Suzanne Farrell's Notes from the Ballet
Dear ballet lovers -
Here you will find my ongoing thoughts and observations on ballet performances taking place at the Kennedy Center. I hope you enjoy them!
Artistic Advisor for Kennedy Center Ballet and Artistic Director of the Kennedy Center's own ballet company, The Suzanne Farrell BalletFull Bio
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Ballet Across America III and the Summer Ahead
When I was growing up in 1950s Cincinnati and eager to be a professional dancer, the only major ballet companies in the United States I was aware of were New York City Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and the corps de ballet at Radio City Music Hall—all three based in Manhattan. There were no dance camps, only a barre in your basement. There was no Cincinnati Ballet, though there was Cincinnati Opera every summer in a pavilion at the zoo. That's where I received much of my early experience, thrilled to be a part of dance sequences in such operas as Aida, Carmen, La traviata, and Manon.
Nowadays, most major American cities have a ballet company to call their own, a fact celebrated by the Kennedy Center's Ballet Across America series, returning for a third time this June. Over one week, nine ballet companies from all regions of the country will perform signature works across three different programs. Not only is this a unique opportunity for audiences, it also means young people who aspire to dance have an abundance of choices and opportunities today, in terms of where they hope to train, perform, and shine.
Most of the ballet companies featured in next month's showcase came into existence in the '60s, '70s, and '80s. For example, Boston Ballet and Pennsylvania Ballet (which are both performing a Balanchine work during the event) sprang to life in 1963. And Dance Theatre of Harlem was formed in 1969 by one of my former City Ballet dance partners, Arthur Mitchell.
Meanwhile, Sarasota Ballet (who partnered with The Suzanne Farrell Ballet for Balanchine's Diamonds two seasons ago) began in 1990, while Ballet Austin (who partnered with us for Balanchine's Episodes in 2008) got its start in 1956. The ballet world continues to expand—and yet with all of these connections, how intimate it sometimes still feels, too!
Several of the young dancers I've taught over the years have also come from these companies' academies. When working with ballet students, I tell them it's important to seek out a company where they're likely to perform often. In some cases, this could mean joining a smaller company that puts them on stage perhaps in leading roles. These are some of the most formative years of their careers, so they should spend them dancing, not observing others from the wings.
For Ballet Across America III, I welcome you to read my Notes from a few seasons ago on two Balanchine works that will be featured during the showcase: Symphony in Three Movements, to be performed by Boston Ballet on June 4 and 5, and The Four Temperaments, to be performed by Pennsylvania Ballet on June 6 and 8.
Speaking of Balanchine, I recently toured the Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes free exhibit at the National Gallery of Art, which just opened a couple of weeks ago. I was inspired by all of the opulent costumes, photographs, posters, stage design sketches, and other historical artifacts on display there—some of which are a reminder of Balanchine's choreographic contributions to Diaghilev and his company as its ballet master. It was a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
The upcoming summer holds many great opportunities in the arts, and I hope you take advantage of them all. For me, that means heading to my remote island in upstate New York to lead my annual summer program for young ballerina students, followed by the 21st year of my summer intensive Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell for young dancers at the Kennedy Center. But I'll be back in the fall with my company's 13th season of performances—and many more stories to tell!
The Kennedy Center's Ballet Season is presented with the support of Elizabeth and Michael Kojaian.
Generous support for The Suzanne Farrell Ballet is provided by The Ted & Mary Jo Shen Charitable Gift Fund, Emily Williams Kelly, and The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation.