Dancing peasants in traditional costumes often signal a Romantic ballet. However, they don't always consist of a three-act narrative. Divertissements are short ballets created to feature a dancer’s technical skill. August Bournonville choreographed many, including this folkloric interpretation of Gioachino Rossini’s opera William Tell. The dancers don't appear as characters, but rather perform to express the underlying joy in Rossini’s score. Darci Kistler masters this intention, seizing the stage with an unyielding connection to the music.
As Balanchine’s last hand-picked ballerina, Darci is a legendary figure in the ballet world. She first danced this pas de deux in 1979 for a workshop performance at the School of American Ballet. She reprised the role as a principal dancer for the New York City Ballet in this episode of the PBS series “Dance in America: Bournonville Dances” in 1982. (Yes, she went from student to principal in three years.) Don’t be dissuaded by the simple steps of her entrance. Watch her careful attention to detail and technical ability emerge in her solo variation. Each jump contains astonishing levitation (especially in the coda) proving her ability to capture an audience through simplicity and subtle attack.