Suzanne Farrell was one of George Balanchine’s last muses. He had a habit of finding some little quirky thing about his female dancers and then fixating on it- and them. Balanchine was a bit of a stalker in that regard. When he found something about the dancer he liked, he choreographed for her. It was almost always a her. Even Mikail Baryshnikov couldn’t get Balanchine to choreograph a piece for him, although it should be noted that Balanchine liked athletic male dancers. My first impressions of the NYCB was that the dancers were really elite athletes. There was nothing sissy about Edward Villela jumping defiantly with his fists over his head in Prodigal Son. And all of the female dancers defied the laws of gravity, extension and precision. They were grace with muscles of steel.
So, anyway, Farrell got on George’s obsession list. He loved her. No, literally, he LOVED her. He married several of his ballerinas but Farrell played hard to get. She had no problems making love to him in dance but she wasn’t going to sleep with him. The more he worshipped her and the more beautiful the dance they made together, the more insistent he got. Finally, Farrell married soloist Paul Mejia, and they escaped to France for a few years until Balanchine cooled his jets. A few years later, Farrell moved back to the NYCB and they picked up where they left off. George was a little more tempered by then. He did have other muses but Farrell seemed to read his thoughts like no other dancer. I think this is because she had a gifted musicality and Balanchine understood music like few other choreographers. His father was a composer and during the Russian Revolution when the ballet schools were closed, Balanchine made his living as a pianist. Balanchine’s musical choices for his non-story ballets brought out the conductor in him. His choreography picked out musical lines, his pairs became parts of fugues. You can almost see him waving a baton at them.
This ballet, Chaconne, showcases Balanchine and Farrell’s musicality beautifully, with Peter Martins dancing as Balanchine’s surrogate. Something about this ballet reminds me of the opening piece of Disney’s Fantasia, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, where each musical instrument appears to create waves of sound in colorful vibrations. It’s synesthetic. But there’s also a whimsical easter egg in it. It’s in part 2 at the 2:00 minute mark.
Peter Martins took over as artistic director of NYCB after Balanchine’s death. He’s been a faithful steward of the ballets but not necessarily a gifted choreographer. Martins is also a student of the Bournonville school of dance and some of this past life is still evident in the ease of his footwork and light jumping. He’s elegant, refined and buff as all get out.