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NYCB Vol. 8 No. 21 - Serenade

Updated: Apr 4

“Serenade is like a labyrinth Balanchine has constructed to guide us, gently, but with no recourse but to proceed.”

—Toni Bentley in Serenade: A Balanchine Story (affiliate link)

I thought this was interesting, almost like Balanchine developed an obstacle course that would test different strengths and propose different challenges so that dancers, by the time they have learned, rehearsed, and performed the ballet, have achieved a certain level of skill, have completed that level, and are ready to take on more work in the repertory. Even without Balanchine alive to train current dancers, the “labyrinth” he created, continues to do its job, teaching, strengthening, and challenging the dancers who pass through it.

Photos by Martha Swope, 1981. (During Tchaikovsky Festival)


"I knew and loved Tchaikovsky‘s Serenade ever since I was a child. I always wanted to stage it. And it turned out to be my first ballet in America. I hadn’t planned it, it just happened that way. I just wanted to do the Serenade, so I did. Besides, we didn’t have a real orchestra then, only a small one. And Serenade could be played by a small group. After we did Serenade, it became popular here. That happened with many of Tchaikovsky‘s compositions.

“When I was doing Serenade, Tchaikovsky encouraged me. Almost the whole Serenade is done with his help. […] If it’s not going well, I asked Tchaikovsky, “please!“ I never saw a Tchaikovsky, but I turned to him. I’ve never spoken about this. It’s awkward to speak about. But alone, without Tchaikovsky‘s help, I would not have managed. I couldn’t do it alone; I’m not smart enough for it."

Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky by Solomon Volkov (affiliate link)

Melissa Hayden, Nicholas Magallanes, Maria Tallchief. Photo by Baron.


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