WALCZAK, PT. 2

“The problem that we have today is how to achieve these results without Balanchine being here. I believe that in trying to be on the beat, precise, fast, and perfect, we may losing the juice, the entirety of a given movement. I’m not asking that we go back to past generations except to find the essence of a given movement. We know that the bodies were different, the legs did not go as high, the line was not as perfect, etc. However, it is good to know that in Ballet Imperial at the end of the first movement the dancers do sissone developpe with the right leg, coupe back and balloon side with the left foot closing fifth position back, and assemble from with the right foot. At this point both Marie Jeanne and dGisella Caccialanza would do entrechat huit. Toward the end of the ballet when the dancers cross the stage from side to side, today’s ballerinas do fouett├ęs, but Marie-Jeanne did chases to the right side of the stage and double shut de basque and four hops with the left foot up in attitude front doing one revolution. Starting with the right foot she performed the chase shut de Basque to the other side of the stage. This said, the technique of the dancers today far exceeds that of previous dancers, and their bodies and Ines come closest to what Balanchine always wanted.

“I think that all of us who were lucky to dance with Marie-Jeanne were aware of a God-given presence and artistry. She was one of a kind. By today’s standards, her body was perfect. She had a square neck and square torso, but her legs were long and beautiful. She did not have big insteps; instead her legs went into her feet like a stiletto. Her hands and feet were big, and she knew how to use them. Her dancing was indescribable. This leads me to Concerto Barocco.

“I was in the corps de ballet when I was first danced by City Ballet in 1948. The backdrop was gray and black and white It depicted huge waves tumbling over each other. The costumes were black fishnet bodices over a medium blue with small skirts made of rubber molds shaped like waves. The headpieces were also small rubber waves, and which really smelled when you perspired! The tight were black fishnet. Apparently, Mr. B and Eugene Berman had oceans and waves in mind. Dancing Concerto Barocco, I could feel that the choreography covered all aspects of the ocean, from huge pounding waves, to tiny ripples of water.

“The steps were taught to us by Marie-Jeanne in the small studio of the School of American Ballet on Madison Avenue. Many of the steps echoed what the lead dancers were doing. As she demonstrated, I became aware that she was a dancer who could do the fastest steps with great precision, no matter how fast the tempo. One could imagine a panther moving with great speed. It is never staccato, it ripples and bends, and lands softly on great paws. This is what is missing in Concerto Barocco today. Balanchine did not want sewing machine needles moving up and down as fast as possible. His movements must have juice, light and shade, moments both on and off balance. And it all must be done without losing precision.

“An example is the series of steps in the third movement in which the dancers hop up and down on toe in fifth position, and then open to tendu side, with the arm opening above the leg. No matter how quickly this is done, the tendu must be held a split second longer than the hops As Balanchine would say, ‘Show the tendu.’ The dancer then catches up on the next series of hops. This picture makes all the difference in the quality of the movement.”

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