George Balanchine is feted as the ‘father of American ballet’, but chances to see his works performed are few and far between. Rosita Stangl from the WA Ballet explains why you can’t afford to miss the company’s upcoming celebration of the choreographer’s work, Embraceable You.
What makes this show so special?
The West Australian Ballet has never before had the permissions to perform a full evening of Balanchine, due to the strict conditions around licensing the ballets: we had to send footage of recent productions to the Balanchine Trust to prove that the quality of the company was at a level that would allow us to perform the pieces. This permission is rarely granted, so many of our audience will be treated to Balanchine for the first time. George Balanchine, particularly in his work with New York City Ballet, revolutionised the look of classical ballet – strong sense of musicality, a streamlined technique, speed, and simple costumes and sets to highlight the art of dance.
Tell us an interesting fact about the show that we might not know…
Embraceable You will include the Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, and the story behind that is fascinating. In 1877, during a run of Swan Lake by the Bolshoi Ballet, star Anna Sobeshchanskaya asked for more music to expand her role of Odile. Tchaikovsky created an additional piece of music, but because it wasn’t a part of the original composition it was not published along with the rest of the music. For more than 70 years, this piece of music was forgotten, until it was discovered in the Bolshoi archives in 1953. Balanchine sought and received permission to use the music, and created a new and captivating choreography that is now noted for its display of bravura and technique.
What are some highlights of the show?
The pieces in Embraceable You have such a variety of tone and feeling, and yet all with such creative and exceptional choreography. There is something for everyone, from the beauty of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake music, to the sweeping Concerto Barocco, to the showstopping Broadway fun of Who Cares? and finally the triumphant and energetic Tarantella by principal dancer Jayne Smeulders. Superfluous detail is stripped back to emphasise pure aesthetic: this is about dance as an art form and dancers at their best.
His Majesty’s Theatre, May 15-30.