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BWW Reviews: Balanchine and the Lost Muse Presented by Elizabeth Kendall and Troy Schumacher

Elizabeth Kendall, a dance and culture critic as well as a professor at the New School, presented a lecture/dance demonstration based on her 2013 published book, Balanchine and the Lost Muse: Revolution and the making of a Choreographer, at the 92nd St. Y.

Speaking of his life and experiences and showing slides of rarely seen photographs of George Balanchine and his family, friends, and colleagues, Ms. Kendall expanded our knowledge and reawakened an interest in the man who had created New York City Ballet. She spoke of his father, who wanted to share music with the world, and had founded an important music school, and his mother, of whom there is little information. It was his mother, some imagine, who became the first of his unattainable muse. Muses played an important place in Balanchine's life; without them, some of the greatest ballets of the twentieth century would never have been created.

Kendall's interest in Balanchine's early roots inspired Troy Schumacher, a NYCB dancer who choreographed two pas de deux for this program. Schumacher spoke of his own journey in ballet, being drawn to the big jumps and tricks done by male dancers. His experience at School of American Ballet and the tickets available to the students to see company performances every night led him to broaden his interest and participate in every aspect of the ballet. In Balanchine's training, dancers were also expected to choreograph. Schumacher, too, feels inclined to do both.

Schumacher's first piece of the evening, Kreisler Suite, to music composed by Fritz Kreisler, was created in the style of Balanchine. The live music was played by Han Chen on piano and Lavinia Pavlish, on violin. The NYCB dancers, Rebecca Krohn and Jared Angle, faced their movement towards the audience, as Balanchine had directed his works towards the public.

Schumacher's With Us was inspired by the Balanchine process. Not only did he choreograph the pas de deux, but he composed the music and danced in it, partnering NYCB ballerina Ashley Laracey. This work displayed some volatile emotions, including frustrations and elation, in both music and dance. Han Chen played Schumacher's music on the piano.

There was a Q&A, at the end of the evening in which Karin von Aroldingen, former NYCB principal dancer and current ballet master, added that Balanchine had said, "Music gives us the mood for what is said in dance. She told us that during a rehearsal, "Stravinsky said to Balanchine, I did not know that my music looked like that."

Although the dancers did a good job, I could tell that they were dancing on a hard floor. It occurs sometimes that dancers must perform or even take classes on hard surfaces. I find this to be a shame, both for the bodies and for the full expression of the choreography. It lacks professional ethics to ask dancers to abuse their bodies in this way.

All in all, it was an enjoyable and informative evening. I look forward to other books of Elizabeth Kendall and future works of Troy Schumacher.

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From This Author Marjorie Liebert