IN BALANCHINE’S CLASSROOM In-Person Q&A with Filmmaker Connie Hochman & Balanchine Ballerina Merrill Ashley
Friday, September 17, 6:30 show
Moderated by dance writer & historian Jennifer Homans
SOLD OUT – No standby line
Connie Hochman was a professional ballet dancer with Pennsylvania Ballet where she performed many Balanchine masterworks. In 2007, Connie began a series of interviews with former Balanchine dancers – ninety in all – to explore the phenomenon of Balanchine’s classroom. Why did he teach and not just choreograph? What did he teach? How did he teach? How did his daily class relate to his ballets? Their remembrances of his unorthodox methods and transformative teaching form the basis of IN BALANCHINE’S CLASSROOM. In addition to the oral histories, Connie launched an extensive and painstaking search for visuals that would bring the story to life. Over years, she discovered a trove of neverbefore- seen archival footage of Balanchine in America. With approval from The George Balanchine Trust, Connie traveled around the country and to Europe to film Balanchine’s former dancers staging his ballets, teaching class, and passing on their knowledge to today’s generation. Photo © Donna Mueller Photography.
Merrill Ashley is considered one of the great Balanchine ballerinas. The New York Times described her dancing as the kind that “helps shape the standards of greatness.” Ms. Ashley trained at the School of American Ballet, the official school of New York City Ballet. In 1967, Balanchine invited her to join his New York City Ballet. Early on, Balanchine challenged Ms. Ashley with several of the most demanding ballerina roles he ever created, such as his Theme and Variations and Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto #2. In 1977, Balanchine choreographed the bravura Ballo della Regina expressly for Ms. Ashley to showcase her virtuosic abilities. That year he promoted her to Principal Dancer. At NYCB, she danced an enormous repertoire of Balanchine ballets, along with many works choreographed by Jerome Robbins, Jacques d’Amboise, Peter Martins and more. During those years Ms. Ashley was in demand as a guest artist around the world and earned an international reputation. In 1980, towards the end of his life, Balanchine choreographed Ballade for Ms. Ashley. In summing up her career, The Wall Street Journal stated, "she basically taught the world how ballet is danced." In 1997, after 31 years performing with New York City Ballet, Ashley retired and joined their artistic staff where she taught and coached until 2009. Since then, Ashley has been staging and coaching Balanchine ballets, teaching master classes, and lecturing on Balanchine all over the world. Photo © Arthur Elgort.
Jennifer Homans is the author of Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet, and the dance critic for The New Yorker. She holds a Ph.D. in Modern European History from New York University, where she founded and directs The Center for Ballet and the Arts. Before becoming a writer and scholar, Homans was a professional dancer. She is currently working on a biography of George Balanchine.