The sisterhood of Serenade
In honor of the School of American Ballet Workshop Performances, three generations of dancers discuss their parts in a Balanchine classic.
Thu May 28 2009
Maria Kowroski; Photograph: Paul Kolnik
Photograph: Paul Kolnik
Kowroski, a NYCB principal, performed the “waltz girl” at the SAB Workshop Performances in 1994.
“I always felt the most comfortable in the part I do with the company—'the dark angel’—but at the school I was cast as the 'waltz girl,’ and I remember loving it. You’re running on pointe and swishing your skirt and there is that moment when you throw your leg in arabesque and fall back and your skirt floats. I remember really loving that part. I had never done anything that hard before. It’s really not that difficult, but when you’re a kid and you’re doing a lot of small jumps—I think I held my breath the whole time. I can still picture Suki Schorer [who staged the ballet] saying, 'Bend and move and swish!’?”
Photograph: Erin Baiano
Lovette, 17, rehearses the “waltz girl.”
“I have a lot of favorite parts in the ballet. One of them is not really hard—it’s just walking. The 'waltz girl’ walks onstage and everyone else is frozen—she’s late or lost, and she is looking for her place. She doesn’t quite fit in, but she’s trying really hard to. She finds where she belongs and you think that everyone’s going to start [dancing with her] but the others all walk away. She still doesn’t fit in. When you finally think that she does, she’s alone. But it doesn’t end sadly; it goes into the waltz with the boy, and I love that part. And the Elegy is breathtaking. Give me drama and I’m happy.”
Photograph: Erin Baiano
Rosenfield, 17, rehearses the “Russian girl.”
“My favorite moment is the Russian dance because we start off together, four girls holding hands. We’re twining even when we break apart, and it feels like you can’t do it without them; it really feels like a sisterhood. Usually at that point you’ve recovered from the really puffy dancing. You work to a whole new level because it’s also a puffy dance by the end—there’s a lot of jumping and the steps feel very liberating. There’s freedom in the arms—you’re very open, and the music keeps driving you on. By the end, you just feel so exhilarated. That part is about the music. [Laughs] I need the music. It’s all about the music for me.”
Photograph: Steven Caras
An injury prevented Nichols from performing the “Russian girl” in 1974; she went on to perform the role as a member of NYCB. She retired in 2007.
“We were in Copenhagen when I performed Serenade for the first time, and Balanchine was pretty pleased with what he saw in the dancing part, but in the Elegy section, where I run in and jump into the boy’s arms—he made me do that probably 100 times. 'No, dear, do it again.’ He didn’t want to see any preparation. I also remember that Suki wanted us to move. She very much tried to teach us how Balanchine would want us to dance: that you’re doing the steps big and bold, but you don’t strip your personality. I never felt that was ever stifled in me when I was at the school.”
The School of American Ballet Workshop Performances will be at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater Sat 30 and Mon 1.
Lauren Lovette and Shoshana Rosenfield discuss Serenade and life as students at the School of American Ballet.