Mr. B, the great George Balanchine, is way too big for my birthday blog. This special post in his honor—he was born on this day, January 22nd in 1904—features a smattering of clips to celebrate his incredible contributions.
I’ve written in the past about Balanchine via the American Masters program, Master of the Dance. Get it in the queue stat. Additionally, be sure to check out Dancing with Mr. B, featuring six of his ballerinas, including Maria Tallchief, Allegra Kent, and Darci Kistler; you can find clips on YouTube, but it’s a big treat in its entirety.
BTW, I’m not including full clips as I think you should watch those uninterrupted and full screen. Instead, these are overviews to pique your interest or remind you of how much you love certain ballets.
Kick off with a nice tribute from Peter Martins, with clips from many different dances and a concise summary of Mr. B’s life.
NYCB ballerina Ashley Bouder nicely introduces Serenade, an early ballet and quintessential Mr. B.
A clip of groundbreaking Agon, with commentary set-up and a chance to see Diana Adams and Arthur Mitchell in action. Created in a time when it was a big kerfuffle to feature a black man dancing with a white woman.
You can find many clips of Jewels, including the entire ballet; I recommend you get the DVD of the Paris Opera Ballet’s version. This is a decent overview of all three parts (Emeralds, Rubies, and Diamonds) from Pacific Northwest Ballet’s production.
To truly appreciate Jewels, read this essay by my friend Laura Jacobs, the best dance writer.
A lot of folks don’t realize Balanchine also choreographed for Broadway. Here, a clip from “Slaughter on 10th Avenue” from the movie On Your Toes. Featuring Vera Zorina and—sit down—Eddie Albert, a very long way from Green Acres.
The great Gelsey Kirkland famously clashed with Mr. B and wrote about their differences in Dancing on My Grave. Nonetheless, this brief clip of Theme and Variations allows you to see how beautifully she interpreted his work. This is murderously fast. She moves like a sprite.
Of course, the most legendary Balanchine partnership was his with Suzanne Farrell. I had to include the complete ballet of Tzigane because it’s short and it’s amazing, a perfect fusion of classicism and the modern angularity that Mr. B understood and used so beautifully. Watch her dance to a piece that carries its own rhythm; the music has twisted into Farrell here like a strand of her own DNA.
Ending with a quick excerpt from the lovely Davidsbundlertanzen.
Thank you, Mr. B and the countless dancers who manifested the workings in that beautiful mind.