Balanchine & His Stradivarian Legacy

Mar 05, 2010
PHOTO OF SUZANNE FARRELL REHEARSING MOVEMENTS WITH MR. BALANCHINE, 1965, BY FRED FEHL

 

The great George Balanchine often referred to Suzanne Farrell as his Stradivarius--his finely tuned instrument for generating an expression of the divine through movement. Before the artist is paired with such a muse, the foundation must be laid...


In 1928, Stravinsky composed Apollon Musagete--a musical composition created 15 years after the groundbreaking swell generated by the Rite of Spring that would inspire a subtler yet perhaps more radical shift in ballet. It was this work, referred to just as Apollo after 1957, that quietly ushered in Balanchine's neo-classical sensibility and brilliant legacy.


The choreography of Apollo followed the score in portraying Apollo's birth, education through and affection for the Three Muses, and concludes with his ascent of Mt. Parnassus--although the subordination of plot to the choreography marked a major turning point in classical ballet. Balanchine would continue to refine and revise this landmark ballet many times, eventually omitting scenery completely and cutting both music and dance. Here was a debut of dance in its' purest form, stripped of theatricality, artifice, and excess, generously eschewing anything but clarity of form. The grace and power of the female form was revealed more along with a striking modern twist of sophistication not previously seen or experienced.


Although Balanchine was not invited to America by Lincoln Kerstein until 1933, Apollo laid the groundwork for a movement that would revolutionize American ballet--thus creating a foundation for which artists like Suzanne Farrell could thrive under the union of 19th century Russian classicism in all its' technical brilliance with the modernist call for authenticity and expansion of the movement form.


Thus, with the ascent of Apollo at the end of Stravinsky's 1928 masterpiece, so began the ascent of ballet into the form we know it today. As a homage to these origins of Balanchine's legacy, enjoy this excerpt from Stravinsky's Apollon Musagete Apotheose. In these exquisitely arranged notes you might just catch the echoes of transformation it compelled within a beloved movement discipline.

 

Join the Conversation

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.