Balanchine and New York City Ballet Golden Age

The culmination of the Ballets Russes and all previous incarnations of Balanchine companies is the period in which the most important muse-ballerinas appeared and had ballets made on them.

The period I call the Golden Age is the last portion of it, in the 50s, 60s, and 70s, because that is the period I know most about and can lead to information and products that derive from that period of choreography and performance.

I know still more about the 70s than the others because of having seen some of the greatest ballerinas and danseurs nobles in live performance at Lincoln Center. But it was called New York City Ballet while it was still housed at City Center. The Golden Age would have to include the most famous of the muses, Suzanne Farrell,

Suzanne Farrell with George Balanchine, the great choreographer of New York City Ballet in 1965

as well as Patricia McBride,

Mikhail Bayshnikov and Patricia McBride with the New York City Ballet, c. 1977.

Peter Martins
Peter Martins, who was Artistic Director of NYCB from 1983 to 2017, is shown here coaching Alexandra Ansanelli. He is also very famous for his performance of Balanchine’s ‘Apollo’.

among many (but still limited) others.

New York City Ballet is not considered to be in its ‘Golden Age’ after the death of Balanchine in 1983, and the subsequent decades with Peter Martins as Artistic Director and Choreographer. Once Martins left, it took a while to get new directors, around which is much anticipation, although it is too new to know for certain how favourable the results will be. Already some figures from the height of the late part of Balanchine’s career, like Suzanne Farrell herself, have been brought in by the current company’s directors, to coach dancers like Maria Kowroski in the great ballet ‘Diamonds’, made on her in the late 60s. This forms the final of three one-act ballets in the evening-long ‘Jewels’.
Suzanne Farrell at her youthful peak in the 60s.

Who can be seen on tape, dvd and youtube from this period?

There are sets of ‘Choreography by Balanchine’ that include extraordinary productions with Mikhail Baryshnikov, who stayed with the company a little more than a year, partnering the great Balanchine dancer Patricia McBride. This set has them in ‘Tchaikowky Pas de Deux’.

And there are also performances by Ms. Farrell as well, in her second period with the company, with Peter Martins in both ‘Diamonds’ and ‘Chaconne’. ‘Diamonds has music by Tchaikowsky from his 3rd Symphony and ‘Chaconne’ is danced to the music of Gluck.

Youtube has older performances, some even going back to the 40s, with earlier muses like Maria Tallchief and in the 50s Allegra Kent. I do not generally find YouTube to be good quality for watching ballet unless nothing else is available. By the 70s, there were good films of the important ballets of Balanchine available to the public. They look like live performances instead of being particularly ‘cinematic’, but they are filmed. Good quality can be found on DVD, or if you still have a VCR player, the tapes are also very good and can be purchased on eBay and other online markets.

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