Sensing His Help

Last night’s performance, Classic New York City Ballet II, is my favorite one this season. I know I will change my mind when I see A Midsummer Night’s Dream next week (I cannot wait…) however the program yesterday was sheer joy.

George Balanchine once said, “In everything I did to Tchaikovsky’s music I sensed his help. It wasn’t real conversation. But when I was working and saw that something was coming of it, I felt that it was Tchaikovsky who had helped me.”

Balanchine’s masterpiece Serenade, the first original ballet he choreographed in the United States, is a take-your-breath-away meditation on movement, rhythms, and patterns, all in a blur of ice-blue tulle. There is a stunning moment in the middle of the piece when five female dancers slip into splits, then form a circle, twisting around themselves into a knot that eventually unfolds. The light, long skirts cannot keep up with the rapid body work of the dancers, creating a delayed reaction effect between dancer and costume that is mesmerizing.

I first saw Serenade when I was an undergrad at SUNY Purchase and its conversation between modern dance and classical ballet never fails to fascinate. The elegance of the classical line pared against the company snapping into first position from parallel or the flexed hands that begin and end the piece must have been revolutionary when they were first introduced at the School of American Ballet in the summer of 1934.