"I don't have to explain why I change things."

posted by Kina Poon on Thursday, Sep 13, 2012
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Maria Chapman, Benjamin Griffiths and Lesley Rausch in Balanchine's Agon. Photo by Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB.

In the article "Balanchine and Stravinsky: An Olympian Apollo," which ran in Dance Magazine's April 1981 issue, Balanchine, in response to outcry over his changes to Apollo's choreography, told John Gruen, "I don't have to explain why I change things. I can do with my ballets whatever I want. They are mine...I made them, and I can change them if I want to."

 

But that doesn't mean that the changes aren't a ripe subject to explore and evaluate, which is what Peter Boal—with six of his terrific dancers at Pacific Northwest Ballet—did this past weekend. As a guest of the Guggenheim Museum's Works & Process series, Boal delivered a fascinating lecture/demonstration (the livestream capture available here) on the revisions that Balanchine made to his own choreography, looking specifically at Apollo, The Four Temperaments, Agon, and Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux. Boal first encountered this issue of the same masterwork having multiple valid versions when he performed The Four Temperaments with Ballet Du Nord, and then later with the Mariinsky—each production made up of slightly different choreography than what he'd been performing with New York City Ballet.

 

In addition to the sheer novelty of being able to see two versions danced simultaneously, the performances really show how lucky the Seattle audience is. Principals Maria Chapman and Leslie Rausch gave lovely readings (and under tough circumstances, doing two versions in a row and keeping the choreography straight) of the Gailliard from Agon, and the Melancholic solo was demonstrated in two ways, first by soloist Benjamin Griffiths and then by corps member Matthew Renko. But it's the radiant Carla Körbes who takes your breath away—I could watch her airy Terpsichore to Seth Orza's Apollo again and again. (In the second segment, the pair also performed the Tchai Pas adage, and then all six dancers were tasked with different sections of the taxing variations and coda.)

 

Us lucky New Yorkers get PNB, celebrating its 40th anniversary season, back in a few months—the company appears at City Center with an all-Balanchine program on Feb. 13, and three performance of Jean-Christophe Maillot's Roméo et Juliette Feb. 16–17. Two dancers will also perform the pas de deux from Wheeldon's Carousel (A Dance) as part of Fall for Dance's program 4 Oct. 4–6. And the Works & Process series continues this month with two more exciting programs that will be livestreamed at www.ustream.tv/worksandprocess: NYCB dancer and choreographer Justin Peck on his new work for the company, with musician Surfjan Stevens, on Sept. 23 and a look at Alexei Ratmansky's choreographic works, on Sept. 30.