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NYCB Vol. 5 No. 28, 29 & 30 - Nutcracker


This is Part 1 of a 3-part post for our 3-show day. These posts share Maria Tallchief's experience with the Grand Pas de Deux being choreographed on her in 1954.

Maria Tallchief & André Eglevsky. Unknown photographer, circ 1950s

“As usual, he created the pas de deux for André and me with a minimum of fuss and simply demonstrated what he wanted. He was creating traditional choreography and wanted the dancing to reflect the formal, almost static grandeur of the original Ivanov production.

“I could tell it was going to be marvelous. The movements were spacious, majestic, inventive. In one section, he had André and me cross the stage by moving around each other, leading with our shoulders. It was inspired, I think, by the way André used his upper body. More and more I saw that his beautiful port de bra was a prime influence on George.

"As we worked, it become clear that the pas de deux was going to be very difficult […] George choreographed a step for me that was one of the most precarious I’d ever done. It was an off-center double turn, after which André would catch me by my wrist and place me in positions to do it again. I don’t think such an effect had ever been seen before […] It was a harrowing passage that terrified me."



Maria Tallchief & Nicholas Magallanes. Photo by Fred Fehl from Dance Magazine, April 1954

“One afternoon, as the day of the premiere approached, he [Mr. B] arrived unannounced in the studio where André and I were rehearsing. He wanted to see the progress we were making, and we showed him the pas de deux. He watched carefully with a smile on his face and never said a word. Finally, when we finished and he was getting ready to leave, he said, ‘You know, pas de deux must be like ballroom dancing. Very simple. Ballroom dancing.’

‘Ballroom dance?’ I rolled my eyes to André. 'George, ballroom dancing is a lot easier than this.’

‘Yes, but should be like that.’

‘Ballroom dancing, indeed,’ I uttered aloud. […] But just as he was walking out the door, what he meant suddenly hit me in a flash. Above all, he wanted us to be serene and joyful, as if we were having a good time."



"The day of the opening, the company rehearsed until the last minute, and everyone was distraught because our costumes hadn’t arrived in time for the final dress. We’d be wearing them for the first time at the premiere that night! Only George remained calm.

"Then, suddenly, Nicky and I were on, and we began dancing to this quiet but very grand music. The entree went well, and the adagio finished as I jumped into his arms. The audience started to shout and scream. The reaction was deafening, a true ovation. George had made magic again. He had created a monument to the joy of childhood and family life, and to the beauty of music and dancing.”

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