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BWW Reviews: The School of American Ballet Dances Balanchine

Photo by Paul Kolnik

The School of American Ballet's 50th Annual Workshop Performance on May 31, 2014, at 2 pm, was a delight. SAB students performed excerpts and one full length Balanchine ballet chosen to recognize the School's co-founder, George Balanchine, and former faculty member, Alexandra Danilova, who together launched SAB's first year-end student workshop in 1965.

There was an audible sigh from the audience as the curtain rose to the revered Tchaikovsky music on Serenade, Balanchine's first American ballet that premiered June 10, 1934, by students of SAB at the estate of Felix Warburg in White Plains, NY

The workshop presentation, staged by Suki Schorer, adhered for the most part to the Balanchine aesthetic of beauty and striking imagery. Unfortunately, after the opening pose of 17 women with outstretched arms lifted towards the heavens, as the dancers began to move, they demonstrated more thinking and doing than dancing. While the frontal lobes were working overtime, the backs needed more support. I would have preferred to experience more of their dancing and less of their thinking. The final image of four soloists lifting one dancer as she approached the group walking in her direction was a very strong finish to the ballet.

Alexandra Danilova, famed for her interpretation of Swanhilda in Delibes' Coppelia during her international career, chose excerpts from the ballet to be danced at the first SAB workshop in 1965, performed again this year at the workshop. Again, there were sighs as the curtain rose, for this ballet always evokes the romantic, as well as the comic, sentiments we all share. The Waltz of the Golden Hours, led by Clara Ruf-Moldanado and other young dancers, was a study in pure elation. The soloists, too, radiated merriment. Audrey Lawrence was a bright, cheerful Dawn, Joscelyn Dolson danced Prayer with lyricism and passion, Jennifer Pauker's Spinner was sparkling and Jasmine Perry and Eric Beckham led Discord and War with strength and assurance. Staged by Dena Abergel, Yvonne Borree, Arche Higgins, Katrina Killian, Lisa de Ribere, Jock Soto and Sheryl Ware, this was a worthy and heartfelt tribute to the memory of Balanchine and Danilova.

Excerpts form Balanchine's one act Swan Lake, featuring the White Swan Pas de Deux and a corps of 20 swans, was performed to celebrate Danilova's Russian imperial heritage. In 1980, Danilova introduced the fifteen-year-old Darci Kistler to workshop audiences as Odette. This year Kistler staged this piece with beautiful young swans, particularly the dancers in the principal roles, Alston MacGill as Odette and her excellent partner, Joshua Shutkind as Prince Siegrfried. It' was re-assuring to see young swans so completely focused on their roles.

The fourth movement, Rondo, and finale of Western Symphony, set to Hershey Kay's wonderful pastiche of familiar western tunes, and staged by Susan Pilarre, closed the program with gusto. The dancers could not help being swept into the spirit of the work. Of particular note was Alec Night, in the male principal role, originally created by Jacques d'Amboise.

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From This Author Marjorie Liebert