Dancer Susan Lewis. Photographer Don Middleton
Choreography: George Balanchine
Music: Peter Tchaikovsky
Staged By: Una Kai
About the ballet
Serenade was the first ballet choreographed by George Balanchine when he arrived in America in 1935. While initially set on students of the young School of American Ballet, it has since become a signature work of New York City Ballet’s repertory and is the most frequently performed of Balanchine’s works throughout the world. The work is set to Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C and is a masterwork of geometrical poetry.
The creation of Serenade, Balanchine’s first work for American dancers, has been widely documented. The ballet evolved over a period of weeks in a classroom at the School of American Ballet. Incorporated into the design of the work are those accidents, incidents, and possibilities which are familiar aspects of the class experience: the number of dancers varied from day to day; someone was absent; someone arrived late; someone fell. Events of chance became a part of the piece that would become Serenade. They remain.
From the non-hierarchical classroom setting comes another significant aspect of the work. Abandoning rigid and traditional role assignments (the cavalier, the ballerina, the corps) Balanchine presents an ensemble of equals. The group before us, uniformly costumed, is uniformly capable. The soloists emerge, evolve, appear, are reabsorbed in the whole; according to their talents they are shown to advantage. Serenade suggests a story, or more accurately presents a compelling emotional relationship between the dancers. If it is a story, it is one without beginning, middle or end. Again, it is a matter of possibilities.
World Premiere: March 1, 1935 Adelphi Theatre, New York
Kansas City Ballet Premiere: May 13, 1982, Lyric Theatre, Kansas City, Missouri