Dancing Into The Sunset

PBS replayed a documentary following the NYC ballet as it visited Russia to honor their founder, George Balanchine. They are odd ducks, these dedicated dancers. The camera followed them as they explored the Russia Balanchine knew, walking with an unself-conscious, exquisite gait. It sounds funny, but you realize watching them walk how much walking is itself an athletic movement and how poorly most people do it.

The dancers are more disciplined and athletic than any professional athlete; they come out of long tradition – the aura of art and the theater inhabits their world. Balanchine was a genius and the NYC ballet his gem. Even to a non-specialist like myself, they were distinctly better than anyone else.

In this article we learn that this institution, the NYC Ballet, that always seemed so well funded and secure, has had to layoff 11 dancers from their corps de ballet. These are the great dancers you see behind the principals, the stars. And the corps for the NYC Ballet are great. Balanchine’s pieces are so precise and demanding that much was required, and if anything went wrong, like a missed note in a Bach cascade of music, it glared.

One dancer who was let go said,

“I’ve seen so many dancers come and go…Everyone is expendable. Even principal dancers are replaceable. It’s all about the system, the end product.”

This is beginning to sound eerily familiar.