Sunday April 27, 2010 - Darci Kistler, the last ballerina to be personally anointed by George Balanchine, bade farewell to the stage at New York City Ballet today dancing Balanchine and Martins. The image of Darci above is by
Icon: the famous photo of Darci costumed as Odette in Central Park.
Darci in VIENNA WALTZES, photographed by Paul Kolnik.
Wendy Whelan, Julio Bocca and Darci in Peter Martins' TODO BUENOS AIRES. Peter created several ballets especially for Darci over the years, my favorites being BACH CONCERTO V, BURLESKE, MORGEN...
...TALA GAISMA (above with Jared Angle, photo by Kolnik)...
...and OCTET (above with Stephen Hanna, photo by Kolnik.
For her final performance with the Company, Darci danced Balanchine's MONUMENTUM/MOVEMENTS, a duet from MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM and the final scene of the Peter Martins SWAN LAKE. I'm afraid my concentration was repeatedly broken today by the woman sitting next to me who wrote continuously in her notebook all afternoon. It's so distracting to have this happening in your field of vision, especially when you are trying to watch and hold onto the memory of one of the great ballerinas of our time and knowing you'll never see her dance again. People are so thoughtless.
But, Darci did dance beautifully all afternoon. She was partnered by Charles Askegard and Sebastien Marcovici in the Stravinsky, and Henry Seth made a really endearing Bottom in the DREAM duet - and he was also endearingly gallant to his ballerina during their bows. Henry also appeared as a superb Rothbart in the SWAN LAKE scene, and Jared Angle was the Prince, doomed to despair. Darci's Odette was full of dramatic detail and especially poignant in her final leave-taking. She also left us with lovely images of herself in the poses of the many lifts. Earlier, she relished the romantic humour of the Titania scene, always one of her finest roles.
Also on the programme was DANSES CONCERTANTES danced with wit and polish by Megan Fairchild and Andrew Veyette. Among the dozen excellent corps dancers (they are more like soloists, really), Marika Anderson stepped into the 'purple pas de trois' and looked super, as she had earlier in MOVEMENTS. We have so many lovely people in our Company...
There was an enormous tribute to Darci (Paul Kolnik photo, above) at the end with several of her recent cavaliers - and a couple former ones (Jock Soto and Robert LaFosse) - presenting flowers, followed by the other principal ballerinas. Two tiny students from Darci's classes at SAB were among those honoring her, and the entire Company joined in the tribute as sparkling confetti fell. Darci's mom and brothers were onstage and of course her husband and her daughter whom Darci embraced many times. Leigh Witchel writes about the afternoon here.
Among the vast crowd I was very happy to find and catch up with Melissa Barak (who will be dancing with Morphoses this Autumn) and to see Dana Hanson again, visiting from Seattle where she teaches at PNB. The whole afternoon was very much a NYCB-family affair; I felt happy to be part of it as a distant, non-dancing cousin.
With this grand send-off for the last of the Balanchine ballerinas, we have come not just to the end of the season but truly to the end of an era. Of course there are still many direct links to Mr. B among the people working at New York City Ballet and at SAB but with the departure of the last stage-active 'Balanchine' dancer there is a real sense of turning the page. In addition to Darci, the recent retirements of Yvonne Borree, Philip Neal, Albert Evans and Maestro Maurice Kaplow will deprive us of the presence of these people we've seen (or heard from, in the Maestro's case) so frequently over the years.
There are also reports that two other dancers - soloist Jason Fowler and corps ballerina Glenn Keenan - have completed their careers at New York City Ballet. Jason in recent seasons made an especially vivid impression in Bigonzetti's IN VENTO and OLTREMARE; he was one of the few male dancers in the Company tall enough to partner any of the women. Glenn Keenan's lyricism and her beautiful smile will be missed.
In the face of these departures it is reassuring to look at the dancers who will take us beyond this crossroad in the Company's ongoing dance-journey and to see so many technically accomplished and personally intriguing individuals at every level ready to lead us into the future. It's a sad time, but also a time that is full of promise.