BALANCHINE'S MOZARTIANA: The Making of a Masterpiece by Robert & Valerie Brooks Maiorano

BALANCHINE'S MOZARTIANA: The Making of a Masterpiece

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In the spring of 1981, about a year before the onset of his final illness, George Balanchine choreographed his last major work, a new ballet for music he had used several times before: Tchaikovsky's Mozartiana, to be part of that year's Tchaikovsky Festival at the New York City Ballet. Maiorano, a longtime City Ballet dancer, was allowed to observe the choreographer at work--and here, in collaboration with writer Brooks, is ""simply what I saw and sensed after leaving each rehearsal."" The ballet, featuring lb Andersen and superstar Suzanne Farrell (Balanchine's favorite, most queenly ballerina), is a series of variations--solos, duets, ensembles involving the corps (including a quartet of little girls). Balanchine is seen developing each section: demonstrating or describing the steps he wants (often tricky variations of familiar moves); always paying close, intense attention to the music itself; working loosely but steadily, with a mixture of clearly planned ideas and playful, on-the-spot improvisation. Later, there are costume-fittings (Balanchine wants virtually everything changed) and onstage lighting-design sessions (Lincoln Kirstein joins the discussion). And, throughout, bits of Balanchine conversation are recorded--laments for faded traditions, tributes to favorite composers, whimsical bits of imagery--while occasional moments reflect the special Balanchine/Farrell relationship. (They ""leave together with her supporting him around the waist. He drapes his arm over her shoulder and rests his head."") Unfortunately, however, the Maiorano/Brooks narrative is uninspired at best--never achieving the you-are there immediacy of a good New Yorker profile (cf. Bernard Taper), frequently lapsing into bland or fatuous journalese. (""He basks in her wit, beauty and ease. . . Andersen dances the performance of his life. . . In one hour Balanchine has made a whirling crystal filled with tenderness and passion."") And the ballet itself is more vividly evoked in Arlene Croce's four-page review in Going to the Dance (1982) than in the moment-by-moment descriptions here. Still: a valuable record of Balanchine-at-work--especially for those already familiar with Mozartiana.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1984
Publisher: Freundlich--dist. by Scribners