On Screen: Balanchine in America Part 1

March 4, 2013

They are hidden in what looks like Russian, but this is the Dance in America series with choreography by Balanchine. This segment has Tzigane, Divertimento No. 15 and The Four Temperaments with stellar casts.


Off Stage: New York Story

April 3, 2010

Choreographer Jerome Robbins’ most famous work is “West Side Story.” But his connection with New York City can go beyond that neighborhood, as the PBS series, Dance in America, proves with “NY Export: Opus Jazz,” set to air on WQED Easter Sunday at 3 p.m.

This “ballet in sneakers” was created for Robbins’ own short-lived company, Ballet U.S.A., at its debut in Spoleto in 1958. Although he would recreate “NY Export” for other companies, he never transferred it to his own home turf at the New York City Ballet before his death in 1998. The company did that in 2005.

Two of the dancers from that production, NYCB soloists Ellen Bar and Sean Suozzi, didn’t want to let the Robbins ballet disintegrate once again and thought it could play out on film with locations in and around New York like Coney Island. The result is nothing short of poetic. It is a ballet about the alienation of youth, like “West Side Story.” But this one alludes more to the beatnik culture, more “hip” and “groovy,” with emotions that glimmer beneath the surface.

It seems inspired by the cinematic genius of Robbins’ “West Side Story” film. The prelude is a tribute to the sights and sounds of New York. Like the initial zoom onto a playground in the original, this “Opus” gathers shots of young people, all, of course, ethereally beautiful creatures of NYCB.

When Robert Prince’s ultra-stylish jazz beat eases in, they’re in a swimming pool. It’s a look back at a simpler and decidedly more naive time. Limpid arms. Step ball change. Head rolls. Given those elements, it could have been dry, a historic rendering.

But “NY Export” is a lovingly-filmed postcard of New York, from Coney Island to the High Line, where Rachel Rutherford and Craig Hall perform a languid duet (a la “Maria”) on the tracks. In the end, “NY Export” takes on a timeless quality because the dancers dress in casual tee shirts and denims. And it reacquaints us with a ballet master who, in his own right, was the epitome of cool.

If you don’t have TiVo, here’s a taste…


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