George Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky
A Reflection: George Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky
Notes by MCB Artistic Director Lourdes Lopez
George Balanchine – Balanchine – or Mr. B, to those fortunate enough to have worked with him, is widely considered the person responsible for bringing contemporary ballet to the forefront of American audiences. But, to those who worked with him, he was much more than an innovative choreographer and teacher. More than 35 years after his death, his legacy and immense body of work continues to touch countless lives, inspiring dancers and choreographers throughout the world – including Miami City Ballet artistic director Lourdes Lopez.
There is a quiet tenderness when Lourdes speaks about her memories working with Balanchine. She recalls fondly, “Balanchine knew his dancers were his greatest instrument and he was exceptionally respectful to us. A true gentleman. When I was promoted to soloist at New York City Ballet, I went to thank him. His response to me was, ‘You know dear, I didn’t do the work. You did.’ That was a hugely impactful moment, because he moved that gift of the promotion right back to me and it was empowering.”
Little did she know that one empowering moment would lead to a lifetime of dedicated work, first on stage performing as principal dancer for New York City Ballet in many of Balanchine’s most beloved works (including Apollo and Stravinsky Violin Concerto) and post-performance career at the Balanchine Foundation. Today, at the helm of Miami City Ballet, she continues to teach his aesthetic to the next generation of dancers and showcase his vast body of work to new audiences whenever opportunity strikes.
As the son of a composer, it’s no secret that Balanchine considered music to be the essence of choreography and his famous quote, “See the music, hear the dance,” fully embodies this approach, especially when it comes to his sublime relationship with composer Igor Stravinsky. In 1928, a 24-year-old Balanchine premiered Apollon musagète (or Apollo as it is now known) to Paris audiences. It was then the young choreographer knew his life was changed forever and a formidable partnership between choreographer and musician was born. Together they forged an undeniable and unsurpassed legacy of creating some of the most iconic ballets in history. Balanchine said of the pivotal moment, “The score was a revelation. It seemed to tell me that I too could dare to not to use all of my ideas, that I too could eliminate.”
Lourdes adds, “Looking back, it’s quite a marvel, how these two Russian geniuses, have been so fully recognized by American artists and audiences as leading masters of 20th century ballet and classical music. When you understand the significance of their relationship, when you truly step back and take it all in, you understand the great pride we take in partnering with the immensely talented musicians of New World Symphony and the importance of our shared desire to bring these masterful works to the public.”
New World Symphony and Miami City Ballet
Stravinsky and Balanchine: A Monumental Collaboration
Jan 31 & Feb 1, 2020
This special event celebrated two icons of the 20th century – George Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky, whose friendship was one of the world’s most prolific artistic pairings.
Photo credit: Miami City Ballet dancers in Apollo. Choreography by George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photo © Alexander Iziliaev. Wall Cast image: Rui Dias-Aidos, courtesy New World Symphony.