Reine Duell Bethany - Author and Illustrator
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Balanchine-related posts

Balanchine and the Fight for the Arts

A 2011 report on the National Education Association website (http://www.nea.org/home/48907.htm) details the devastating effects of state budget cuts on school services and curriculums -- not least being cuts to the arts, especially in lower-income schools. A Jan. 21, 2015 news release (http://www.nea.org/home/61627.htm) describes the efforts of educators across the country to delete the No Child Left Behind testing mandates, which cause a month of school learning time to be lost to administering 2.

Reopening the World through Balanchine

MY life is expanding in a different direction from dance. This new direction is god and right and meant to be. I'm a gifted writing teacher, I have discovered, and my desire to learn more and more about teaching writing will, eventually, work together with my desire to help children stay out of gangs. I am keenly aware that what happens in school may have direct influence on the temptation to join a gang. Also, I am keenly aware that the early stages of learning to read and write have enormous influence on how children handle schoolwork, and whether they attach a sense of failure or success to scholastic endeavors.

Balanchine the Career Creator

Before writing my biography of Balanchine, I thought of him in terms of dance. That's logical enough. I was a dancer. I danced Balanchine ballets when I was with the Dayton Ballet Company. I watched my brothers, Daniel and Joseph Duell, perform Balanchine works when they were principals with the New York City Ballet. My brother Dan has produced superb Balanchine programs in connection with his and his wife Patricia Blair's School of Ballet Chicago; in fact, Dan and Patricia celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of their Chicago work with an all-Balanchine program this past May (2013).

Real Suspense: Continuing Creation

Balanchine inspires me daily not only because of his genius and his persistence, but because he understood the necessity of constantly producing.
          He told Jerome Robbins to just keep making ballets, and now and then one of them would be a masterpiece. In other words, don't stop producing at any time for any reason. Don't worry about whether the next piece will be great. Get out there and create.
          Creating a new ballet is risky.

Balanchine's Only "Never"

The one thing George Balanchine would never do was give up.
          Becoming renowned throughout the performing arts world at age 24 didn't protect Balanchine from being out of a job at age 29. (Find out why in my book.)
          Becoming the toast of Broadway during the 1930s via such hits asOn Your ToesandI Married an Angeldidn't open doors to recognition in ballet  during the 1940s. Nor did it protect him from nasty treatment under the pens of ballet critics.

Balanchine vs. Bolshoi, Soviet ballet dancers, acid

On January 17 of this year, Bolshoi Ballet soloist Pavel Dmitrichenko arranged a physical attack on Sergei Filin, artistic director -- out of resentment. Result: the thug who took Dmitrichenko's money and did the deed exceeded expectations: he critically burned Filin's face, eyes, and neck with concentrated sulfuric acid.
 
Criminal vengeance? In a ballet company?
 
Such acts as Dimitrencho's are not merely impulsive. They are spawned in a climate. Within the climate of the Bolshoi Ballet, rivalry is extremely intense.

Two men who preceded Nike -- Balanchine and Stravinsky

Long before Nike developed its famous slogan, Balanchine and Stravinsky were already just doing it -- producing their art, not for wealth (neither was ever wealthy), but because they established their artistic identities and had the discipline to continue developing those identities until they died.

Alastair Macaulay's 14 Feb. 2013 review of Pacific Northwest Ballet at City Center is a powerful witness to the human need for artistic vision. The discussion generated by one evening's presentation of three Balanchine ballets (Apollo, Concerto Barocco, and Agon) shows how comprehensive the combined artistry of Stravinsky and Blanchine was.

like Balanchine, like God

Balanchine knew he wasn't God. When people complimented him on his creativity, all his life, he would immediately say, "God creates. I only assemble." But his assembly is reminiscent of what God creates because it is so full of unexplainable symmetries and constantly unifying encounters amid endless variation -- many of these marvels happening all at once. Just as we don't see all the details of a rose, but see only that it is heartbreakingly beautiful, we don't see the fluid intricacies of Balanchine's dances. We only know that something wonderful is happening and we wish we could see it again and again.

Balanchine's Nutcracker is still winning!

Balanchine resisted making a grand story ballet because his was the heart of an inventor -- always finding a new frontier in the range of ideas that could be encompassed by ballet. Creating Nutcracker was a concession to the City Center board of directors, who wanted NYCB every now and then to do a piece geared to popular taste. Balanchine understood, with generosity, that a public has a range of preferences. His Nutcracker awakened every possible yearning of the soul for people of all ages: the yearning for life's magical touches, for comfort when someone hurts us, for protection, for romance, and for personal effectiveness. So a young girl, falling asleep after a Christmas party in which her marvelous Nutcracker toy is broken by her envious brother, enters a wonder-filled living dream. She is defended from harm by a heroic Nutcracker, yet she provides the key act that enables her hero to defeat their mortal enemy. Their reward for their courage is a land of enchantment that they will live in, together, forever. Glorious spare-no-expense sets and costumes, family life with its joys and frustrations, gifts beyond imagining, and beauty embodied by brilliant dancers and choreography --  no wonder Nutcracker keeps going strong not only at New York City Ballet, but in countless productions wherever there are ballet dancers.

More than just a remarkable choreographer

Balanchine was The Man. What I have learned from him just by doing his biography could fill another book.
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