When I was a student, my teacher, Melissa Hayden, used to tell us that, “Change is the only constant.” Indeed, change is what happens, and sometimes it happens faster than you can blink an eye. Plans have changed for me this week, as in the final performance of Who Cares? at the Kravis Center this past weekend, I landed from a jump and wrenched my left knee. This in and of itself was quite an experience, having to leave the stage in the middle of a variation, the instant (and since, continuous) replay of the series of events leading up to the moment of impact, the surreal moment of not knowing what my leg would do, and not really being able to control what was happening. If there is a bright side to this sort of thing, it would be that I can now add this rather dramatic exit to my list of experiences as well as using it as a tool to learn more about myself.
The uncertainty of my prognosis doesn’t change the fact that there will still be performances this weekend, but I am hoping that, on April 24th, I will still be able to share the stage, in some way, one more time with some of the dearest people in the world. I was really looking forward to these shows- to be able to visit and rediscover these three ballets one more time. “Emeralds”, with its watery green world and romantic movement, is the one I have known longest. When I first danced this role sixteen years ago, Edward introduced me to the idea of “the man who isn’t there,” to help me create a narrative that would link my steps together. The music, as well as the beautiful green costume, led me to a mysterious world of aura and nuance. I thought of the long solo as a Shakespearean soliloquy, with the curving gestures of the arms telling a story of longing, memories and loss. The choreographic marvel of the related pas de deux is the constant walking that links the steps together. The ballerina floats across the stage, guided by a man she cannot see, and perhaps isn’t really there except in her memory.
Allegro Brillante, which I was fortunate enough to revisit earlier this season, is an exhilarating essay on being a Balanchine dancer. This ballet came to me shortly after I became a principal dancer, and I remember being daunted by its sophistication at first. But who can resist Tchaikovsky’s piano works? Where else can you fly and feel as free as in Allegro Brillante? This ballet holds a strange power- with its sweeping choreography it creates a very romantic mood. In the seconds when you look deep into your partner’s eyes, you also have to trust that he will be there to catch you in the next daring moment. This powerful combination of trust and romance eventually worked its magic on me, as I married the man with whom I first danced Allegro.
Theme and Variations, also set to Tchaikovsky, is probably one of the most difficult ballets I ever danced, and one of which I am sincerely proud of what I accomplished. The technical challenges are formidable for both the man and the woman, and to be truly effective, these challenges should be delivered with as much beauty and joy as is held by the music. Balanchine choreographed many beautiful ballets, but Theme is particularly special to me. It represents the pinnacle of classical dancing- a perfect fusion of choreography and music coupled with an untouchable sense of purity. The restraint of the movement speaks volumes about the drama behind the choreography. With such purity, a mere sous-sous becomes a dramatic statement, and the presentation of the ballerina’s hand tells an entire story. To dance, this ballet feels as if it is part fairy tale and part real life. I think that dancing Theme was part fairy tale for me, considering my memories of watching Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov dance Theme with American Ballet Theater during the “Live from Lincoln Center” broadcasts of my childhood. The fairy tale continued for me, as it was after my third performance of Theme and Variations that Edward told me that he was making me a principal dancer.
Yes, I was looking forward to exploring these ballets again, but I was most looking forward to sharing the stage one more time with this wonderful family that surrounds me. I have never been able to write enough about the people that I dance with, to tell whoever may read this what a wonderful group my colleagues are, and how much they inspire me and how much I learn from them. It is amazing the things they go through to be able to dance everyday…aside from the usual aches and pains that come with this career, I watch as one of my colleagues painfully refits her pointe shoes every morning. Others experience the death of someone close, but this does not keep them away from the studio. Sometimes it seems that lives outside of the studio are falling apart, and yet everyone shows up each day with unfailing determination to create beauty out of whatever they can. Between the injuries, the issues and the difficulties, I admire all of these dancers more than they can ever know. Their singular dedication to this company and to ballet makes me proud to have been a part of this group, and honored to have been able to share the stage with them.