George Balanchine was a happy immigrant to New York. Born in January under Tsarist rule a hundred and sixteen years ago, he watched the works of his great predecessors as a child from the backdrop of the St. Petersburg Theater. When he arrived in New York, he was immensely proud to have brought classical dance to the United States. Until then, the barefoot dancers of the modern era had carried on their avant-garde character there. He survived for several years working on Broadway, then founded his School of American Ballet and the New York City Ballet, the brightest contemporary ballet company the world has ever seen. The subject of his dance art: the dance itself, its musicality, its current, pure beauty, its pace in the big city, its sensitivity and sovereignty.
George Balanchine's thinking about dance made him explore traditions to radically transform them. This also included the movements from folk dances. In the Duisburg theater, where Ballett am Rhein was able to celebrate the premiere of the forty-second ballet evening under the aegis of Martin Schläpfer, which is coming to an end, "b.42" now contains the most fascinating piece of the Balanchines "Square Dance" program.
Sentenced to breaking with the previous one
On this piece, which at the premiere in 1957 was still filled with “Fiddler” and “Caller”, who played like music in real square dance or called the figures to be danced, you can get this inspiration through the knowledge of abundant materials and their seemingly effortless transformation study in new. Couples come together in circles, couples form snakes that dance under the raised arms of other couples like under a gate. At the end the women step out of the alleys on the left and form a row, while the men step out of the dark from the right. They look into each other's eyes across the width of the stage before dancing towards each other.
Through the compositions of Arcangelo Corelli and Antonio Vivaldi, Balanchine brings a depth of time into these modern constellations of women and men, the memory of the courtly and village festive origins of couple dancing. Of course there is a central couple and other semi-solo appearances, but the common dance is in the foreground. As a result, the relationship between women and men in this piece gains an almost archaic quality. Their dancing in these basic forms, these traditional formations, gives their encounter something of an individual abstraction, as if men and women were attracted like planets and were part of natural cycles in their observation, approximation and unification.
This naturalness, with which everything resonates, and the breathtaking dance tempo, in which it all takes place, combine to a stupendous intensity. "Square Dance" is a classic because you want to see it again right away, it is also difficult to say when it could have happened, and somehow, like Vladimir Nabokov's novels, it doesn't matter at all. If the ballet on the Rhine has to train harder for a while in order not only to master these difficulties, but to confidently exhibit them as if it were a walk, Bart Cook's study stands out among men who dance better than women anyway, one, who can really play it: Orazio Di Bella. That solo to the Sarabande from Corelli, which Balanchine included in his revision of the ballet in 1976, was written for Bart Cook. It is one of the most beautiful adagios in the history of dance, and Di Bella merges with his movements as if Balanchine was watching him from the alley.
"Square dance" is so special for many reasons – it carries the Russian origin of the ballet and its American triumphal march, folkloristic and sophisticated. Small, batted jumps make you think of cowboys and rodeos, pictures of wild horses galloping across the expanses of Nevada and Arizona that Balanchine loved. And it has a touching history. When it was drafted, Balanchine had returned after a year away. He hadn't wanted to leave his polio sick woman, the ballerina Tanaquil Le Clercq, for so long. At the time, some believed that he would not be able to continue working. Then he created "Square Dance" and three other stylistically completely different works.
Of course, not only is it difficult to do justice to this work as a dancer, it is also difficult to miss other works on the same evening. Remus Sucheana's world premiere of “Symphonic Poem” for Anna Thorvaldsdottir's dramatic and sound-intensive commissioned music for the Duisburg Symphony Orchestra, in its brevity and anthroposophical coloring, remained a little fairytale without action. Men in sleeveless robes and women under hats danced across the stage like a costume party in the forest.
Interestingly, the closing piece, Martin Schläpper's Mendelssohn-Bartholdy ballet “Reformation Symphony”, which was still premiered in Mainz, begins with a slow solo that develops into a trio of men. But then it suffers from its own pattern of constantly freezing the movement to still lifes and, secondly, imposing a graceful, feminine, sluggish aesthetic on men, the mannerisms of which women might also disrupt as the will to art. This is the opposite of Balanchine's understanding of art. Schläpfer works as hard as he does, but he is not a happy, elegant metamorphosis, but one who sees himself condemned to a constant break with the previous one.