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The Steadfast Tin Soldier at New York City Ballet

01/21/12 David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza (Columbus Ave. at 63rd St.) Map
212-721-6500
nycballet.com Ages: All Ages
Le Tombeau de Couperin at New York City Ballet
01/21/12 David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza (Columbus Ave. at 63rd St.) Map
212-721-6500
nycballet.com Ages: All Ages
Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux at New York City Ballet
01/21/12 David H. Koch Theater, 20 Lincoln Center Plaza (Columbus Ave. at 63rd St.) Map
212-721-6500
nycballet.com Ages: All Ages

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The Steadfast Tin Soldier, based loosely on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, focuses on the wistful courtship and love between a tin soldier and a paper-doll ballerina. The work was commissioned by the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. The present pas de deux stems from a 1955 collaboration in which Balanchine, Francisco Moncion, and Barbara Milberg choreographed all of Bizet's Jeux d'Enfants. Both the context and the woman's variation of The Steadfast Tin Soldier were derived from this earlier work. The soldier's variation was restaged for the new pas de deux. Georges Bizet (1838-1875) is best known for Carmen, one of the most successful operas ever written. However, he had more success in his lifetime with non-operatic works. He was an excellent pianist, and wrote many pieces for that instrument, including Jeux d'Enfants. Many of the operas Bizet wrote, with the exceptions of Carmen and The Pearl Fishers, were destroyed by the composer or never finished.

In this suite of dances in 18th-century courtly style, eight couples are divided into left and right quadrilles. (A quadrille is an 18th-century dance form originating with squadrons at tournaments; it is also referred to as a square dance.) The dancers form geometric patterns — diagonals, diamonds, squares — and dance in unison as well as mimicking the movements of the opposing quadrille. Tombeau means "memorial" or "tomb." In 1919 Ravel composed a commemorative suite for piano in six movements (prelude, fugue, forlane, minuet, rigaudon, and toccato) in memory of six friends who died in World War I. In 1920 the composer orchestrated the piece, eliminating the fugue and the toccato. Ravel honors 18th-century French music in general and the French Baroque composer François Couperin in particular; Couperin was court musician and composer to Louis XIV, the Sun King. Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) was born in the French Basque town of Ciboure. His family moved to Paris and encouraged him to take piano lessons. At fourteen he was admitted to the Paris Conservatoire, where he studied with Fauré, who became his principal teacher of composition. His ballet scores include Pavane pour une Infante Défunte, Jeux d'Eau, Bolero, Daphnis and Chloé, Ma Mère L'Oye, and L'Enfant et les Sortilèges, a ballet-opera.

An eight-minute display of ballet bravura and technique, Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux uses music that the composer belatedly created for Act III of Swan Lake. It was hurriedly composed for Anna Sobeshchanskaya, a Bolshoi prima ballerina who was scheduled to make her debut in the title role at the fourth performance of the 1877 Moscow production, and sought to enrich the part of Odile. Because the music was not in the original score, it was not published with the rest of Swan Lake, and disappeared for more than half a century. When it was discovered in the Bolshoi Theater archives in 1953, Balanchine sought — and was granted — permission to use it for his own choreography.

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