Great Performances: Dance in America

Choreography by Balanchine: Part IV (7 Mar. 1979)

TV Episode  -  Music
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Part 4 consists of 4 dance works: Ballo Della Regina, from opera Don Carlos, with music by Giuseppe Verdi; The Steadfast Tin Soldier... See full synopsis »

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Patricia McBride
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Part 4 consists of 4 dance works: Ballo Della Regina, from opera Don Carlos, with music by Giuseppe Verdi; The Steadfast Tin Soldier... See full synopsis »

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7 March 1979 (USA)  »

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and members of New York City Ballet
18 November 2007 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

George Balanchine did not think much of capturing ballet performances before live audiences on film. He thought even less well of doing it with TV cameras. When he agreed to do work for PBS Dance In America series back in the 1970s, he insisted that they be produced as movies, with an adequate stage. Opryland in Nashville TN was chosen. He adapted the dances for his current performers and also adjusted them for the aspect of camera. There was no audience, so he could concentrate on looking good for the lenses.

After the shows were aired, they were available from the PBS store in VHS format. Then, in the mid-1990s, ten years after Balanchine's passing, the original movies were released as a series in VHS format. Finally in 2004, the centenary of Balanchine's birth-date, they were rolled onto DVDs and released again. Parts 1 and 2 are on one DVD and parts 3 and 4 are on another DVD.

Movie fans will probably find these movies too primitive and scenically static for their taste. That is because the dance is the thing. If one lacks much interest in the dances and choreographs, then one is apt to be bored. The close second thing is the music. The sound quality is a bit less glorious than movie fans demand today. The orchestra strings get strident. That is too bad, because Balanchine insisted that the music be played correctly, and even the dancers had to learn it along with the steps and counts. A viewer simply has to adjust the sound down to a comfortable level. But, I repeat, that isn't because the music is a small detail.


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