Barbara Walczak has written something pertinent and important, and I’m going to serialize it here!
“Balanchine in his own inscrutable, succinct way, would have simply stated what I am about to spend pages describing: ‘Imagine that you have bought the most perfect turkey, made delicious stuffing, rubbed and patted it to perfection and finally placed it in the oven. For that turkey to be soft, moist, and delicious, you must baste it with oil and wine every 15minutes, otherwise it will be dry and brittle.’
“To illustrate this concept, I am going back to the first rehearsal of Divertimento No. 15 in the fall 1959 season. It was evening at the studios on Broadway between 82nd and 83rd. I was in the second cast (second variation). The dancers were Allegra Kent, Melissa Hayden, Violette Verdy, Diana Adams, and Patricia Wilde, who were all wonderful. They started from the beginning of the ballet and Balanchine stopped them at the end of the first movement. He proceeded to go over each step. What has stayed with me all these years is what he did with the few steps at the beginning of the section, in which all five lead women danced together. It begins with a pique to toe in croise on the right foot, with the left foot in passe. He had the dancers step farther forward, sharply, with a jut of the hips forward, followed by a pas de basque with the legs stretched forward in a sharp pointed position. Then pique on the left foot followed by another pas de basque to the left, then a very large pique in croise with a fast developpe with the left leg through fourth arabesque croise. The last movement was to be long and elastic, falling back off toe with the legs so stretched that one is almost falling behind the music. Quickly, came up on a coupe into a sharp, fast pas de chat. When Balanchine had finished the entire movement the dancers danced it again. It was as if all the lights had come on, the steps echoed the music, the movements projected out into the audience. In short, it was alive. What had technically been very good,, became theatre.”