Plus, Farrell revives Divertimento

City Center’s eighth annual 10-day Fall for Dance Festival, Oct. 27–Nov. 6, reaffirms the home truth that, in New York City, people’s interest in seeing dance increases in direct proportion to its affordability. Uniformly priced at $10, tickets went on sale Oct. 2 and the sold-out shingle was up by the end of the day for 10 performances—nine evenings and one matinee—in the 2,000-plus-seat theater.

As always, the festival’s roster features companies from around the world and includes New York debuts and premieres, a carefully calibrated blend of genres. City Center is the perfect venue for this venture because, when it was established in 1943 in a former Shrine meeting hall, its mandate was populist pricing.

Making this year’s Fall for Dance extra jubilant is the fact that City Center will have just completed its renovations before the festival’s opening. They will celebrate the revitalized space in a gala two nights before Fall for Dance opens—but no $10 tickets for that, I’m afraid.

New York City Ballet’s Polyphonia, part of the 2011 Fall for Dance at City Center, running Oct. 27–Nov. 6.  Credit: Paul Kolnik

New York City Ballet’s Polyphonia, part of the 2011 Fall for Dance at City Center, running Oct. 27–Nov. 6. Credit: Paul Kolnik

In addition to its affordability, Fall for Dance demonstrates the importance of integration—by which I mean different types of dance juxtaposed on the same program and dance mixed with other entertainment forms. At the turn of the 20th century, great ballet dancers from all across Europe and Russia trekked to London to appear (for generous remuneration) in the city’s music halls, to which a vital cross section of every stratum of society repaired for amusement. London at that time did not have a major state-supported ballet company as Paris, Moscow and St. Petersburg did. In the music halls, the toe dancers were right there alongside the boulevard-style attractions, trained animals and ballad singers.

We saw an electronic sequel to this in the culturally as well as economically aspirational American society of the 1950s, ’60s, and into the ’70s. In those years, professional modern, ballet and jazz dancers were seen with some regularity on television variety programs. Today’s TV gatekeepers have a very different idea of what the American public wants and deserves.

But does the future health of conservatory dance lie in the blending of small amounts of different things? Wouldn’t joint seasons between companies be refreshing? A program with one Graham, one Cunningham and one Taylor work? Well, that’s kind of what Fall for Dance is.

Not to be missed at The Joyce Theater Oct. 19–23 is a season of The Suzanne Farrell Ballet. The legendary Farrell, a New York City Ballet star and Balanchine muse for more than two decades, bases the company she began 15 years ago in Washington, D.C., where it is a resident affiliate of the Kennedy Center. Farrell shrewdly realized that, since NYCB is no longer doing some of the best ballets by Balanchine as well as other choreographers that were once prominent in its repertory, these works are now ripe for the taking. Thus, her all-Balanchine program includes his 1947 Divertimento, not seen in Manhattan in a very long time.

Balanchine created Divertimento in 1947 for Ballet Society, the precursor to NYCB. The original ballerina was Mary Ellen Moylan, while at NYCB it was danced most frequently by Maria Tallchief—in other words, its pedigree could not be more hallowed. The aura of crème de la crème attached to this ballet continued with the four soloist couples, into which Balanchine also slotted some of his greatest dancers. Divertimento’s score by Alexei Haieff as well as the steps that Balanchine melded to it embody that particular vintage of cosmopolitan, lyric and jazzy dance that so intrigued NYCB’s early audiences.

Divertimento was a constant in NYCB’s long tour through Europe in 1952—so much so that, perhaps, following the tour, Balanchine had had his fill of it. But “we all loved dancing it,” former NYCB ballerina Patricia Wilde recently recalled to me. As the years went on, Balanchine’s dancers pleaded with him to revive it, and for some reason he always refused.

In 1985, two years after Balanchine’s death, the late Todd Bolender, a member of the original cast, reconstructed Divertimento for the State Ballet of Missouri, where he was then artistic director. NYCB subsequently performed it during its 1993 Balanchine Festival, but then never again. Last year, Farrell took it into her repertory. She deserves all thanks for bringing Divertimento back to New York.

Read more by Joel Lobenthal at Lobenthal.com.


Above & Beyond Dance: The acrobatic aerial dance company performs in “RAW.” Oct. 13–15, Manhattan Movement & Arts Center, 248 W. 60th St., 212-787-1178, manhattanmovement.com; $22.

American Ballet Theater: The company performs excerpts of works by Twyla Tharp, Merce Cunningham & others from its upcoming season, as part of Works & Process at the Guggenheim. Oct. 16 & 17, 1071 5th Ave., 212-423-3500, guggenheim.org; 7:30, $30.

Dušan Týnek Dance Theatre: The Czech-influenced company performs new works & pieces from their repertoirew & teams up with postclassical string quartet ETHEL. Oct. 27–29 & Nov. 3–5, Tribeca PAC, 199 Chambers St., 212-220-1460, tribecapac.org; 7:30, $25.

Sachiyo Ito and Company: The company performs medieval & modern-day Japanese works in celebration of its 30th anniversary. Oct. 23, Ailey Citigroup Theater, 405 W. 55th St., 212-405-9000, dancejapan.com; 7:30, $25–$30.

Wave Rising Series: 24 dance companies perform new & established works 3 times each during this 3-week festival. Oct. 19–Nov. 6, John Ryan Theater, 25 Jay St., Brooklyn, 718-855-8822, whitewavedance.com; $20.