April 30th marks the 30th anniversary of world-renowned choreographer George Balanchine, co-founder of New York City Ballet and a ballet icon of the 20th century. It is only appropriate that we take a moment to remember all that he did! Look here for a full-length biography, from the NYCB website.
There is no doubt that Balanchine still has a lasting influence since his death in 1983, and here is a perspective from one of the Allegro ladies in Barrington, Anna, who grew up at the School of Ballet Chicago learning Balanchine technique through Daniel Duell, a former NYCB dancer:
“It really teaches you how to move and be expressive. Speed! Everything really is done with speed and exactness. There is something so brilliant about the way that Balanchine dancers use their legs and feet; the speed and precision at which they dance is sometimes unreal.
What I love most about Balanchine technique, is that not only is it exciting to watch, but its exciting to dance! Even just in class, it’s very energizing. I was always trying to figure out how big I could move, how sparkly I could make my feet, and how fast I could move my legs with the greatest range of motion.
There are no half-ways in Balanchine; you can’t do a half tendu, battement, or pas de bouree. It forces you to be all in.
After a summer intensive at Ballet Chicago, I remember thinking, ‘I want to move like this whenever I dance’. It’s still in my mindset today. It’s not a timid way of moving; its so full of life. Thank you, George Balanchine, for blessing the ballet community with your spectacular choreography and technique that allows dancers to move in totally inhuman ways. It’s spectacular, wonderful and brilliant.”
Here is another perspective from Jordan Reinwald, who trained at the Jiliana School, a Balanchine based ballet camp in the Taos Ski Valley in New Mexico, for three years on scholarship and three years as a counselor, studying from teachers including Maria Tallchief, Alonzo King, Arthur Mitchell, Wendy Rubin, Sarah Schafer, and Emily Jackson:
“Balanchine taught me everything I know about ballet. Aside from the stories of Mr. B, his drama, and his charm, I learned discipline, line, strength, speed, and precision from his technique.
I don’t think it has changed or influenced me necessarily, I think it MADE me the dancer that I am. I am a modern dancer now but I will never lose the long lines, leggy look, and white leotards. I am stronger, faster, and more elegant due to my training with Balanchine dancers.
There is nothing that I DON’T love about Balanchine. It has formed who I am and I have endless, flawless memories of my summers in the Ski Valley with Jillana and her memories of Mr. B. Performing works such as Serenade, Stars and Stripes, and Apollo are some of my favorite memories and remain some of my most proud moments. Mr. B’s wrapped coup de pie, his straight-forward barre, and Jillana’s lack of french terminology knowledge because “Mr. B never used ballet terms” are all, still, an ingrained part of my ballet routine. Mr. B never leaves you once you’ve learned him.”