The Kennedy Center

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet - 2015

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet: Balanchine, Béjart, and the Bard

Friday, October 30, 2015 - Sunday, November 1, 2015


The company adds Balanchine's Walpurgisnacht Ballet and Emeralds to its pantheon of classics--plus brings back favorite pas de deux by Balanchine and Béjart marking the 400th anniversary season of Shakespeare's death.

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Suzanne Farrell, Artistic Director


A program featuring:
Walpurgisnacht Ballet (Gounod/Balanchine) COMPANY PREMIERE
A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act II pas de deux (Mendelssohn/Balanchine)
Scène d'amour from Romeo and Juliet (Berlioz/Béjart)
Emeralds (Fauré/Balanchine) COMPANY PREMIERE

with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra
Scott Speck, conductor
"One of America's most valuable companies"
--The New York Times

Suzanne Farrell "has found a way to give us something new… and to offer us fresh perspectives on [Balanchine's] genius."

--The Washington Post
With nearly 70 works in its repertoire, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, led by George Balanchine's most celebrated muse, launches the new Kennedy Center ballet season with a program featuring two company premieres, along with two nods to Shakespeare from the company's pantheon of classics to mark the 400th anniversary season of the Bard's death.

Walpurgisnacht Ballet
, for 25 dancers, features choreography that Balanchine originally created for Charles Gounod's opera Faust. In 1980, he premiered the dancing as an independent ballet with Suzanne Farrell and Adam Lüders as the principal couple. The work evokes the joyful revelry from the opera's final act--depicting a traditional folk celebration on the eve of May Day--and culminates with its ballerinas whirling across the stage at breakneck speed. In her autobiography Holding on to the Air, Ms. Farrell recalls, "This was definitely the world according to Balanchine, and while Faust's story was absent, the music retained its wonderful, raucous atmosphere. By the end, with the whole cast on stage, hair and legs loose and flying, the drama was inescapable."

The Act II pas de deux from Balanchine's 1962 classic A Midsummer Night's Dream, inspired by Shakespeare's romantic comedy, is the central divertissement for the ballet's grand triple wedding. Ms. Farrell danced it with New York City Ballet, and she added it to The Suzanne Farrell Ballet's repertory in 2010. In her Notes from the Ballet, she says the pas de deux is "spellbinding in its simplicity, bringing love's true form into focus. The music is Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 9, which is very tranquil and hushed--we only hear strings. Balanchine's choreography reflects this. It's as if they're dancing on clouds, and the couple remains in physical contact nearly the entire time. The intensity of being so close can be felt in the tautness of Mendelssohn's violins. It's harmonious, beautiful, complete." 

Ms. Farrell began portraying Juliet in Maurice Béjart's acclaimed 1966 production of Romeo and Juliet soon after joining his company Ballet du XXe Siècle in 1970. She added the scène d'amour--the traditional balcony scene that Béjart turned into an extended pas de deux--to her own company's repertory for 2007's Shakespeare in Washington festival. In her Notes from the Ballet, Ms. Farrell says, "Romeo and Juliet's feelings for each other ignite, burn bright, and ultimately crystallize as they dance. Béjart not only explores the euphoric potential of their love with his passionate partnering style, he portends the terrible harm their union will bring about. Further increasing the ill-fated mood of the scene is Hector Berlioz's score, which shifts from loving and dreamlike to more ominous and discordant."

Balanchine's Emeralds, the opening ballet from his "marvelously entertaining" (The New York Times) 1967 three-act masterpiece Jewels, is danced to the quiet, moving strains of music from Gabriel Fauré's Pelléas et Mélisande and Shylock. Balanchine considered this work for 17 dancers "an evocation of France--the France of elegance, comfort, dress, perfume." Ms. Farrell adds, "Each of the three sections in Jewels makes a statement about a very specific style of walking; Emeralds has a low, delicate walk marked by a slow, underwater weightiness. After its premiere, Mr. B eventually added another pas de deux for the first ballerina and a pas de sept at the end, bringing together the lead dancers once more to reiterate the walking motif and summarize the mesmerizing mood of the piece."

Performance Timing: Part One - 17 min.; Intermission - 20 min.; Part Two - 23 min.; Intermission - 20 min.; Part Three - 32 min.

Note: Suzanne Farrell will autograph her book Holding on to Air following the matinee performance on Sat., Oct. 31, in the Grand Foyer outside of the Opera House.

Watch and Listen

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet Snapshot: Melanie Riffee

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet Snapshot: Amber Neff

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet Snapshot: Kirk Henning

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet - Millennium Stage

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet Snapshot: Valerie Tellmann-Henning and Kirk Henning