless production staff and volunteers during this time of year. Practice for “The Nutcracker” and other productions can begin early in the morning until 9 p.m. daily. In addition to Fogarty, acclaimed principal dancer with the Boston Ballet, Lasha Khozashvili is also one of the main characters in the show. Yakovleva-Randall said it’s a pleasure working with all of the dancers.

“It’s always satisfying to see our older dancers work together as a team to encourage and support each other,” she commented. “One simply cannot put on a production of this magnitude without harmony between the dancers. What always brings the biggest smile to my heart is when the older students reach out to the younger ones and help them learn their parts. Seeing the pre-professional students passing down what they’ve learned to the next generation of young dancers is truly satisfying. My entire life’s work is passing down the legacy of ballet down to the next generation.”

Indiana Ballet Conservatory’s ‘The Nutcracker’

The Murat Theatre at Old National Centre

Dec. 6 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

(Limited seats available for Nutcracker Tea, noon – 1:30 p.m., and VIP, 5 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.)

Indianapolis Museum of Art’s “The Toby”

Dec. 12 at 7 p.m.

Dec. 13 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Dec. 14 at 2 p.m.

Tickets are available at IndianaBalletConservatory.org.

Facts about ‘The Nutcracker’

Began as the published work “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” in 1816

First production performed Dec. 1892 in St. Petersburg, Russia

Peter Ilyitch Tschaikovsky composed the music for the ballet “The Nutcracker”

The first U.S. performance was in 1944 by the San Francisco Ballet

The New York City Ballet first performed George Balanchine’s “Nutcracker”® in 1954, which then became a popular holiday tradition

via Celebrate ‘The Nutcracker’ Tradition – Indianapolis Recorder Newspaper: Around Town.

NYCB – George Balanchine-some great footage here!


NYCB – George Balanchine.

Corrosively Criptical


I want to do so many things and I have so many ideas, still at my age, if anything, I have more-they are undone. I want to do big, great things. It is like when you watch a movie and some part of it takes you away somewhere else, and you watch that movie to go to that place, as a form of escapism-I don’t always watch movies over and over-but a few I do-then one day, you have watched it so much, and you know exactly at what part you reach that nirvana, and it is over too soon, too fleeting, and you suddenly realize that it is not real. It is not your life, you are not the one getting away, and you need to do something like that, but you need to do it. Not watch it.

I switch from books to media, to music, to puzzles, to writing, to doing, but I always have to do so much to keep my mind sharp, that I do not really just put everything down and do things. For one reason, when you get out of school, you have to work-you do not get to read as many books, write as much, or make art as much, because you have to work. The period in which you are expected to do something, or show you can do something so that you will be picked to do more somethings is very short in school, and if you view life as having to be decided upon before you  mature, then not only is their more chance for you to change your mind about what you really wanted to do, or find out what that is, but also it decreases the number of people educated enough to do anything important. In other words, more education is better.

It takes years of practice to do anything really, really well. Short of perverse genius, some people who are picked to do things based on childish endeavors continue to produce nothing of consequence, whereas, someone who might not have had time to develop into greatness doesn’t get the chance.  Other times it is the person who is pinched (Nureyev, Makarova) that has the drive and ambition to make it and be better than anyone else. I do not think there should be an imaginary window or so much pressure to be picked to be someone’s muse at an early age. A dancer develops into an artist or they don’t, but it takes TIME. I think the lack of truly great artists has a lot to do with the pressure on young students to get somewhere, and be something, before they have had time to develop into anything, leaving them feeling flattened if they don’t do something quick. Yes, this happens to so many people, and I think it retards or stops people from studying dance for longer. “If I haven’t become this by such and such a day,” is nonsense. Surely, people do, but becoming great with all the opportunity in the world, all the gifts and all the right teaching, doesn’t happen often, and if it does at all, it is through years of continuing to develop, actually. I do not think greatness can be measured in ones so young or that it should be expected of them. And one thing all great dancers do have in common is that they don’t quit!

I told my friend today, again, “the sky’s the limit!” It should be and you choose your words very carefully with children to encourage all of them to do their best, and no child should be out of the running. Some of us are very conscious of that, as educators, and parents ARE educators, but somehow, some educators (teachers) even parents, are not. An elitist program can be a problem, but there are dancers who now currently have more talent, but one day, many other dancers will “catch up.” I am for more opportunities for all dancers to do that, one way or the other. I think if more money was spent by parents, and other people with money, on improving children’s chances of learning to dance, get them off the street, out of their cafe lifestyles and into a path of discipline and increased self-esteem, respect for the arts, there would be more and better dancers, opportunities for those who are professionals looking for work, and more tickets bought by ballet aficionados to ballet performances because they would not be adverse to going. An example is my son, age 27, who will sit through a ballet performance because he took class for a few months and respects the hard work. Everyone in ballet takes something away from it, whether they are a new parent helping for the first time at a backstage show, or an usher who gets to watch all the performances, or a cinematographer who is rapt by the precision, sweat and myriad imagery to capture and relate. Everyone is pleasantly surprised by ballet and dance. Surprised to find they like it.

Despite efforts of people to make art with ballet, preserve the integrity and meaning of its movements, teaching, choreography, costumes, in different periods of history, ballet breaks down. Like a car on the road it needs a tow, a repair, maybe a rehaul, to bring it back onto the road and getting the attention or use it deserves. There are constant discussions about ballet and a legion of fans across the world and yet how many actual dance performances can you say you viewed this year in person. anything done for or in the field of ballet, requires notation, the libretto, the photos, the video, the distribution, everything, because it is an art of the moment. Dance. But in order to expose yourself to art, you can walk out on any Thursday night in most beach towns and get a glimpse of it, you can hear music, taste food, wear fashion, and reading material abounds, but dance you have to sit through and watch and go see. You have to go to the theater to do this and like a live performance of music-nothing compares. It is okay to watch it on tv, Vimeo, YouTube, in theaters on enormous screens, but it is eminently better and more exciting to sit in a seat (any seat) at the theater and watch ballet being performed live. It, after having been to the theater, will enable you to get up out of your seat and start to dance, and suddenly, watching dancers perform live, you realize it is real, and necessary and important.

One of the most important aspects of education, being an educator, is putting aside the customary snobbery that might accompany considering oneself an expert on something, vastly experienced,  knowledgeable or wise and give one’s students the benefit of the doubt, equal opportunity, and chances, repeatedly to prove themselves, opportunity to improve, and practice. The bad get better, but they can also learn other things. I have learned from being able to do things, or not being able to do things is always a state of mind, frequently. The handicapped can learn from dance, the geek, the tomboy, the football player, the debutante, the delinquent. And in a supportive environment these children can be taught to dance correctly, to work hard, to see aspects of art like line, symmetry, and composition, that they would otherwise not be able to comprehend at all, through an activity that most of them can never consider boring. They also learn discipline, social graces, about music, costume, stage design, choreography, scenery, acting, and it can lead many of them to pursue careers in the arts which are supportive of the expressive movements, whether it be acting, film, tv, dance, music, etc. There is art in everyone and a need to express themselves. It is always the best part of me, and the most intimate, which I bring to a choreographed work, and to be able to compel and persuade, and enliven, invigorate, and reach people through a performing arts medium is most gratifying and rewarding. It affirms in us that we are individuals and this is a lifelong self-esteem booster. it can be what gets a fat man off the couch at age thirty when he has let himself dissipate, or a woman, in remembering what he felt like working hard and creating in dance. It can be continued throughout life, and dancers age, but they can keep right on dancing, just like pregnant women.

But in the beginning of any growth of a movement must be organization and structure, and big, BIG thinking, to get an idea off the ground. it can be deflated if enough energy is not instilled into it, or if enough belief is not created, and that makes promoting it and perpetuating it a big job, too. Lots of people have worked hard in that field and created good shows, but they have lost their momentum, believing it need to build, grow, but without resources, it can’t. It is human energy which makes all things grow, and life needs to be imbued into the substance of a thing to get the ball rolling and the energy expended to propel it in any given direction. Without the interest, dedication and true spirit of invention involved there is no momentum, no human energy. So in order to speed things up, get the ball rolling, you have to excite people. There is no point in flogging a dead horse or dealing with people who do not share your vision exactly. They will hold you back, prevent that energy from multiplying and creating the momentum necessary to catapult the vision or dream into the atmosphere and into tangible presence-reality. Without the big bang, or a ton, of life and energy, our people, environment and planet would not have been created, and it is exactly that which can be taught in the studio of a ballet class, things can happen and do, but it is not all about a defined end result, sometimes the energy happened in the process, develops, and momentum of each individual is nurtured by their teacher. A lot of little pops eventually produces a big pop and competition is essential-not negative, debasing, and judgmental competition, but life, energy and momentum, better and better and better! So it is important to stop thinking sometimes and just dance, try, and imagine what the possibilities can be for all children in dance and by each of those children themselves to be allowed to dream, because you never know where the momentum is going to come from. Diaghilev said he could not dance a bit, but he was inspired to take dance to a level the world had never before experienced it, and it was not just the dancers of the New York City Ballet that made those first shows and created that company, it was the patrons and subscribers who came to see ballet inserted between acts of vaudevillian fare, who simply learned to appreciate ballet by exposure to it, and in the same way, when you put a group of children in a room to teach them dance, kinetics occur and develop, which grows upon them and movement ensues, through which they learn to appreciate art in all its forms, and expression and communication. Simple physics really. Mass x velocity. No conservation! Does anyone want to stand in the way of the force of that collision? Keep on dancing!

 

Dancer Jacques d’Amboise on Balanchine’s Life and Death


Dancer Jacques d’Amboise Describes ‘How The Arts Can Change Lives’ | Here & Now.

“What do we do? What do you mean, “What do we do?” “We do what we always do. We eat and drink and keep going.”


~Jaques D’Amboise