Wendy Whelan spoke with Balanchine legends Allegra Kent, Kay Mazzo, Gloria Govrin and Merrill Ashley. Eduardo Patino.NYC, Courtesy NDI
George Balanchine famously wrote, that ballet "is a woman." Four of his most celebrated women—Allegra Kent, Gloria Govrin, Kay Mazzo and Merrill Ashley—appeared onstage at Jacques d'Amboise's National Dance Institute Monday evening to celebrate his legacy. The sold-out program, called "Balanchine's Ballerinas," included performances of excerpts from ballets closely associated with these women and a discussion, moderated by former New York City Ballet principal Wendy Whelan. Here are some highlights of the conversation, filled with affection, warmth and fond memories.
When Jacques d'Amboise talks about dance, his eyes light up, his chest opens and his famously handsome smile takes over his face. It's immediately clear that the former New York City Ballet star, now a spirited age 83, has a love of dance that doesn't tire.
Today, he's creating new generations of dance lovers through the National Dance Institute. He founded the program in 1976 out of a desire to teach dance to public school students. Now led by Ellen Weinstein, NDI reaches 6,500 students every week, not only in New York City, but across the country and even in international cities like Shanghai. And d'Amboise's dream of inspiring others through the art form he loves so much continues as strong as ever.
This Sunday, about 50,000 people will be lining up in Staten Island to run 26.2 miles for the New York City Marathon. I'll be one of them.
When I tell people from the dance world that I'm training for what will now be my eighth marathon, most can't comprehend why I would want to do something so boring. Many dancers can't see the point of repeating the same movement over and over for four or five–odd hours when you could spend that time dancing, moving your body in so many different, more fun and interesting ways.