On Monday night, the National Dance Institute—the arts education organization founded by former New York City Ballet star Jacques d'Amboise—presented Balanchine's Guys, a lively discussion with d'Amboise and two other NYCB greats: Arthur Mitchell and Edward Villella. Many of their former NYCB colleagues, including Patricia McBride and Suki Schorer, were in the audience, and while the evening was sold out, NDI live-streamed part of the conversation. We know many of you weren't able to catch it, so we've included the video from NDI's Facebook page below. (There's a bit of a sound delay, but it's well worth the watch!)
All three shared priceless anecdotes of working with Balanchine. While NDI wasn't able to stream the whole discussion and performance, here are a few highlights from after the camera stopped rolling:
Edward Villella on dancing Prodigal Son: Villella claimed he only had one rehearsal with Balanchine on the role he would become most famous for. "Mr. B didn't like the ballet," Villella says. "He said 'I don't ever want to stage this again.'" (Villella then noted that Prokofiev, the ballet's composer, had once thrown Balanchine out of the theater.) As for Villella's advice on dancing the role, he says to look deeply at the character: "All this bravado, and underneath it is somebody terrified."
Arthur Mitchell on the creation of Agon: Mitchell explained that Balanchine choreographed Agon after taking a leave of absence when his wife, NYCB principal Tanaquil (Tanny) Le Clercq, developed polio and became paralyzed. Mitchell says that on the first day of rehearsal, Balanchine told him, "This must be perfect." As he crafted the famous pas de deux for Mitchell and Diana Adams, he was incredibly specific about how Mitchell partnered Adams, the way he should place his hands, hold her legs and move her feet. "In his mind, it was teaching Tanny to walk again."
Jacques d'Amboise on his dear friend, former NYCB principal Melissa Hayden: When d'Amboise heard that his Hayden was dying, he flew down to North Carolina's Wake Forest Hospital to visit her. He fondly recalled her joking about the existence of an afterlife. "She said 'There is an afterlife—it's what's left after the way you lived it. We did a good job.'" She died the following day.