Friday, January 06, 2012
Suzanne Farrell during a stage performance of George Balanchine’s “Vienna Waltzes” in 1977, the year of the ballet’s creation.
Farrell gave her final performance in 1989, choosing “Vienna Waltzes” as her farewell vehicle.
Farrell was Balanchine’s last muse.
Cynthia Gregory in a studio photograph as Raymonda in 1975. American Ballet Theatre mounted a full-length production of Marius Petipa’s “Raymonda” for Gregory that year.
Rudolf Nureyev, who staged ABT’s 1975 “Raymonda”, called Gregory “America’s prima ballerina assoluta”.
Gregory gave her final performance in 1992.
My parents insist that neither ballerina, since retirement, has been superseded by succeeding generations of ballerinas, whether from America or elsewhere. As my father wryly notes, no one in his right mind will be talking about Darcey Bussell, Sylvie Guillem or Kyra Nichols thirty years from now.
Farrell and Gregory were the last of a long line of great ballerinas dating back to the 19th Century, technically superior to all that came before and after, with stage presence and glamour in abundance. Images of Farrell and Gregory performances are burned upon the memories of those who were fortunate enough to have caught them in their primes.
Farrell and Gregory were, quite simply, the apex, unmatched in their greatness, making both their contemporaries and their successors—whether from Britain, Denmark, France or Russia—look inept and plodding (and often faintly ridiculous) in comparison.