Magazine article The New Yorker

A Comeback

Magazine article The New Yorker

A Comeback

Article excerpt

A Comeback

Suzanne Farrell talks about restaging "Gounod Symphony."

In late 1956, George Balanchine was leading his New York City Ballet on a European tour when his wife, Tanaquil Le Clercq, was diagnosed with polio. "God will help us, I believe," Balanchine wrote to the company's general manager, Betty Cage. His prayer was not answered. Le Clercq, twenty-seven years old, was paralyzed in both legs. At the time, she was the only one of Balanchine's ballerinas who was trained from the beginning in his style, and it was on her, his friends said, that he had pinned his highest hopes. He left the company to care for her. There were rumors that he would never come back, either to N.Y.C.B. or to ballet.

Then, a year later, he returned, and in the span of ten weeks he created four monumental ballets. Three of them are now considered definitive of his style: "Square Dance," "Agon," and "Stars and Stripes." And the fourth, "Gounod Symphony" (1958)? It, too, maybe even more than the others, marked out a path that he would follow in the future. Staffed with thirty-two dancers, it contained what may have been the most elaborate, intricate, and beautiful ensemble choreography ever seen in a ballet. The corps forms "X"s, which turn into asterisks, which turn into what looks like cell division, and then that turns into something else. You can't believe your eyes. But "Gounod" was a harder sell than the others. This may have been because the big pas de deux is not notably engaging. The man and the woman seem to be not so much in love as maybe just dating. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.