My colleague Devin Alberda captured some beautiful shots of Teresa Reichlen and Russell Janzen in rehearsal for Swan Lake. They make their debut as a tragic couple in just a few hours!
I am happy to welcome my friend Russell Janzen to the site! I have wanted Russell to write something for a while now and I’m so glad he finally had the time—and right before his big debut in Balanchine’s Duo Concertant no less! Here Russell is generous enough to share his thoughts and trepidations about tackling such a storied role. And although I often write about how ballet is such an ephemeral endeavor, Russell contends—rightly I think—that every new performance is bound up in conversation with all the past performances in a ballet’s history.
Am I Doing This Right?
Recently, after a friend of mine came to the ballet, he told me he thought it must be nice to have a job where there’s such a clear right and wrong. There are the steps you have to do, he said, and there’s a right way to do them. It seemed like such a strange thing to say after seeing the ballet. He’s not wrong though. But he’s not right either.
It’s true, there is set choreography in almost every piece we do at New York City Ballet (it is a rare ballet in our rep that has any moments of improvisation), and it’s possible to do the wrong movement, to incorrectly execute a step or sequence of steps, and to dance at the wrong time, but that doesn’t mean there’s only one way to do it right. There are disputes regularly among dancers and ballet masters about what the choreography really is. Different people remember different steps. In part, these discrepancies exist because many of the ballets we dance have been adjusted over the years.
Beyond arguments about what the right steps are, there is also the question of how to interpret a role. If you do the choreography correctly, it does not guarantee you are giving the piece the right feel or that it will be compelling. There’s more to being a good dancer than doing the right steps at