- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, appearing in the newly refurbished Eisenhower Theater Wednesday through Sunday is like a rare, exotic flower, unique in many ways. The company is led by arguably the most legendary ballerina alive.

Miss Farrell’s relationship to the Kennedy Center is unprecedented — she’s the center’s adviser on dance, and her company is officially referred to as “the center’s own.” It is the most loosely structured of any major dance group, with dancers from across the nation and abroad coming together for a few months each year under Miss Farrell’s inspiring guidance.

All of this is built on her deep relationship — both onstage and off — with the greatest choreographer of the 20th century, George Balanchine, who left an indelible stamp on the art form both in this country and around the world.

At the heart of their artistic collaboration is the music.

Miss Farrell once said, “I always wondered what George saw in me, and I think it’s that I heard what he wanted to see.”

“Music was so important to Mr. B,” she says. “Yes, everybody can hit a big cymbal crash at a certain point, but there are so many undercurrents in the music impulses and emotions that are why he choreographed the steps that he did.”

Two of the ballets the company will perform this week — “Liebeslieder Walzer” and “Diamonds,” a part of the ballet “Jewels” — vividly underscore their artistic rapport.

“Liebeslieder,” with a cast of four men and four women, is set to Johannes Brahms’ impassioned score. Miss Farrell brings new insights to what many people think is Mr. Balanchine’s ultimate tribute to romantic love, with all its nuances, tensions and splendor. She stepped into a role in this most demanding of ballets when she was just 17, dancing with some of the New York City Ballet’s most distinguished stars.

Mr. Balanchine himself, who always tried to avoid sounding “too fancy” when talking about his work, described it thus: “What happens on the stage is dancing and gesture and music.”

The last song is to words by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Now, Muses, enough! You try in vain to portray how misery and happiness alternate in a loving heart.”

“As these words are sung,” Mr. Balanchine said, “the dancers come back and listen. That is all. The words ought to be listened to in silence.”

Try as Mr. Balanchine might to invoke an understated reaction, critics kept finding an expansive vision and soulful wonders in his “Liebeslieder.”

The distinguished New Yorker critic Arlene Croce has written: “If George Balanchine were a novelist or a playwright or a movie director instead of a choreographer, his studies of women would be among the most discussed and most influential artistic achievements of our time.”

Of a role Mr. Balanchine created for Miss Farrell in “Diamonds,” Miss Croce writes that this ballet is “a riveting spectacle about the freest woman alive.”

Miss Farrell describes the unusual way the choreographer approached the spellbinding grandeur at the heart of “Diamonds.” In its final version, it begins with a long, extended passage in which the man and the woman approach each other from opposite sides of the stage and basically just walk - a scene striking in its simplicity.

When Miss Farrell and dancer Jacques d’Amboise arrived at the first rehearsal, Mr. Balanchine said, “There’s a long introduction, and I don’t know how I’m going to get you on.”

So they began in the middle of the pas de deux — “Where we actually start to dance,” Miss Farrell says. “It’s rather irregular to start a pas de deux at midpoint, when you don’t have any beginning to see where the mood of the ballet is going to go.

“So we were planted center stage, Jacques on his knee and me looking at him.” Later, Peter Martins, now director of the New York City Ballet, took over Mr. d’Amboise’s role.

“After the whole pas de deux was done,” Miss Farrell says, “the beginning was tacked on - this great diagonal coming together, this magnetic moment is such a harbinger of the whole rest of the ballet, it seems inconceivable that it was almost an afterthought. It gave a whole new meaning to everything Mr. B had already choreographed. You’re in a different world.”

The two Balanchine programs are “Liebeslieder Walzer,” “Ragtime” and “Episodes” at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday and at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, and “The Balanchine Couple,” selections from nine ballets, at 8 p.m. Friday and Sunday and 2:30 p.m. Saturday.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide