March 8, 2016
Today, I found a YouTube Channel that posts various archival footage of Balanchine’s ballets, and the first thing I searched for was “Theme And Variations.” That infamous opening variation the principal female ballerina must perform in front of her corps, including blurs of chaines that change direction on a dime, has always fascinated me, and I had not seen it in a long time.
Much to my surprise and delight, the version I found stars one of my favorite ballet couples of all time: Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov.
These two dancers had chemistry, I know that. It is obvious. However, what may not be so obvious to the untrained eye is the exquisite amount of DETAIL these dancers – Gelsey in particular – put into each and every step, every breath, every moment of their dancing. Her timing is impeccable. She melts into a plie only to slice through a tendu with razor-sharp wit! She is equally elegant and spritely, regal and coquettish, strong and supple. She is, in a word, brilliant.
Below is the video – I believe this to be one of the truly great performances of Balanchine’s ballet – more on that topic later. Suffice it to say, the more I watch his work, the more I realize just how profound an impact Mr. B. had on my grooming as a ballet dancer.