Pennsylvania Ballet • Serenade • Choreographer: George Balanchine
IF YOU WERE permitted one cultural performance your entire life, what would you choose? The Doors in Madison Square Garden? Pavarotti singing below the Eiffel Tower? A recital of wooden flute in an Aurignacian cave?
After attending the first ballet performance of my life, I can attest there is one answer only to this question: a ballet performance of Serenade.
“Now, hold on a minute”, you are probably thinking. Just who is this George fella? George Balanchine was the finest choreographer that ever lived, says just about everyone who studies this for a living. “And what, exactly, is this Serenade?”
Backing up a little, we remember Tchaikovsky wrote, in 1880, Serenade for Strings in C. Inspired by his time in Italy, this piece supremely exhibits a relaxed buoyancy and melodic richness. Perfect, one thinks, for ballet. This piece, however, was not written for Mr. Balanchine. Sadly, by eleven years, the two men missed the other’s worldly existence.
A few decades later, as a young man, Mr. Balanchine heard Tchaikovsky’s Serenade, and wrote, to accompany this music, a perfect dance he also called Serenade. To answer your question, finally, Serenade, first performed in 1934, is a ballet by George Balanchine to Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48.
Tchaikovsky’s score is fulfilling and romantic; the ballet performance is this but so much more. Beauty and grace one rarely encounters in a world of survival comes alive through the imagination and vision of one man. The dance designed by Mr. Balanchine will transport one in a manner the Manly Man, hiding tears, may not acknowledge. Women, however, will openly be thankful for the beauty of all Mankind.