AR’s unlikely path to becoming a prince for City Ballet

By The New York Times

AR was 11 when he first saw ballet. It was a video of the New York City Ballet dancers Heather Watts and Mel Tomlinson, in Balanchine’s radical 1957 ballet “Agon,” the dancers clad in minimal leotards and tights, performing spiky, extraordinary movements to Stravinsky’s astringent score. Mr. R, an outgoing, talkative boy from the Bronx, knew right away what he thought. “That’s the ballet I want to dance, and that’s the company I’m going to get into,” he said.

Mr. R, 33, danced that role in “Agon” twice this season, a part he has performed since 2011. He has been a principal at City Ballet since 2009, dancing a remarkably wide range of roles, and has long been a favorite for the creation of new ballets. But it is relatively recently that Mr. R has entirely come into his own, showing a new technical refinement and polish that have embellished the dynamism and muscular attack of his dancing.

Reviewing Justin Peck’s new “Rodeo” in The New York Times in February, Alastair Macaulay wrote, “Mr. R, who in the last two years has become an endearing and central artist at City Ballet, seems to carry whole sections on the tide of his immense good humor and large-scaled prowess.”

The path from the Bronx to Lincoln Center was not an obvious one. Mr. R’s father, a former Marine who worked as a computer technician, is of Trinidadian-Indian ancestry; his mother, who was a nurse, is from Puerto Rico. “No one knew anything about ballet in my family,” Mr. R said in an interview backstage at the David H. Koch Theater, where City Ballet performs. “My father didn’t prevent me from doing it, but he didn’t make it easy.”
Mr. R is tall with an athletic build and a ready smile. He retains his boyish eagerness and enthusiasm, and it’s easy to imagine him as an active, engaging child who was the storytelling champion of his elementary school and a prizewinning debater. When he was 10, a music teacher suggested he audition for Tada! Youth Theater, which selected children from schools in the five boroughs to perform in original musicals. Two out of 300 children auditioning in the Bronx were picked; Mr. R was one. His mother, working full time, couldn’t take him to the rehearsals at the Henry Street Settlement on the Lower East Side, so Mr. R learned how to use the subway by himself, commuting daily to rehearsals after school.


History,George Balanchine’s “First Ballet in America”

It would be hard to find a ballet audience member who isn’t entranced by George Balanchine’s Serenade. Set to Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings Op. 48, the piece has become something of an icon for the Balanchine style. In the view of critic Edwin Denby, it is Serenade that earns Balanchine the distinction of heir of the Russian Imperial ballet tradition. “It is a completely beautiful ballet,” he says, and stands as emblematic of Balanchine’s technique:

His style is classical: grand without being impressive, clear without being strict. It is humane because it is based on the patterns the human body makes when it dances; it is not—like romantic choreography—based on patterns the human body cannot quite force itself into.

Denby ascribes an organicism to Serenade—it’s a ballet that is seemingly “just right.” This quality is echoed by dance critic and historian Nancy Goldner, who reports that as a child she thought that the ballets she saw on stage had not been created by any individual—that they had simply existed in nature for all time. She is convinced that it was Serenade that helped instill such a notion in her mind.

This mythic allure of Serenade is easy to understand, for the ballet offers much in which both seasoned balletomane and dance neophyte can delight: the fluidity of the steps, the iconic transformations of the corps, the energy underlying Balanchine’s classical technique. What makes Serenade an especially exemplary Balanchine ballet, however, is not just its style and latent musicality but its lack of an explicit narrative. The ballet “tells its story musically and choreographically, without any extraneous narrative,” as Balanchine maintained, and seems to foreclose any discrete dramatic, erotic, or narrative possibilities. This does not mean that there is no story to Serenade—just no characters or discrete plot. As Balanchine explained in his “Marginal Notes on the Dance,” music and dance supply their own story:

Music is often adjectived as being too abstract. This is a vague and dangerous use of words and as unclear to me as when my ballets are described this way. Neither a symphony nor a fugue nor a sonata ever strikes me as being abstract. It is very real to me, very concrete, though ‘storyless.’ But storyless is not abstract. Two dancers on stage are enough for a story; for me, they are already a story in themselves.

There is, then, a story of sorts in Serenade, just no libretto with a specific hero and villain and setting.

Not surprisingly and somewhat ironically, however, this allegedly story-less ballet has in fact been the subject of a voluminous number of stories with heroes, villains, and very specific settings. In fact Serenade seems to have more stories to tell than any other by Balanchine, stories that both inhere in the ballet itself and are also implicitlyintertwined with its history and continued life in the repertory. Everyone has a story to tell about Serenade, or sees some kind of story in the ballet.

Denby, like many other critics, can’t seem to help himself, calling the ballet a “kind of graduation exercise” in which “the dancers seem to perform all the feats they have learned.”5 He reaffirms that there is in fact no story, but nevertheless, “there seems to be a girl who meets a boy; he comes on with another girl and for a while all three are together; then, at the end, the first girl is left alone and given a sort of tragic little apotheosis.”

Indeed, if the ballet doesn’t relate an explicit plot, there always “seems” to be some story at work in Serenade, it’s just that no one can agree on what it is, even as they must assiduously reassert its “storyless” status. Like Denby, Goldner manages to have it both ways by maintaining that Serenade consists of a story, but a story stripped bare: “a narrative of sorts is going on, but there is no motivation, depiction of character, or other characteristics of traditional narrative to tell us where we are. The things that happen in Serenade just happen.”7 In this sense, the storyless quality of Serenade reinforces its organicist and “just-right” qualities, the feeling that it has existed for all time, much like an ancient ritual or myth.
If Serenade conjures these mythic qualities in and of itself, the ballet also figures prominently in a mythic institutional narrative in its capacity as the so-called first ballet that Balanchine created after coming to America in 1933. This “first in America” status has stuck to the ballet as insistently as any Homeric epithet and overshadows all other stories ascribed to or told about the work. Although it is technically true that Serenade was the first completely new ballet created by Balanchine in the United States, its special status in the repertory was not in evidence at the piece’s inception in 1934. In fact, the “first in America” discourse surrounding Serenade emerged only several decades after its first performances. In the pages that follow, a review of sources close to the creation of the ballet and comparisons with more recent dance history and scholarship will demonstrate how the “first in America” story of Serenade emerged retrospectively as a kind of myth of origins.

Méthode Balanchine

J’ai découvert la méthode Balanchine par un professeur de New York, j’avais à peine 10 ans.

Petite introduction de la méthode Balanchine

Bonne lecture.

La méthode Balanchine est une technique du ballet qui a été développée par le chorégraphe russe George Balanchine. Il l’appliqua à la School of American Ballet, l’école qu’il avait créé à New York en 1934 , pour former les danseurs de sa compagnie, le New York City Ballet (1948). Il ne s’agit pas d’une véritable méthode d’enseignement étudiée pour la formation des enfants, comme pourrait être la méthode Vaganova, mais plutôt d’une technique qui vise à certaines qualités de musicalité, rapidité, dynamisme et pureté de lignes, permettant d’aborder l’esthétique néo-classique du grand chorégraphe.

Nathalie Lacladère-Balanchine

Petit mot for me du Professeur lors d’un cours

David Hallberg Creates a Program of Premieres for Young Dancers

Like an annual migration, hundreds of leggy tweens and teens arrive in New York this time of year for the Youth America Grand Prix, the ballet competition that awards $300,000 in scholarships.

This year drew more than 1,200 bunheads, some of whom stay through the week to see the final benefit gala, danced by professional stars, on Friday night. Though ballet galas tend to follow a standard formula—a string of flashy excerpts from crowd-pleasing ballets, almost invariably including “Don Quixote”—this Friday evening’s event at the David H. Koch Theater will be different. Four of the five works have never been danced in the U.S., and one is a world premiere.

“I just can’t sit through another ‘Don Q’ pas de deux,” said the gala’s curator David Hallberg, principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre and the Bolshoi Ballet.

David Hallberg in the studioENLARGE

Mr. Hallberg was invited to set the program by the competition’s co-founder Larissa Saveliev, who believed the dancer’s creative tastes would bring a new perspective.

“We try to educate the next generation, showing them something that is important,” she said.

“We try to educate the next generation, showing them something that is important,” she said.

With the program, Mr. Hallberg chose to honor companies that have supported his journey from a tap-dancing South Dakota boy to global ballet star.

For American Ballet Theatre Studio Company, the training ground where Mr. Hallberg had his start, he commissioned (with donated funds) a new work that will have its world premiere on Friday. Its creator is Pontus Lidberg, a Swedish choreographer venturing into new territory with dance films, most recently with former New York City Ballet principal Wendy Whelan and composer David Lang.

The Australian Ballet, Mariinsky Ballet and Tokyo Ballet have all invited Mr. Hallberg as a guest artist, and for them, he has selected works that represent their artistic missions. The Australian Ballet will dance “Unspoken Dialogues” by Stephen Baynes, the company’s resident choreographer.

The Mariinsky Ballet is sending dancers for “Choreographic Game 3×3” by Anton Pimonov, a young dancer who has been making his mark with choreography in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The Tokyo Ballet is bringing “Bhakti III” by Maurice Béjart, a master choreographer whose work isn’t often presented here. “They’ve kept up the lineage of Béjart,” said Mr. Hallberg.

The Bolshoi Ballet, which Mr. Hallberg joined in 2011, will dance an excerpt from “Marco Spada,” a full-length narrative ballet originally created for Rudolf Nureyev and recently reconstructed by choreographer Pierre Lacotte.

By selecting works that haven’t been seen here, Mr. Hallberg is delivering a twofold contribution: He gives dancers the opportunities to star in premieres—and he expands what is onstage for New York dance fans to see.

“There is a major deficiency in choreographers presented in New York,” he said.

But really, he said, it is all about the young dancers, squealing and cheering up in the balcony: “It lets the kids see the dancers they look up to, live and onstage.”

Write to Pia Catton at

Roméo et Juliette par Rudolf Noureev

Je suis convaincu que la Vérone de la Renaissance et le Londres élisabéthain avaient en commun le sexe et la violence. Ce qui les rapproche singulièrement de notre époque. Rudolf Noureev

Élevée au rang de mythe, la pièce la plus jouée de William Shakespeare – avec Hamlet – a dû attendre le XXe siècle pour être transposée en ballet. C’est Serguei Prokofiev qui, le premier, eut l’idée d’en écrire une partition, chorégraphiée par Leonid Lavrovski, en 1935. Son magnifique Roméo et Juliette inspira ensuite de multiples versions, dont celle de Kenneth MacMillan créée par Rudolf Noureev et Margot Fonteyn en 1965.
Inscrite au répertoire du Ballet de l’Opéra de Paris en 1984, celle de Rudolf Noureev reprend en grande partie le ballet qu’il avait créé à Londres en 1977. Suivant scrupuleusement la partition de Serguei Prokofiev, elle-même fidèle au drame de Shakespeare, le chorégraphe a étoffé le rôle de Roméo, « jeune garçon qui devient homme » disait-il, face à une Juliette passionnée qui, à peine sortie de l’enfance, entre elle aussi tragiquement dans l’âge adulte.
Dans les somptueux décors et costumes d’Ezio Frigerio et Mauro Pagano inspirés de la Renaissance italienne, il parvient à rendre le raffinement et la sensualité du drame élisabéthain, mais aussi toute sa cruauté.
Sur scène, la mort rôde, comme omniprésente, entre les deux familles dont la haine va entraîner le sacrifice de cette passion amoureuse et juvénile. Jouant sur la symbolique des couleurs et les différents leitmotive de la partition, il en fait une tragédie historique et flamboyante.


Je l’ai dansé casse-noisette, j’étais une petite mirliton…très beau ballet.

Casse-Noisette, Chorégraphie Rudolf Noureev
Quand Tchaïkovsky revient au pays de l’enfance, l’enchantement et la nostalgie envahissent sa musique, mais les cauchemars et les peurs aussi. Au retour de cet étrange voyage au pays de l’imaginaire, il composa un de ses plus fabuleux chefs-d’oeuvre : une musique d’un lyrisme et d’une invention incomparables, rêveuse et parfois inquiétante, où tournoient des mirlitons, des flocons de neige et mille fleurs.

Quand on n’a que l’amour, Ballet Bejart

Quand on n´a que l´amour
Pour vivre nos promesses
Sans nulle autre richesse
Que d´y croire toujours

Quand on n´a que l´amour
Pour meubler de merveilles
Et couvrir de soleil
La laideur des faubourgs

Quand on n´a que l´amour
Pour unique raison
Pour unique chanson
Et unique secours…

Alors sans avoir rien

Que la force d´aimer
Nous aurons dans nos mains,
Amis le monde entier