The Balanchine Legacy examines ballet's future
THE BALANCHINE LEGACY
Wang Center, April 4-14, 8 pm.
By EMIL DABORA
AS AN ART FORM, THE BALLET must always be changing. The question is in what direction. The Balanchine Legacy is a modern ballet with three distinct sections: "Theme and Variations," "Agon," and "Who Cares?" Each section poses a different possible direction for the ballet to take.
"Theme and Variations" is set to the last movement of Tchaikovsky's Suite No. 3 in G. With no story line or stage props, the performers command all the attention. The scenery is stark but pleasing. The back wall is electric blue, and there are
10 chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Throughout the performance, there were several dancers on stage. Jennifer Gelfand and Roland Price led, but it was difficult to distinguish them from the others.
The dance was a tribute to the Russian ballet tradition. The choreography was formal but had a lot of innovative steps and combinations. "Theme and Variations" portrayed the future of ballet as keeping much in line with the works of the past, but with more freedom of choreography, and freedom from plot.
In contrast to the traditional style of "Theme and Variations," the second vignette, "Agon," is most reminiscent of modern dance. The music is by Stravinsky and was composed specifically for the New York City Ballet. It lacked harmony or a dominating melody or theme, stressing discordancy instead. Again, there was no plot, and the performers were clad in simple black and white costumes. The choreography was forceful but lacking in form. This sent a message that the future of the ballet could be very free, with little relation to its ancestry. The piece was well done but purposefully not pleasing, so that rather than being delightful and quaint it was upsetting, forcing you to think.
The third work, "Who Cares?," is the result of Balanchine's affinity for American pop culture of the 1930s and 40s. There are melody excerpts from "The Man I Love," "Embraceable You" and other popular songs of that era. Also visible is the romance of the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films. The backdrop is the New York City skyline, and the whole piece is more like a Broadway musical than a ballet. Patric Armand was clearly the star and danced fantastically. "Who Cares?" was fun and melodic. The direction in which this piece took the ballet
was more toward the popular art of the present.
The Balanchine Legacy showed a lack of certainty about the future of ballet. This was not a deficit; on the contrary, it demonstrated objectivity. Rather than making a statement about what ballet is, it seems to open the doors to what the ballet can be. Open-minded acceptance of a variety of forms and an eclectic taste for direction make the performance a very positive statement of art.