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Home > Classical Ballet

Spotlight on: Symphony in C

Classic ballet in four movements. Music by George Bizet. Choreography by George Balanchine. First presented under the title La Palias de Cristal by the Paris Opera Ballet at the Opera, July 28, 1947, with Lycette Darsonval, Tamara Tumanova, Micheline Bardin, Madeleine Lafon, Alexandre Kaliujny, Roger Ritz, Micheal Renault, and Max Bozzoni as principals. Scenery and costumes by Leonor Fini. First presented in the United States by Ballet Society at the City Center, New Clercq, Beatrice Tompkins, Elise Reiman, Nicolas Magallanes, Francisco Moncion, Herbert Bliss, and Lew Christensen in the principal roles.

Balanchine Symphony in C

Symphony in C is not based on a story, but on the music to which it is danced. Bizet’s symphony is in four movements; each of these movements develops different themes, different melodies. Correspondingly, in the ballet, there is a different dance scheme and development for each of these four movements. Each movement has it’s own characteristic ballerina, premier danseur, and corps be ballet. Toward the end of the ballet, when the different groups have danced their special parts of the symphony, all the groups combine with their ballerinas for a kind of dance summing up of all that has gone before. There is no scenery, only a blue background; the dancers are dressed in classical ballet costumes.

First Movement – Allegro Vivo: The curtain rises before the music begins. Two small groups of girls begin to dance with the opening chord. As the orchestra plays the first theme and repeats it, the two groups dance in opposition, first dancing all together, then alternately following the movement of two leaders.

The ballerina appears, as the second theme is announced by the oboe and strings. She dances forward in crisp, open movements to the rhythm of the melody, turning gracefully as she poses and balances for a moment as she waits for the theme to begin anew. Her dance now becomes brisk and flourishing. She pirouettes swiftly as the two soloists join her, balances again briefly, and leaves the stage.
After the orchestra has given an intimation of the first theme and horns have played a short translation, two boys enter to support the soloists. The ballerina returns with her partner. She dances around the stage, retires to the rear, and, as the first theme of the movement returns, leads the ensemble. On the last clipped chord she stands supported in a quick, graceful pose.

Balanchine Symphony in C

Second Movement – Adagio: The corps de ballet moves slowly to the introductory passage. A second ballerina enters with her partner as the soft central theme of the movement is sounded by the oboe. She is lifted low off the floor and moves as if in slow motion, then is lifted high, her legs describing sweeping arcs in the air. Her partner supports her in long, slow lifts and help poses while the corps de ballet gathers about her. As the movement ends, the ballerina falls back in her partner’s arms.

Third movement – Allegro Vivace: Here the music is spirited and lively. Six girls, in a third corps de ballet, dance forward; two couples join then to leap across the stage; and, finally, a third ballerina and her partner enter to circle the stage in broad leaps. They dance together briefly, turning rapidly in the air together, and rush off into the wings. Soon they return, repeat their dance and lead the corps de ballet to the bright, ebullient music. At one point the boy lifts the ballerina off the floor and drops her, pushing her forward, so that she seems to bounce to the music. The entire group joins in the final measures, the corps de ballet kneeling as the ballerina is held in a graceful pose at the last chord.

Balanchine Symphony in C

Fourth Movement – Allegro Vivace: In the final movement, the principals of the first three movements join with a fourth ballerina and her partner in an exhilarating display of virtuosity that becomes at times a contest. The fourth ballerina and her accompanying group dance first. The fourth ballerina and her accompanying group dance first. They are followed by the ballerina of the first movement and her corps de ballet. The ballerina of the Adagio movement appears next, then the ballerina of the third movement.

The thirty-two girls who have made up the four corps de ballet now line the stage at the sides and across the back. All four ballerinas dance in their midst, each executing the same brilliant steps. Their partners enter for their turn, while secondary soloists dance behind them. At the close, all forty-eight dancers - soloists and corps de ballet – join the principals in a brilliant finale. As the last chord of the music sounds, the ballerinas turn quickly and fall back over their partners’ arms as the secondary soloists are lifted high behind them in a climactic tableau.

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