Friday, February 12, 2010
Serenade was the first piece in last night's all-Balanchine program at San Francisco Ballet. The program notes explain that he created the work in 1934 shortly after his arrival in America. It started as an exercise for students in an evening class on stage technique at the School of American Ballet. "The night he began on it there were seventeen students; the next night nine; the third six. In each class he worked with whoever was there, adding men when some showed up later and including mishaps, like a late entrance and a fall. Serenade is a prime example of Balanchine's often quoted philosophy: "Use what you've got."
The few half-decent photos I could locate show Serenade as produced by various companies. Thanks to the conscientiousness of the Balanchine Trust, productions all around the world tend to be visually and technically consistent, which is handy for me since I did not find any usable images of the San Francisco production at all. And what a marvel it was, grounded throughout on the subtle, harmonious performances of the seventeen women in the corps.