Posted by Rebecca King on 09.12.2011
The Mona Lisa sits in the Louvre in Paris and attracts over 6 million visitors a year. The famously mysterious painting was created by Leonardo di Vinci circa 1503–1519. The Mona Lisa, along with the 35,000 other works of art housed within the Louvre’s walls, are undeniably timeless.
But would you limit the “timeless pieces of art” category to only paintings and sculptures? What about ballets? Full-length classical ballets are still appreciated in the 21st century though they are obviously dated. Yet other choreography seems to be able to stand the test of time more effectively. Specifically, what is it about Balanchine ballets that allow them to remain fresh and revolutionary despite being half a century old?
I have been thinking about this question since Miami City Ballet’s “Tour de France”. George Balanchine’s ballets were met with enthusiasm and loud applause night after night. Even though we would like to think that all the applause was for our dancing, realistically, a huge percentage of an audience’s reaction is for the choreography, whether they know it or not. You can watch the most amazing dancers in the world, but without great choreography, their talent will be lost in translation. Audiences around the world always love a Balanchine ballet.
So I went to Twitter to ask my followers what their favorite Balanchine ballet is. The overwhelming winner, Serenade. I found that @Catchip described the ballet best by saying, “It’s a spiritual experience but also mathematically satisfying.” I am sure everyone would agree with @DaveTriesBallet when he says, “The opening scene is breathtaking!” The Four Temperaments came in second place, as praise for the music and unique choreography were discussed.
@Naomip86 mentions Symphony in C, “Love the Bizet music and the sheer joy in the full dancing.” The power of an exciting large cast finale was brought up by @SaintElasticat as she spoke of her favorite, Stars and Stripes; “I performed it in my younger days. [I am] not sure I’ve ever felt more pride on stage, authentic excited happiness.” Maybe I should have also asked which company dances Balanchine the best, as @artifactsuite stated, “After having seen several companies dancing Balanchine, I would say interpretation DOES matter a lot.”
In Paris this summer I asked Miami City Ballet Director Edward Villella why he thought Balanchine ballets are so timeless. Here was his response:
All of these Balanchine ballets are classics, and classic means that they are here forever. People think that classisism in ballet stopped in the 19th century, but it had a rebirth. [Balanchine] provided us an understanding of music, manner, and style. He was the great teacher. His ballets are great teachers. If one can dance his ballets the way they were intended, they should dance with nothing but pride of accomplishment.
In 50 years, if I were to take another survey of this sort, I am sure ballet enthusiasts would respond in the same way: with enthusiasm and love for a man they know only though the steps he created. He truly was a creator of timeless pieces of art.