I’m in the process of writing a brief life of Balanchine for Harcourt, so I expect to be going to NYCB two or three times a week throughout the next couple of months. I just returned from my first performance of the winter season, an all-Balanchine triple bill of Prodigal Son, Serenade, and Scotch Symphony, two masterpieces and a lesser but nonetheless delightful effort. I brought with me a jazz musician who’d never seen any of Balanchine’s choreography, and was eager to find out what she’d been missing.
Most serious balletgoers (if not all) have felt for some time now that NYCB was in decline, and tonight’s performance did little to prove them wrong….
On the other hand, it’s also worth reporting that my guest was stunned–the only possible word–by her first encounter with Balanchine’s choreography. I gave her a discreet glance at the end of Serenade and saw that she was crying softly. That’s just as it should be: Balanchine’s greatest ballets are sturdy enough to make their effect even in unfocused, infirm performances. I wouldn’t have dreamed of telling her that last night’s Serenade, for all its virtues, was far removed from the way that immortal masterpiece looks when lovingly set by a first-string repetiteur on a meticulously rehearsed company. For her, the only thing that matters is that she’s just discovered a new world of beauty whose existence she never even suspected. I envy her….
Read the whole thing here.