Summer (Ballet) Love

Midsummer Night's Dream Clara's Coffee Break
Image by Rachel Hellwig.

Great commentary on the wedding divertissement pas de deux from Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

“In this midst of all this prettiness lies a pas de deux of startling transparency. A man and a woman travel across the stage with excruciating slowness, executing the choreographic equivalent of a melody sustained on a single breath. He partners her with the lightest of touches as she turns slowly, lowering and raising one leg; or he lifts her so that she travels – or rather floats – backward through space. At one point, they glide in a diagonal, their arms gently pushing one against the other as if to propel each other forward. Every image adds up to the same idea: eternity, balance, trust.”

– Marina Harss, May 29, 2016, “New York City Ballet – Midsummer Night’s Dream

“Balanchine demonstrates the ideal of Romantic love: two anonymous dancers at the wedding divertissement dance to Mendelssohn’s string symphony No. 9. The music is high, sweet and tender; the dance seems timeless, and suspended. The opposite of the “Pyramus and Thisbe” amateur-dramatic show that Shakespeare provides at this stage in the drama, it floats above the ballet’s plot like the moon”

– Alastair Macaulay, May 23, 2016, “Love Two Ways: Ashton and Balanchine on Romance

Quote on Emeralds

“For all its beauty and hazy, mysterious texture, Faure’s music […] wafts a melancholy perfume. At the end of “Emeralds,” four women leave and three men drop to a knee, nobly seeking a love that eludes them. […]

“Emeralds” uses Faure’s incidental music for plays, “Pelleas and Melisande” and the “Shylock” music for “The Merchant of Venice.” A dramatic thrust emerges from the apparently misty sound. The legend of Pelleas and Melisande – doomed lovers – is a clue to the unattainable happiness Balanchine’s cavaliers seek at the close. […] In “Emeralds,” he gave us the most unreal of his ballets.”

– Anna Kisselgoff, “Dance; Degas, Faure, and French Romanticism

Emeralds Degas 1
Adapted from Wikimedia Commons Public Domain Image.

Quote on Swan Lake

“The poetic core of Swan Lake is the act two pas de deux, that perfect lost-in-the-forest encounter in which Odette and Siegfried unfold the secrets of their hearts to the exquisite dialogue of Tchaikovsky’s cello and violin. It’s this duet that defines the tone of the entire stage, and establishes the audience’s relationship with it.”

– Judith Mackrell, English National Ballet: Swan Lake – review, The Guardian, June 13, 2013