Transported by Tchaikovsky

November 28, 2001

This interview appeared in the January 2
Pointe e-newsletter. To sign up for the newsletter, click here.


New York City Ballet kicks off its “Tschaikovsky Celebration”—four weeks of Balanchine-Tchaikovsky programming—on January 15. Pointe‘s e-news spoke with principal Tyler Angle about dancing to the great Russian composer’s music.

We hear you’re a classical music buff. Why do you think Tchaikovsky’s work appeals to so many people?  

The simplest reason is that his pieces are all brimming with emotion. Whatever mood he’s trying to convey, it’s always soulful, and that gets you deeply. It’s very Russian, really.

Balanchine’s two musical muses were Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky, but beyond being Russians, they seem very dissimilar.

I’d say they probably look that way on the outside. But Stravinsky’s music, while it can be difficult, and is definitely less overtly romantic than Tchaikovsky’s, isn’t inapproachable as far as emotion is concerned. You can hardly find more stirring scores than Petruschka or The Rite of Spring—they get to you. They cut the same depth as Tchaikovsky pieces, but in a different avenue.

You’re coming off a month of
The Nutcracker
, going right into this Tchaikovsky festival, and then capping it off with two weeks of Sleeping Beauty. Is it possible to OD on Tchaikovsky?  

No, it’s a treat! I know the musical conservatoires are always going back and forth about whether or not he’s a genius. It’s like how every 10 years someone tells us we should or shouldn’t be eating eggs. But I think it’s incredible stuff. Even after hearing The Nutcracker hundreds of times, it always gives you different things.

How so?

A few weeks ago, I was listening to this moment in the party scene where the woodwinds are really prominent—but suddenly I realized the strings were doing this incredible flying up and down the scales. I was dancing with Wendy Whelan, and I turned to her and was like, “Wendy, listen to those strings!” Tchaikovsky can always catch you off-guard. And as a dancer, you can really throw yourself away to Tchaikovsky, which is the ultimate goal when you’re onstage.