Ballet West Pays Tribute To Master Choreographer George Balanchine With "Balanchine's America"

SALT LAKE CITY – March 1, 2010Ballet West celebrates 20th Century master choreographer George Balanchine, April 9, 10 and 14-17 at the Capitol Theatre with “Balanchine’s America,” a triple-bill of the great choreographer’s works – each one intimately linked to America. The program includes the Ballet West premiere of Agon, set to the music of Igor Stravinsky; his windswept Serenade, set to Tchaikovsky’s glorious score; and Stars & Stripes - Balanchine’s American salute to the marches of John Philip Souza.  

“Ballet West has a long association with the works of George Balanchine, and I am excited to celebrate this history and introduce our audiences to more new works by arguably the greatest choreographer of the 20th century,” said Ballet West Artistic Director Adam Sklute.

Opening the program is Serenade, the first ballet Balanchine created in the United States. Balanchine’s moonlit, windswept masterpiece is set to Tchaikovsky’s superb Serenade for Strings. Originating as a lesson in stage technique, Balanchine worked unexpected rehearsal events into the choreography. When one student fell, he incorporated it. Another day, a student arrived late, and this too became part of the ballet.  Filled with drama and passion, this wondrous work tells no story and many stories at the same time.

In June 2008, Ballet West had the privilege of performing Serenade at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. The Ballet West dancers were praised for their dancing, artistry, glamour and their height, which was noted to be as tall, majestic and inspiring as the mountain ranges of Utah. Of Ballet West’s performance, New York Times critic Alastair Macaulay wrote, “’Serenade' shone through enough for you to lose yourself in its kaleidoscope of classical patterns and romantic dramas.” Sarah Kaufman of The Washington Post remarked, “It was a clean, honest production. The dancers…had a highly physical presence that lent 'Serenade' a hint of glamour.”

The program continues with the Utah premiere of Agon, the Greek word for contest. Featuring a score by Igor Stravinsky who based his music on early 17th century French court dances. Balanchine and Stravinsky together designed the structure of the ballet.

“The terse angularity of Stravinsky’s genius score was commissioned here in America in the late 1950’s,” said Ballet West Artistic Director Adam Sklute. “Paired with Balanchine’s chic neoclassical choreography, it epitomizes the glamour, strength and energy of America ballet dancers.”

The program concludes with Stars & Stripes, a work that Ballet West last performed nearly 30 years ago – in 1981.  For all its exuberant patriotic touches, Stars and Stripes contains as much pure classical dancing from start to finish.

“I’m looking forward to reviving Balanchine’s spectacular and rousing ‘Stars and Stripes,’” said Sklute.  “This work was created during a time of sheer optimism when his vision of classical ballet in America was truly coming into its own.”

Stars & Stripes is divided into five "campaigns," each of which uses different Sousa themes. The fourth campaign is a pas de deux, variations and coda set to the "Liberty Bell" and "El Capitan" marches. When asked why he chose to choreograph a ballet to Sousa's marches, Balanchine replied: "Because I like his music."

The performances of Balanchine’s America will be accompanied by the Utah Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Terence Kern. Evening performances April 9, 10 and 14-17 begin at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee on April 17 at 2:00 p.m.  Tickets range from $18 to $72. Single tickets are available through ArtTix at www.arttix.org, at any ArtTix Ticket Office, or by calling (801) 355-ARTS. Discounts are also available for groups of 15 or more by calling Ballet West, (801) 869-6900.

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