Post by Principal Dancer Deanna Seay
The approach and passing of the New Year is an ever present reminder of the passage of time, as well as a reminder to get back to work. No sooner is Nutcracker over than we find ourselves hurtling towards Program II and some of Balanchine’s most deceptively difficult ballets. That the Company will return after the holiday break to perform Divertimento No. 15 is no small feat; Divertimento No. 15 is exacting and meticulous, an exercise not only in beautiful, clean technique but also in perfume, style and garden-party freshness. It should appear effortless and enjoyable, each ballerina displaying a distinct personality while exuding the joy of dancing. Valse Fantaisie (1953) is just as unforgiving as Divertimento No. 15, but where Divertimento requires porcelain perfect ballerinas, Valse needs dancers that fly about with the greatest of ease. The solo passages here move- sweep, rather- from one side of the stage to the other, filling the space with beautiful, full, bounding movement that never allows the dancers one moment of rest.
While I have been trying to tackle the challenges of one of the ballerina roles in Divertimento No. 15, my own special assignment for this program, recently added to Program II, is the pas de deux from “Diamonds.” Even though I have danced the role for ten years, it still continues to reveal its secrets to me. When I first approached this part, I tried to make myself into the dancer the role required- or at least the restrained, perfect dancer I thought was required. Originally created for Suzanne Farrell, there was not much that I could imitate, but I did my best to pretend that I might possibly be as perfect, mysterious and elusive as she must have been. Over time I realized that “Diamonds” is not about restraint or perfection in the least. Suzanne Farrell was known for her abandon, spontaneity, mystery and numerous other wonderful traits, and the perceived perfection she achieved in “Diamonds” came about because she was true to herself and her own way of moving.
When a dancer first looks at a role, it is impossible not to fantasize about how the role might look and the “things” a new dancer may want to “do” with a role. Looking at “Diamonds” now, though, after ten years, I realize that maybe it isn’t about what I want to “do” with a role. The role isn’t mine to shape, place a mark on, or to possess in any way; rather, I am the one who should be shaped and possessed by the role. I don’t mean to refer to my first approach, either, of becoming what I thought the role should be. To dance a Balanchine role is to serve the choreography and the music; to be chosen to present a role in one of his ballets is to be humbled by the responsibility of becoming the medium for which the role communicates with the audience. As dancers, we work to purify our “language”- the steps through which we bare our souls to express the essence of choreographic ideas. To add anything more than who and what we are becomes a distortion…and false.
I guess what I am trying to say is that it is about truth. As I study “Diamonds” now, the steps speak to me differently than they did ten years ago, directing me towards a truth that is more elemental than the physical truth of perfect execution. In the past where I felt that I needed to polish each step, I now let the music take me on a journey and lead me places that are products of that particular moment in time. Each day in the studio becomes a new journey down this “Diamonds” path, allowing me to spontaneously respond to whatever magic may be present in the most honest way possible.
Deanna Seay in “Diamonds”. Photo by Joe Gato.
Don’t miss Deanna’s performance of “Diamonds Pas de Deux” this weekend at Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts. For tickets click here.