People say that the real star of Balanchine’s ballets is the corps, and I think that’s right—they’re always dancing, and they never get a break, like in so many classical ballets. Last night, Western Symphony definitely proved that point for me, as I found myself watching the corps more than the soloists. The patterns they formed were so fun and intricate, and their energy was unflagging as they smiled and pranced from one shape to another. I hate to say it, but in some ways they were more interesting than the soloists, even my fellow tall girl Teresa Reichlen, who I always love to watch.
It’s in the corps, too, that you see the real (and not at all cheesy) purpose of the ballet, which is to showcase the American frontier spirit of the late 1800s, and celebrate American folk music and dancing. Many of the patterns and movements of the corps recall traditional square dancing, as they line up opposite each other doing heel-toe steps, do-si-do, and weave in and out while holding hands.
I was also delighted by all the detail in the ballet. For example, when the Rondo girl in the last movement is doing releves alternating in arabesque and developpe devant while traveling down a diagonal, the corps of men and women is lined up on the same diagonal on one knee, with arms linked. As the soloist travels, they are leaning alternatingly to the left and the right while she switches from front to back, looking up at her, and the effect is so dynamic. All that energy was infectious, and left me smiling all the way home.