and members of New York City Ballet
erniesparks from United States
18 November 2007
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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