This WISH playlist doesn’t read like a typical YA playlist, but just like Indigo, the main character, I grew up submerged in classical music – it spoke to my heart. I had a few crushes over the years but Tchaikovsky was my first true love. Indigo listens to this type of music a lot, not just because she needs to know the music she’s dancing to intimately but because the music is achingly beautiful. It may not get any airtime on MTV or go viral on YouTube, but classical music has topped the charts for centuries. Why? Because it rocks. No one knew this better than George Balanchine, founder of New York City Ballet, and one of the world’s most famous choreographers. Balanchine had a true knack for choosing exquisite music for his ballets. Give them a listen. You might just find this music will change your tune.
Music: Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48
Composer: Peter IlyitchTschaikovsky
George Balanchine used this music when he choreographed Serenade. The first performance of Serenade was on June 10, 1934, by students of the School of American Ballet, at Felix Warburg’s estate, White Plains, New York.
Serenade is a milestone in the history of dance. It is the first original ballet Balanchine created in America and is one of the signature works of New York City Ballet’s repertory. Balanchine had a special affinity for Tschaikovsky. “In everything that I did to Tschaikovsky’s music,” he told an interviewer, “I sensed his help. It wasn’t real conversation. But when I was working and saw that something was coming of it, I felt that it was Tschaikovsky who had helped me.”
Ballet: Concerto Barocco
Music: Concerto in D minor for Two Violins, B.W.V.
Composer: Johann Sebastian Bach
Balanchine said of this work: “If the dance designer sees in the development of classical dancing a counterpart in the development of music and has studied them both, he will derive continual inspiration from great scores.” This work began as an exercise by Balanchine for the School of American Ballet. In this ballet the dancers are dressed in practice clothes, probably the first appearance of what has come to be regarded as a signature Balanchine costume for contemporary works. On October 11, 1948, Concerto Barocco was one of three ballets on the program at New York City Ballet’s first performance.
Music: Ballet music from the opera Orfeo ed Euridice
Composer: Christoph Willibald Gluck
A chaconne is a dance, built on a short phrase in the bass, that was often used by composers of the 17th and 18th centuries to end an opera in a festive mood. This choreography, first performed in the 1963 Hamburg State Opera production of Orfeo ed Euridice, was somewhat altered for presentation as the ballet Chaconne, particularly in the sections for the principal dancers.
This is one of a handful of ballets where the dancers wear their hair down, adding to the ethereal quality of the piece. I was lucky enough to perform this ballet with Pacific Northwest Ballet at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in New York City.
Ballet: Square Dance
Music: Concerto Grosso in B minor, Op. 3 no. 10; Concerto Grosso in E major, Op. 3, no. 12 (first movement), Sarabanda, Badinerie e Giga (second and third movements)
Composer(s): Antonio Vivaldi / Arcangelo Corelli
In Square Dance, Balanchine joined the traditions of American folk dance with classical ballet. He felt the two types of dance, though widely different in style, had common roots and a similar regard for order. He wrote: “The American style of classical dancing, its supple sharpness and richness of metrical invention, its superb preparation for risks, and its high spirits were some of the things I was trying to show in this ballet.” This ballet is known to be one of the most demanding for the corps, both in the complexity of the steps and the amount of stamina required to perform it.
Ballet: Robert Schumann’s “Davidsbündlertänze”
Music: Davidsbündlertänze, Op. 6
Composer: Robert Schumann,
Robert Schumann’s “Davidsbündlertänze” was one of Balanchine’s last major works. Against a setting inspired, in part, by the works of the 19th century German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich, a series of dances unfolds for four couples. While not literally a biographical narrative, the ballet draws on the life of Schumann, its alternating moods suggesting the episodes of joy and depression that marked the composer’s short career and difficult romance with Clara Wieck. Original dancers were Suzanne Farrell, Kay Mazzo, Heather Watts, Karin von Aroldingen, Jacques d’Amboise, Ib Andersen, Peter Martins and Adam Lüders.