Ballet 'Symphony' pays homage to choreographer Balanchine

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PHOTO COURTESY BALLETMET COLUMBUS/WILL SHIVELY
BalletMet Columbus, with the Cincinnati Ballet, will present George Balanchine's Symphony in C Friday through Sunday, March 21-23, at the Ohio Theatre. The program also includes a brand-new work by Artistic Director Edwaard Liang, Wunderland , and Victoria Morgan's Bolero . Tickets start at $25. Visit balletmet.org.

Pure classical technique -- this was the characterization offered by BalletMet Columbus Artistic Director Edwaard Liang of the impact of choreographer George Balanchine.

What Liang was getting at was that, for Balanchine, movement was not a means to an end but the end in and of itself.

Co-founder of the New York City Ballet, Balanchine is considered by many as the father of American dance. His emphasis on pure technique and neoclassicism "revolutionized ballet in America and the world," Liang said.

Perhaps this is why those within the dance world speak his name with reverence, but many non-dancers, even those who consider themselves to be engaged in or supporters of the arts, might not know his name.

Audiences don't need to be dance afficionados to appreciate the work Balanchine created, Liang said, despite the fact that his works don't serve a larger story line.

"The very idea of 45 dancers on stage with white tutus dancing to Bizet is a spectacle," he said.

Liang was referring specifically to Symphony in C, a landmark Balanchine work to be co-presented by BalletMet and Cincinnati Ballet this weekend at the Ohio Theatre. It's a premiere of sorts, in that, according to Victoria Simon of The Balanchine Trust, who set this production on the combined companies, this is the first time the work is being presented collaboratively.

Simon, who has been setting Balanchine works for 50 years, echoed Liang's emphasis on neoclassicism and technique.

"It's not just the steps but the musicality, the details. The way the arms move, the hand position. All these things were to make the movement more beautiful," Simon explained.

"It's much harder than doing a story ballet" for both choreographer and dancer," she said. "Your character is essentially a classical ballerina."

Liang called Simon "a legend" and "remarkable."

"I've known her since I was 16. She was one of my first mentors. She knows how to honor the dancers, and is dedicated to her craft."

Liang said the cooperative effort between the Columbus and Cincinnati companies makes a production like this possible. The scope of Symphony in C is such that neither company could stage this masterwork on its own.

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