The Magazine

A Tudor Dynasty

Balanchine and the American Ballet Theater are no longer synonymous.

Feb 9, 2009, Vol. 14, No. 19 • By PIA CATTON
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Part of what helped is that ABT brought in some top-notch dancers who were specialists in these ballets. Pillar of Fire and Continuo were staged by Amanda McKerrow and John Gardner, a husband-and-wife team of Tudor experts and former ABT dancers. Judgment of Paris (1938) is a light, funny skit that casts the three muses as prostitutes dancing in a French café for a sauced boulevardier. It was staged by Diana Byer, a former Tudor student at Juilliard who now runs the tiny but noble New York Theater Ballet.

Dance is unusual in that, after a choreographer's death, the nuances of the work must be passed from dancer to dancer. The steps can be preserved on videotape, but the creator's intentions, imagery, and ideas are rarely written down. Like the book memorizers in Fahrenheit 451, dancers take pains to transfer their treasures over to those who understand the value. This time around, that transfer yielded splendid results.

Pia Catton is a writer in New York.