Note: This is No. 7 in the series “Ballet Diary”–comments on the 2010 spring seasons of New York City Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, along with related performances. To read previous pieces in the series, click here: ; ; ; ; ; . The completed “Ballet Diary” series will comprise nine essays.
In the early 20th century, Frederick Jackson Turner argued that interactions on the frontier formed American characteristics of rugged individualism, democracy, aggression and innovation. The “New” Western historians of the late 1970s attempted to debunk this theory, revealing the racial and ethnic diversity of the West, reminding us of the role of the environment and documenting how settlers and later corporations conquered land wrested away from Native Americans.
After recess we went back to out classroom and my new friends and I managed to two boys to stop crying. In fact, soon we were laughing and playing together. Once in a while the teacher had to tell us to keep quiet as we were making too much noise.
When trying to accurately describe Pyle to Vigot, Thomas says "A quiet American, I summed him precisely up as I might have said a blue lizard,' a white elephant.'(9)" The final way that Fowler decides to describe Pyle, even after setting him up to be killed is in three words, ...
In his 22 years with the company, Neal was the model of the quiet authority that is earned through purity. His technique had a clarity that seemed to be bred in his bones. His demeanor was modestly reserved; he often seemed to disappear into the dance and was obviously unacquainted with the realm of “show biz.” He cultivated “the plain style”–without excluding grace and elegance. This was evident even in small things: The movement of his hands and wrists, for example, had a loveliness abandoned by most men of his and the rising generation. Among his most significant gifts was his masterly partnering; he helped a ballerina’s individual temperament bloom because she was secure in his arms.
Tobi, your description of these retirements is full of respect and beauty.
I was especially moved by your description of Albert Evans’s exit in “The Four Temperaments” and the smallest shift in head gesture that sends so great a message–not that the message is a telegram in any way specific (no mothers-in-law for Evans!), but that the smallest shift can rock our world. It takes someone who has seen the works and the dancers often enough to capture those small shifts and I thank you for it.
Peter Martins joined the gang of Neal fans, as did many other members of the company. The “pedestrian” in the congratulatory crowd was Neal’s partner, that gentleman’s walk-on appearance being only suitable since, in recent years, ballerinas have been bringing their husbands and children onstage for similar celebrations. Little nosegays were flung stageward by admirers in the audience, and finally Neal stood alone on the carpet of petals, his posture recognizable from curtain-call photos of the foremost male dancers down the decades. Standing erect yet subtly sculpted, like a classical Greek statue, he held one hand over his heart–as if he meant it.
For his final appearance, Neal danced the first-arriving of the two male leads in Balanchine’s poignant Serenade, the ballet for which the twentieth-century’s greatest choreographer thought he might, just might, be remembered, and the male lead in Balanchine’s Chaconne,
This last goodbye was touching–many in the audience wept–because it made clear as never before how important Neal’s dancing has been to the company’s profile. America doesn’t hold with aristocracy and Neal’s dancing is unmistakably American–plainspoken and without airs–but he is nevertheless a prince.