Take away the fairies and swans and tragic love, and what is left of ballet? A glittering clarity of technique. Ballet Imperial and Suite en blanc, both made in the early 1940s, showcase clean lines, thrilling pointe work and a distinctive elegance.
Originally from Russia and steeped in the classical tradition, George Balanchine embraced the hurtling energy of his adopted city New York, and even his most traditional works are infused with a playful modern spirit. Ballet Imperial is his tribute to Petipa and the Mariinsky Theatre, dressed in sumptuous midnight-blue costumes by Hugh Colman.
Suite en blanc is the French choreographer Serge Lifar’s version of a ballet blanc, a la the “white acts” of Swan Lake and Giselle. Its pristine costumes are strikingly arranged against a black background, and its variations are infused with a particularly Parisian brand of sophistication. This double bill is classical brilliance in its most distilled form.