The Suzanne Farrell Ballet in rehearsal. Photo Courtesy The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet Brings Back Balanchine's "Gounod Symphony"

This story originally appeared in the October/November 2016 issue of Pointe.

George Balanchine's Gounod Symphony isn't often performed. This 25-minute ballet, set to the French composer's lively first symphony, has largely faded from popular repertoire. (It was last performed at New York City Ballet in 1993, and by the School of American Ballet in 2007.) But this fall, The Suzanne Farrell Ballet is bringing Gounod back. It will receive its company premiere October 21–23 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The ballet was first performed in January 1958 at New York City Center, its cast of 32 led by Maria Tallchief and Jacques d'Amboise. But the dancer most closely associated with the lead ballerina role was the French-born Violette Verdy. There is something very French about Gounod, a kind of brilliance and formality associated with the Paris Opéra. Its choreography overflows with patterns: crossing and parallel lines, and weaving. Verdy compared it to the gardens of Versailles, and, in fact, the sets designed by Horace Armistead were originally intended and used for NYCB's production of Antony Tudor's Jardin aux Lilas. The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, however, is developing a new look. Though she won't reveal any details, Farrell says the concept "will allow us to see the choreography better."


She will be staging it, though the ballet's rarity means she never danced it herself. Her tools are "an old, silent archival video in black-and-white" starring Diana Adams and Jacques d'Amboise, in addition to the Gounod score. (She staged the ballet once before, for the School of American Ballet, in 1991.) Since there are no easily accessible videos of the ballet for her dancers to study, everyone in the room will be learning the choreography for the first time. As she puts it: "It's almost as if the ballet were being created now by Mr. B."

Latest Posts


Left to right: Dance Theatre of Harlem's Daphne Lee, Amanda Smith, Lindsey Donnell and Alexandra Hutchinson in a scene from Dancing Through Harlem. Derek Brockington, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem

Dancers Share Their Key Takeaways After a Year of Dancing on Film

Creating dances specifically for film has become one of the most effective ways that ballet companies have connected with audiences and kept dancers employed during the pandemic. Around the world, dance organizations are finding opportunities through digital seasons, whether conceiving cinematic, site-specific pieces or filming works within a traditional theater. And while there is a consistent sentiment that nothing will ever substitute the thrill of a live show, dancers are embracing this new way of performing.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Mikhail Baryshnikov in "Fancy Free" (1981)

In Jerome Robbins's 1944 ballet Fancy Free, three sailors on leave spend the day at a bar, attempting to woo two young women by out-dancing and out-charming one another. In this clip from 1981, Mikhail Baryshnikov, who was then both the artistic director of American Ballet Theatre and a leading performer with the company, pulls out all the stops to win the ladies' affections.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Bethany Kirby, Courtesy Tulsa Ballet

An Infectious-Disease Physician on What Vaccines Mean for Ballet

As the coronavirus pandemic grinds into its second year, the toll on ballet companies—and dancers—has been steep. How long before dancers can rehearse and perform as they once did?

Like most things, the return to normal for ballet seems to hinge on vaccinations. Just over 22 percent of people in the U.S. are now vaccinated, a way from the estimated 70 to 85 percent experts believe can bring back something similar to pre-pandemic life.

But what would it mean for 100 percent of a ballet company to be vaccinated? Tulsa Ballet artistic director Marcello Angelini is about to find out—and hopes it brings the return of big ballets on the big stage.

"I don't think companies like ours can survive doing work for eight dancers in masks," Angelini says. "If we want to work, dance, and be in front of an audience consistently and with the large works that pay the bills, immunization is the only road that leads there."

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks