Suzanne Farrell

Last updated

Suzanne Farrell
Suzanne Farrell 1965c.jpg
Farrell in 1965
Born
Roberta Sue Ficker

(1945-08-16) August 16, 1945 (age 76)
Cincinnati, Ohio, United States
Alma mater School of American Ballet
OccupationBallerina; dance teacher
Years active1960–1989
Known forDance career
Spouse(s)
Paul Mejia
(m. 1969;div. 1997)
Honours Kennedy Center Honors (2005)
Presidential Medal of Freedom (2005)
Farrell in 1965 Suzanne Farrell 1965.jpg
Farrell in 1965

Suzanne Farrell (born August 16, 1945) is an American ballerina and the founder of the Suzanne Farrell Ballet at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Contents

Farrell began her ballet training at the age of eight.[ citation needed ] In 1960, she received a scholarship to the School of American Ballet. Her first leading roles in ballets came in the early 1960s. A muse of George Balanchine, she left the New York City Ballet in 1969 and subsequently moved to Brussels to dance for Maurice Bejart's Ballet of the 20th Century.

In 1975, Farrell moved back to the United States, where she collaborated with Balanchine until his death in 1983; she retired from ballet six years later after a hip surgery she had due to arthritis. Farrell had an unusually long career as a ballet performer, and since her retirement in 1989 has acted as a teacher in numerous ballet schools. She held a teaching position with the New York City Ballet until 1993, and has been a professor of dance at Florida State University since 2000; the same year, she founded her own company, the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, which disbanded at the end of 2017. [1]

The recipient of several honorary degrees, Farrell remains well-known and respected in the world of ballet and has been recognized for her influence on dance with several awards and honors, including Kennedy Center Honors and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the latter being the highest civilian honor in the United States. She was presented in 1987 with the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement at a ceremony in Scottsdale, Arizona. [2] [3] She was also elected to the American Philosophical Society in 2016. [4]

Early life

Farrell was born Roberta Sue Ficker in Cincinnati, Ohio. She received her early training at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. In 1960 she was selected to study at George Balanchine's School of American Ballet with a Ford Foundation scholarship. In 1961, she joined the New York City Ballet (NYCB) and became Balanchine's muse for many of his ballets.

Career

Early career at NYCB

Initially part of the corps de ballet at NYCB, Farrell soon moved on to dancing featured roles. The first ballet choreographed for her was Passage, now Arcade, by John Taras in 1963. Balanchine first paired her with Jacques d'Amboise to choreograph his Meditation, which debuted in December 1963. One of her most notable roles was Dulcinea in Balanchine's Don Quixote , which premiered in May 1965; Balanchine's creation of that ballet was thought[ who? ] to be a valentine to his newest "muse", and Balanchine performed in the role of Don Quixote on opening night. [5] In 1968, he cast her as the lead in the "Diamonds" section of his three-act plotless ballet Jewels.

She re-scaled many ballets and expanded them to a new level of technique. [6] In 1965, she was promoted to principal dancer. Her first role in her new title was Agon with Arthur Mitchell at the Paris Opera. George Balanchine quickly fell in love with his "alabaster princess" and created many roles for her. Farrell described learning choreography from Balanchine as a collaborative process, saying, "When Mr. B was working on a ballet, something would just spill out of his body; he could rarely duplicate it, so I tried to see precisely what he wanted the first time." [7]

Balanchine was married to the polio-stricken former ballerina Tanaquil Le Clercq, however, and Farrell was a Catholic. Though Balanchine divorced LeClercq to pursue Farrell, she instead married fellow dancer Paul Mejia. This caused the relationship of Farrell and Balanchine to fracture. There was enormous tension between them, which caused Farrell and husband Mejia to leave the company. [8] Mejia and Farrell were married from 1969 to 1997. [9]

Farrell and George Balanchine in Don Quixote Suzanne Farrell and George Balanchine NYWTS.jpg
Farrell and George Balanchine in Don Quixote

She and her husband later joined the European company Ballet of the 20th Century of the French choreographer Maurice Béjart, based in Brussels. With this company she danced leading roles, some created for her, for four years, exploring a style of choreography completely different from Balanchine's. She eventually returned to Balanchine and the New York City Ballet in 1975. Balanchine continued to create new ballets for her, such as Chaconne , Mozartiana , Tzigane and Robert Schumann's Davidsbündlertänze .

Farrell also found herself often paired with the Dane Peter Martins, who would eventually become a muse to inspire Balanchine as well and choreograph his own works inspired by Balanchine[ citation needed ]. Her partnership with Balanchine lasted until his death in April 1983; his last works were solos for Farrell. Farrell retired from the New York City Ballet at age 44 on November 26, 1989, after being fired by Martins due to her three year long absence from the stage, which was caused by her arthritis. [10] She performed Sophisticated Lady and Vienna Waltzes . Farrell gave her final bow at State Theater with New York City Ballet co-founder Lincoln Kirstein by her side. [5]

Career as a dance teacher

Farrell had an unusually long performing career for a ballerina. Twenty-eight years of an occupation which takes a tremendous physical toll on the body began to come to an end in 1983. She started to develop arthritis in her right hip and despite two years of varied treatments, by 1985 (at the age of 40), her career on stage was almost over. She struggled for several years but ultimately retired from performing in 1989.

She then moved on to passing on the ballets of Balanchine to the next generation of ballet dancers, working with companies around the world, such as those in Berlin and Vienna, as well as the Paris Opera Ballet, Kirov Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet. In 1993, the New York City Ballet dismissed her from her teaching position with the company. [10] In 2000, Farrell became a professor in the Dance Department at Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida. [6]

Career at the Kennedy Center

In 2000, Farrell started her own company, the Suzanne Farrell Ballet, now a full-fledged company produced by the Kennedy Center.

President George W. Bush and Laura Bush pose with the Kennedy Center honorees, from left to right, actress Julie Harris, actor Robert Redford, singer Tina Turner, Farrell, singer Tony Bennett on December 4, 2005, during the reception in the Blue Room at the White House. 2005 Kennedy Center honorees.jpg
President George W. Bush and Laura Bush pose with the Kennedy Center honorees, from left to right, actress Julie Harris, actor Robert Redford, singer Tina Turner, Farrell, singer Tony Bennett on December 4, 2005, during the reception in the Blue Room at the White House.

Farrell's engagement with the Kennedy Center began in 1993 and 1994, when the Center offered two series of ballet master classes for students with Farrell. This series provided intermediate-to-advanced level ballet students, ages 13 to 17, an opportunity to study with one of the greatest ballerinas of the 20th century. Due to the uniqueness of Farrell's place in the ballet world and the quality of her teaching, the Kennedy Center expanded the program to a national level in 1995, in order to fulfill the Center's mission to enhance the arts education of America's young people. Farrell's students learned to "turn up the technicolor in [their] movement", in order to achieve greater amplification in their dancing. [7] This three weeks' long yearly initiative of intense study grew into a full-fledged program, Exploring Ballet with Suzanne Farrell.

In the fall of 1999, Farrell received critical acclaim for the successful Kennedy Center engagement and East Coast tour of Suzanne Farrell Stages the Masters of 20th-century Ballet. Following the Kennedy Center's debut, the newly named Suzanne Farrell Ballet, a group of professional dancers hand selected by Farrell, has since performed at the Kennedy Center during engagements in 2001 and 2002, been on an extensive East Coast tour, and returned to the Kennedy Center as part of the 2003–2004 Ballet Season following a seven-week national tour. Farrell was selected as one of the five recipients of the 2005 Kennedy Center Honors, one of the highest honors for lifetime artistic achievement.

In 2007, the Suzanne Farrell Ballet formalized the creation of the Balanchine Preservation Initiative. This initiative introduces lost or rarely seen Balanchine works to audiences. As a result, ballets like Ragtime (Balanchine/Stravinsky), Pithoprakta (Balanchine/Xenakis) and Divertimento Brillante (Balanchine/Glinka) were recreated and performed. [11]

Despite positive reviews and an annual budget ranging from $1-$1.4 million, the Center announced in September 2016 that the Company would be disbanding at the end of the 2017 performance season. Deborah Rutter, President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, noted that the Center would be undergoing a new expansion project to include additional performance and rehearsal space. Farrell's new role in the organization remained unclear, however, Rutter emphasized that Farrell would continue to be an "artistic partner" at the Center. [12]

See also

Further reading and viewing

Related Research Articles

George Balanchine Georgian-American choreographer, dancer and ballet master

George Balanchine was a Georgian-American ballet choreographer who was one of the most influential 20th-century choreographers. Styled as the father of American ballet, he co-founded the New York City Ballet and remained its Artistic Director for more than 35 years. His choreography is characterized by plotless ballets with minimal costume and décor, performed to classical and neoclassical music.

Maria Tallchief American ballerina

Elizabeth Marie Tallchief was an American ballerina. She was considered America's first major prima ballerina. She was the first Native American to hold the rank, and is said to have revolutionized ballet.

Darci Kistler is an American ballerina. She is often said to be the last muse for choreographer George Balanchine.

Arthur Mitchell (dancer)

Arthur Mitchell was an American ballet dancer, choreographer, and founder and director of ballet companies. In 1955, he was the first African-American dancer with the New York City Ballet, where he was promoted to principal dancer the following year and danced in major roles until 1966. He then founded ballet companies in Spoleto, Washington, D.C., and Brazil. In 1969, he founded a training school and the first African-American classical ballet company, Dance Theatre of Harlem. Among other awards, Mitchell was recognized as a MacArthur Fellow, inducted into the National Museum of Dance's Mr. & Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame, and received the United States National Medal of Arts and a Fletcher Foundation fellowship.

Peter Martins Danish ballet dancer and choreographer (born 1946)

Peter Martins is a Danish ballet dancer and choreographer. Martins was a principal dancer with the Royal Danish Ballet and with the New York City Ballet, where he joined George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and John Taras as balletmaster in 1981. He retired from dancing in 1983, having achieved the rank of danseur noble, becoming Co-Ballet Master-In-Chief with Robbins. From 1990 until January 2018, he was solely responsible for artistic leadership of City Ballet.

Alexandra Danilova

Aleksandra Dionisyevna Danilova was a Russian-born prima ballerina, who became an American citizen. In 1989, she was recognized for lifetime achievements in ballet as a Kennedy Center Honoree.

Tanaquil Le Clercq

Tanaquil Le Clercq was a French ballet dancer and principal dancer with the New York City Ballet. Her dancing career ended abruptly when she was stricken with polio in Copenhagen during the company's European tour in 1956. Eventually regaining most of the use of her arms and torso, she remained paralyzed from the waist down for the rest of her life.

Heather Watts is a ballerina, most known for her time with the New York City Ballet. Born in Long Beach, California, her dream as a little girl was to be an actress. An acting coach advised her taking ballet classes, seeing as she was incredibly dramatic. So she started dancing at the age of 10, to "develop poise". She came to New York at the age of 13 on a Ford Foundation summer scholarship to attend the School of American Ballet, the official school of the New York City Ballet. She moved permanently to New York at age 15, again on a Ford Foundation scholarship to the School of American Ballet.

Jewels is a three-act ballet created for the New York City Ballet by co-founder and founding choreographer George Balanchine. It premièred on Thursday, 13 April 1967 at the New York State Theater, with sets designed by Peter Harvey and lighting by Ronald Bates.

Wendy Whelan American ballet dancer (born 1967)

Wendy Whelan is an American ballet dancer. She was principal dancer with the New York City Ballet and performed with the company for 30 years, and toured in the U.S., Europe, and Asia. Whelan has also been an influential guest artist with Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company. In 2019, Whelan was named Associate Artistic Director of New York City Ballet.

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet is a ballet company housed at the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C., and founded in 2000 by Suzanne Farrell, one of George Balanchine's most celebrated ballerinas, and a former New York City Ballet principal dancer. Until 2017, the Suzanne Farrell Ballet was a full-fledged company produced by the Kennedy Center and had performed there since 1999 in addition to presenting extensive national and international tours. In September 2016, the Center announced that the company would be disbanding at the end of 2017, citing "possibilities of new expansion" and indicating that Farrell would likely return to "full-time teaching."

Patricia McBride

Patricia McBride is a ballerina who spent nearly 30 years dancing with the New York City Ballet. McBride joined the New York City Ballet in 1959. She became a principal in 1961, becoming the company's youngest principal. She danced with the company for 30 years, including roles created for her by choreographers George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins.

Teresa Reichlen is an American ballet dancer. She is currently a principal dancer at the New York City Ballet.

Alexandra Ansanelli American ballet dancer

Alexandra Noel Ansanelli is a retired American ballet dancer.

Kay Mazzo is an American former ballet dancer and educator. In 1961, she joined Jerome Robbins' company, Ballets USA. The following year, she joined the New York City Ballet, and was promoted to principal dancer in 1969. She created roles for George Balanchine and Robbins, before retiring from performing in 1981. She then joined the permanent faculty of the School of American Ballet in 1983, named Co-Chairman of Faculty in 1997 and Chairman of Faculty in 2018.

Vienna Waltzes is a ballet choreographed by George Balanchine to music by Johann Strauss II, Franz Lehár and Richard Strauss, made as a tribute to Austria. It premiered on June 23, 1977 at the New York State Theater, performed by the New York City Ballet, and was an immediate success among the public.

Holly Hynes is an accomplished, award winning costume designer with over 250 ballets to her credit, including more than 70 at the New York City Ballet. Hynes' designs are also on view in companies around the world, including American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Kirov Ballet, Royal Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, La Scala Theatre Ballet, Koninklijk Ballet van Vlaanderen, Houston Ballet, BalletMet, Pennsylvania Ballet, Ballet Vancouver, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, American Repertory Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Richmond Ballet, Nashville Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Alberta Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, and the Suzanne Farrell Ballet at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where she served as the resident costume designer for 19 years.

Georgina Pazcoguin is an American ballerina. She is a soloist with the New York City Ballet, and is known for challenging racism in ballet, and for performing on Broadway.

Movements for Piano and Orchestra is a neoclassical ballet choreographed by George Balanchine to Stravinsky's score of the same name. The ballet premiered on April 9, 1963, at City Center of Music and Drama, performed by the New York City Ballet. Though the two lead roles were created for Diana Adams and Jacques d'Amboise, seventeen-year-old Suzanne Farrell danced the female lead at the premiere due to Adams' pregnancy. Starting in 1966, Movements and Monumentum pro Gesualdo (1960) are performed together.

Duo Concertant is a ballet choreographed by George Balanchine to Stravinsky's score of the same name. The ballet was created for New York City Ballet's Stravinsky Festival, a tribute to the composer a year after his death, and premiered on June 22, 1972, at the New York State Theater, danced by Kay Mazzo and Peter Martins.

References

  1. "Endings: The Suzanne Farrell Ballet Faces Its Last Season". December 5, 2017.
  2. "Golden Plate Awardees of the American Academy of Achievement". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
  3. "Suzanne Farrell Biography and Interview". www.achievement.org. American Academy of Achievement.
  4. "APS Member History". search.amphilsoc.org. Retrieved February 8, 2021.
  5. 1 2 Bentley, Toni (1990). Holding on to the Air . New York: Summit Books. ISBN   9780671682224.
  6. 1 2 "Suzanne Farrell". Archived from the original on December 29, 2011. Retrieved March 3, 2012.
  7. 1 2 Fragos, Emily. "Suzanne Farrell", BOMB Magazine , Fall 2003. Retrieved July 20, 2011. Archived August 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  8. "Always Off Balance and Always Secure". The New York Times . September 16, 1990. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
  9. "A classic built by soulmates". The Globe and Mail . 2007. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
  10. 1 2 Dunning, Jennifer (August 4, 1993). "City Ballet Breaks Off Its Long Relationship With Suzanne Farrell". The New York Times . Retrieved March 23, 2008.
  11. "The Suzanne Farrell Ballet". Archived from the original on February 2, 2012. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  12. Kaufman, Sarah L. (September 21, 2016). "Suzanne Farrell Ballet to disband in 2017". The Washington Post. ISSN   0190-8286 . Retrieved February 9, 2017.