Sunday, July 24, 2016

American Ballet In Paris

Walpurgisnacht Ballet
Châtelet Theater
Hunting around for something to do one evening, we discovered tickets reserved months ago for the ballet. I was actually looking forward to a movie in the neighborhood.

My daughter expressed interest in seeing a ballet in January, something I’ve never done in Paris. But instead of booking to see a French ballet, she picked an evening with the New York City Ballet at the Châtelet Theater. Oh well.

I wanted to see French ballet in the country that made dance into an art form. (See “The King Who Invented Ballet.”)

That night, July 16, we were treated to four works—Walpurgisnacht Ballet, Sonatine, La Valse, and Symphony in C. These were all created by George Balanchine (1904-1983), who founded the company in 1948. The intention of the director of NYCB was to tell Paris: this is the way Balanchine does it, this is the way it’s done in America.

I didn't realize that where French ballet left off, the Russians took it to new dimensions. And one Russian, George Balanchine, took this dance form to the U.S. and made it American in the years after WWII. His influence led to the popularity of ballet in the U.S. and the founding of ballet schools and companies throughout the country--including the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater in 1969.

I told my daughter Balanchine was modern, but that's not right. It's certainly not classical ballet. You know something’s up when you see ballerinas wearing limp dresses rather than tutus. The stage is sparse. Compared with French ballerinas, the ones in this troupe take the stage rather than flutter across it. The dances tend to express abstract themes rather than tell stories. Balanchine is considered “neoclassical.”

Yet the last number, Symphony in C, was a classical crowd pleaser, a joyous romp with tutus and tiaras. The crowd roared with amazing applause, and wouldn’t let the troupe leave the stage. Did these American ballet slippers leave a mark on Paris?
Symphony in C
Châtelet Theater

Going out to see a live performance in Paris can be expensive, but I’ll give you a tip. At the Châtelet, buy the seats with an obstructed view. Our tickets were 35 euros each, and we don’t feel we missed a thing, even though we couldn’t see the left edge of the stage. To get a good deal, book in advance.


  1. Love that you wrote an article about one of my favorite subjects! Though I would argue that the American Ballet Theatre more represents American ballet with it's more classical nature and having been founded before NYCB-- Balanchine is definitely referred to as the founder of american ballet. He can be definitely controversial with how modern some of his works are! All a matter of preference I suppose but I definitely have a soft spot for ABT- have you heard of one of the principal dancers Misty Copland? She's one of my all time favorites and has even recreated some of Degas' works for a photo shoot.

    1. Thanks! As you say, all a matter of preference! I like more modern ballet and modern dance, especially Pina Bausch. I've heard of Misty Copland, but I don't think I've seen her dance. Let's go to the ballet sometime! PBT this summer?

  2. I've never heard of her I'll have to look her up! For me, my favorite contemporary dancer is Martha Graham :) Not much is going on this summer, I don't think any ballets are running at all.