NEW YORK CITY | According to the George Balanchine Foundation, the former New York City Ballet soloist Robert Barnett has produced another video piece that would deepen any dance enthusiast’s knowledge of and training in George Balanchine‘s legendary body of dance works.
For the foundation’s video archives, Barnett had already coached roles choreographed on him by Balanchine in “Stars and Stripes” and George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker as well as Bourrée Fantasque. On April 29, 2019, Barnett worked in front of a camera with current New York City Ballet dancers Sarah Villwock and Spartak Hoxha on principal roles from the 3rd movement Symphony in C; and with Megan LeCrone, Lauren Lovette, Indiana Woodward, Jared Angle and Ask la Cour in excerpts from Serenade.
The recording took place at the New York City Ballet studios in the Rose Building, Lincoln Center, New York. Nancy McDill, solo pianist of the New York City Ballet Orchestra, accompanied the coaching session. At its conclusion Alastair Macaulay, a dance and theater critic, interviewed Barnett. The filming was supervised by Paul Boos, a video archives project associate, aided by the the archives’ founder Nancy Reynolds, former film professor Virginia Brooks, and New York filmmaker Gus Reed.
The resulting video will become part of the GBF Video Archives, now numbering over 60 programs. The aim of this series is to document insights of the originators or important later interpreters of key roles in the Balanchine repertory and to preserve and pass this knowledge on, particularly including references to Balanchine’s ideas at the time of creation, to the dancers, scholars, and audiences of today. The GBF Video Archives are available world-wide through public and university libraries. In addition, the interview components are available on the Balanchine Foundation’s YouTube channel (https://www.youtube.com/user/blnchn).
As seen on the PBS series “Great Performances,” New York City Ballet’s Symphony in C, created by George Balanchine set to the music of French composers.
Critic Anatole Chujoy wrote of Symphony in C’s New York debut “If there ever was any doubt that Balanchine was the greatest choreographer of our time, this doubt was dispelled when the curtain came down on his Symphony in C. Barnett was the first to share the 3rd movement jumping role with the NYCB originator Herbert Bliss.
Barnett also rehearsed excerpts from Serenade that have evolved over the years under Balanchine’s direction, returning the specific steps and nuances as they were danced in the 1950’s. NYCB alumnae Barbara Walczak, Barbara Milberg Fisher and Janice Cohen Adelson attended the session offering insight gained from their long association with Balanchine and Serenade during NYCB’s formative years.
Born in 1925, Robert Barnett s a former NYCB soloist who began studying ballet seriously with Bronislava Nijinska in 1946 in Los Angeles after being released from the Navy having served in the South Pacific and Japan. Subsequently Barnett joined the Original Ballet Russe, and in 1949 after the company’s tour ended in Europe, he remained to study in Paris with renowned teachers Lubov Egorova and Olga Preobrajenska.
He later returned to the US, dancing on Broadway and TV and was hired for the NYCB corps de ballet. Barnett’s first Balanchine principal role was in Bourrée Fantasque, opposite Tanaquil Le Clercq. In 1950 Frederick Ashton created the “Dandy” in “Illuminations” for Barnett and, in 1952, the role of Merlin in Picnic at Tintagel. Barnett moved with his wife, NYCB company member Virginia Rich, to Atlanta in 1958 where he was hired as a principal dancer and associate director of The Atlanta Civic Ballet. He was named director in 1961, retiring from that position in 1994.
Now 91 years old, Barnett continues to be in demand as a stager and a teacher. He described himself as “semi-retired.”
The George Balanchine Foundation (www.balanchine.org) is a not-for-profit corporation established in 1983. Its mission is to create programs that educate the public and further Balanchine’s work and aesthetic with the goal of advancing high standards of excellence in dance and its allied arts.