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NYCB Vol. 2 No. 23 - Prodigal Son

The ballet Prodigal Son was originally choreographed by Balanchine in 1929 for the Diaghilev’s Ballet Russe. The composer, Prokofiev, conducted the premiere of the ballet and was upset by the choreography which he viewed as not “real” enough. Luckily audiences and critics alike found it a great success.

Felia Doubrovska (shown here at age 33) originated the role of the Siren. When the School of American Ballet was formed, she was a beloved teacher until 1980 at the age of 84.

(left & center) Felia Doubrovska as the Siren, Serge Lifar as the Prodigal Son. Photo by Sasha, 1929.

(right) Felia Doubrovska as the Siren, Serge Lifar as the Prodigal Son. Photo by Barre in Vogue Magazine, 1929. Photo by Barre, 1929.


After being performed with the Ballets Russes in 1929, the ballet wasn’t danced again until 1950 when it was revived for Jerome Robbins and Maria Tallchief.

Of Robbins’ debut in the role, John Martin wrote:

“For here is a performance to wring your heart. It is dramatically true and it touches deep; there is not a movement that is not informed by feeling and colored by the dynamism of emotion. Yet it is done with complete simplicity and lack of straining for effect. […] Mr. Robbins dances with power and brilliance.”

New York Times, 1950.

(left) Jerome Robbins. Roger Wood, 1950.

(center) Jerome Robbins and Maria Tallchief. George Platt Lynes, 1950.

(right) Jerome Robbins. George Platt Lynes, 1950


One last Prodigal post to round out this season. Another dancer closely associated with the role of Prodigal Son is Eddie Villella (it even became the title of his autobiography) shown in these photos with Siren Suzanne Farrell.

I like the contrast in these photos between the cool, detached Siren and the raw emotions of the Prodigal.

(left) Suzanne Farrell. Photo by Martha Swope, 1965.

(center) Eddie Villella. Photo by Martha Swope, 1967.

(right) Suzanne and Eddie. Photo by Martha Swope, 1968.


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