Magazine article Pointe

Fade-In: THe Suzanne Farrell Ballet Becomes a Company

Magazine article Pointe

Fade-In: THe Suzanne Farrell Ballet Becomes a Company

Article excerpt

After two highprofile "tryouts," Kennedy Center is ready to back this winner.

When Suzanne Farrell danced. watching her was an exhilarating experience. In the years since she retired the exhilaration continued through the dancers she coached in stagings of Balanchine works for the Balanchine Trust and in the two previous Kennedy Center-sponsored projects. Farrell's association with the Kennedy Center actually began in 1993 with the yearly "Exploring Ballet With Suzanne Farrell," a three-week summer intensive open to students from around the country. In 1999, Farrell hand-picked a group of dancers for a program with the cumbersome title "Suzanne Farrell Stages Masters of the 21 st Century;" for last year's Balanchine Festival, the operating name became The Suzanne Farrell Ballet.

This year, Kennedy Center has decided to take the plunge and fund The Suzanne Farrell Ballet as a company. "The work has been so successful to date," says Kennedy Center President Michael Kaiser, "it struck me that, if we're going to do this, we're going to have to invest in it. We need to have dancers rehearsing and performing enough that they really can build their knowledge of the work and a rapport with the artistic director."

"We're starting small," says Farrell. "At this point in time when so many bigger companies are downsizing and having budget deficits, it's amazing that anyone is starting a company and surviving." Last spring, auditions were held around the country to select 28 dancers; in addition, two students from the 2001 summer intensive are working with the company as apprentices. The dancers are signed for an 8-1/2-week contract. "But," Kaiser is quick to add, "We're talking about a variety of options to see how the company can develop."

Farrell continues to draw on her personal experience, scheduling ballets by Balanchine, Robbins and Bejart. This year she will present Balanchine's Scotch Symphony, Duo Concertant, la Sonnambulla, Monumentum Pro Gesualdo, Movements for Piano and Orchestra and Slaughter on Tenth Avenue. Robbins will be represented by Afternoon of a Faun and Bejart by Bolero. There is also a Bejart commission in the future and, like more than one ballet company, a new work by Paul Taylor. Though Farrell has created short ballets for her summer intensive programs, right now she has no plans to choreograph for her company. "I'm not a frustrated cheoreographer," she

says. "Maybe down the line it's possible, but it's not absolutely necessary."

Kennedy Center has moved into self-producing "world class" projects, but why turn to Farrell for a ballet company? To Kaiser, it seems like a natural outgrowth of the work she had been doing with the education department. And for Farrell? "I'm doing it for ballet," she says. "Mr. Balanchine enters into it because he was such a big part of my life. I have all that knowledge that I learned from him and the ballets that he did for me, but there's also me, what I've learned and what I've discovered. That's what a legacy is-you tack on some of yourself, and you pass that on to someone else."

But for Farrell, "doing it for ballet" means tending to her legacy as well as bringing back the excitement of going to the ballet. She thinks that dancers are better today and that audiences are more knowledgeable, but that something is missing. "It seems to me that now audiences sit there judging," she says. 'What I want is that your performance is so exciting that they're on the edge of their seats and participating instead of scrutinizing. …

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