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Behind Ballet Austin

Famous Partnership: Suzanne Farrell and George Balanchine

February 23rd, 2010
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Image via our friends at thewinger.com

By Marlys Norman, Ballet Austin Trainee

In such a passionate and difficult art form like ballet, forming strong bonds with the people you dance with is almost inevitable. Just like the friends you have made since starting ballet, professional dancers do the same thing with their fellow company members and dancing partners. The connection between Suzanne Farrell and George Balanchine began as any other partnership may have, but quickly developed into something bigger; something that we now consider one of the ‘great’ partnerships in dance history.

Suzanne Farrell was born in 1945 and moved to New York City when she was 15 to pursue a career in ballet. She was given a full scholarship to the School of American Ballet (George Balanchine’s ballet academy that feeds directly into his adjoining company, the New York City Ballet, or NYCB). George Balanchine himself handpicked Suzanne Farrell for NYCB when she was only 16, after one year at SAB. Her unique combination of musical, physical, and dramatic qualities is said to be what caught his eye, and of course her balletic frame and ethereal beauty. All of these characteristics inspired something in Balanchine’s choreographic imagination.

When using Suzanne in choreography, Balanchine was blown away by what she could do with her body and with ballet. She was not limited by classical ballet technique, but instead, used her strength and knowledge to interpret Balanchine’s ideas into physical form. He invented countless ballets for Suzanne that introduced completely new movements never before seen in the world of ballet. Suzanne was said to be his muse, inspiring him to push the limits of classical technique. Some of these works include Diamonds, Mozartiana, Apollo, and her most famous role of ‘Kitri’ in Balanchine’s version of Don Quixote.

After a long and successful career with NYCB, Farrell left the company, leaving her great partnership with Balanchine behind. She went on to dance for another nearly two decades while Balanchine lived out the rest of his days in New York City. After his death, she was made a repititeur for the George Balanchine Trust, an organization that nominates heirs to his ballets in order to ensure they are maintained the way Balanchine intended.

In this way, the great partnership of Suzanne Farrell and George Balanchine still lives on through his ballets, the way it all began.

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