Tag Archives: Serenade

Classical Music That Will Rock Your World


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.

art by xjaneax

art by xjaneax

Ballet: Serenade

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

Premier: 1941

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.

Ballet: Chaconne

Music: Ballet music from the opera Orfeo ed Euridice

Composer: Christoph Willibald Gluck

Premier: 1976

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

Premier: 1957

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,

Permier: 1976

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.


How to become a professional ballet dancer

World Ballet Day

A day in the life of a professional ballet student

Feast For The Senses Part II:Music That Makes You Move

Music is to dancers as oxygen is to the rest of us; a vital part of existence that we simply can’t do without. It’s the driving force for all dancers and creators of dance. But there’s music and there’s music. I’m thinking more about the type of music that touches us at our very core, elicits a burning, a yearning, a desire to translate what we are hearing into movement.

In short, the music that makes us want to step, sway, shimmy, shake something. Anything.

Because I was trained as a classical ballet dancer, I will always have a soft spot for classical music. Back in the day, Tchaikovsky was my man. The first time I heard the music to Balanchine’s “Serenade” I felt like passing out, it was so beautiful. The ballet is also stunning. ‘Serenade” was the first ballet George Balanchine choreographed in America, (in 1934), the beginning point where he began 50 years of reshaping classical ballet. It was the first of many pieces choreographed to his beloved Tchaikovsky. The ballet is set to the composer’s soaring score “Serenade for Strings in C.” Tchaikovsky called the piece—composed at the same time as the 1812 Overture—”his “favorite child,” written, he said from “inner compulsion…from the heart…I am terribly in love with this Serenade.”

See if you don’t agree after this:

Ah, Concerto Barocco. The ballet I love to hate (ready why here). Putting past associations aside and overcoming any Pavlovian tendencies, Bach’s Concerto in D minor for Two Violins is another piece of music I immediately fell head-over-heels with. In a word, gorgeous.

Concerto Barocco:

But now for something completely different. Balanchine went on to choreograph to a wide variety of music. The ballet Who Cares?, set to music by George Gershwin, is an excellent example. I had the pleasure of performing this ballet while I was a student at the School of American Ballet and I can still hear the music now… Balanchine chose 17 of Gershwin’s Boradway hits for this ballet, first performed at State Theater in 1970. it was at first performed with without décor but from November 1970 with scenery.

Dancers Discuss Life After the Stage: Jenna Lavin-Crabtree

Jenna Lavin-Crabtree is originally from Queens, New York. She began ballet training with Mme. Gabriela Darvash and Jody Fugate. She later graduated from the School of American Ballet where she studied with such teachers as Alexandra Danilova, Antonia Tumkovsky and Stanley Williams.

Ms. Lavin began her professional career at 17 when she was invited to join the Chicago City Ballet, under the direction of Maria Tallchief. Ms. Lavin also danced with the Atlanta Ballet (directed by Robert Barnett) for seven years. Her principal soloist roles with the Atlanta Ballet include: Balanchine’s Prodigal Son, The Four Temperaments, Serenade, Tarantella Pas De Deux, Minkus Pas a Trois as well as Le Corsaire Pas De Deux, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Swan Lake and The Nutcracker. Ms. Lavin was a principal dancer with Nashville Ballet where she danced Odette/Odile in Swan Lake and the title role in Giselle as well as principal roles in the company’s contemporary repertoire. Ms. Lavin spent eight summers as a member of the Chattaqua Ballet Company, under the direction of Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux where she performed principal roles in ballets by Balanchine, Bonnefoux and Clifford. She is a former soloist with Edward Villella’s Miami City Ballet where she danced principal roles in many ballets including Divertimento #15, Jewels, Pas De Dix, Raymonda Variations, Valses Fantaises, Western Symphony, Glinka Pas De Trois, The Nutcracker and Who Cares? Ms. Lavin has worked with numerous choreographers, creating principal roles in ballets by Alonzo King, Lisa de Ribere and Stanton Welch, to name a few. In the summer of 2003, Ms. Lavin performed in Casablanca, collaboration between Warner Bros. and John Clifford’s Los Angeles Dance Theater.

1. How did you get your first contract with a professional company?

My professional career started at 17.
I was finishing up my last year at SAB and wondering what to do for the summer in terms of my ballet training. I auditioned for the Chicago City Ballet summer program based solely on the fact that it was directed by Maria Tallchief. I very much wanted to work with her. She was not at the audition that day. The audition class was run by her associate directer, Paul Mejia. I guess he liked what he saw of me that day because after the audition was over he told me I was accepted into the summer program. Then he told me that he thought Ms Tallchief (that’s what we all called her) would like me very much, maybe even enough to offer me an apprentice for the Fall! Of course I was very happy to hear this as I was trying to find a company position somewhere for the next season. I started that summer as a student in the summer intensive and finished that summer with a company apprenticeship contract signed, sealed and delivered! I stayed there for a year and a half at which point unfortunately Chicago City Ballet folded. I’m so grateful for that time with the legendary Ms Tallchief. She was truly an amazing force to work with and I was very much in awe of her.

2. Describe some of your favorite moments from your dance career?

There are so many! I danced professionally for 18 years in 4 different companies PLUS tons of summer work, Nutcracker guestings and freelance work.
My husband and I fell in love while doing freelance work here in NYC with a small pickup company who had hired Staton Welch ( now the director of Houston Ballet )to choreograph a new ballet. Cornel and I were partnered together and Staton was/is incredibly talented and having that ballet created on us was really a magical experience. Every one of the performances was a journey for us and really I think some of my most enjoyable *moments* on stage were spent happily in my soon to be husband’s arms!

While with Atlanta Ballet so many wonderful opportunities were given to me by Robert Barnett, our loving and very generous director. My first Sugar Plum and Dewdrop were danced with the Atlanta Ballet. Symphony of Psalms and Carmina Burana rehearsing with Fernand Nault -an amazing experience. Really the rep in Atlanta was wonderful, everything from the full length classics to Balanchine to contemporary works.  Later on in my career as a member of Miami City Ballet, Edward was very good about “spreading the wealth” when it came to casting and almost always tried to have 3 casts of the principal and soloists roles. One of the principal women in Divertimento #15 was a favorite, favorite part of mine. I was cast in this part immediately, it was actually my first rehearsal with the company! Performing at the Kennedy Center for the first time was definitely a highlight.

Other memorable moments were performing the title role of Giselle with the Nashville Ballet with a live orchestra and a packed audience. So interesting and awesome to dive into a character so thoroughly. I loved that work in the studio. And Black Swan, completing those famous 32 fouettes on stage for the first time! So exhilarating! So many wonderful and beautiful memories.

3. What made you decide to end your dance career? How did you decide what to do next?

What made me decide to end my career was pregnancy!! I had started teaching at Ballet Academy East (where I still teach today) about a year before I became pregnant.  It was a great fit from the start.  I still danced my first year while teaching at BAE but only freelance gigs and Nutcracker guestings. Once I became pregnant I continued to teach up until about 2 weeks before I had my first son. I’ve had 2 more boys since then and with each pregnancy I taught all the way through to the end. So really I had already started on another career before I had time to sit and ponder what I would do “after dance”.

4. Is dance still a part of your life now? How?

Dance, as always is a huge part of my life even though I no longer dance professionally. It has been my passion since I started training, at age 7. The obvious way it’s still a part of my life is my teaching.  To this day (and I retired 9 years ago) I still love being in a studio. I teach the beautiful kids at BAE and that work in the studio that I so loved doing is still very much alive in me. I think this comes thru in my choreography that I do for our student company. I’m incredibly lucky in that I get to choreograph on the kids 2-3 times a year and it’s such a joy for me!  That feeling of moving to the music in thinking up their choreography is what reminds me most of dancing and keeps it such a huge part of my life.

5. How do the things you learned from ballet influence your life today?

Ballet teaches such amazingly focused discipline and perseverance.  I know these qualities have stayed with me long after I have left the stage. I think also spending all those years studying your craft while staring in the mirror has maybe now turned into studying my life and tweaking it to make sure all is running smoothly. I think dancers are great at ” fixing ” things. We learn early on to make the best of a situation and trudge onward. Now that I’m a Mom these qualities are serving me well!

6. Is there anything you would change or do differently if you could?

I absolutely wouldn’t change a thing. I have always felt that everything happens for a reason. I was so fortunate with my career because I worked with so many choreographers and danced so many different ballets. It wasn’t always wonderful of course but no one’s situation is perfect, even if it appears to be. I sailed thru my 18 years on stage with only 2 minor injuries and one terrible ankle sprain that left me out of the studio for 2 months. That was it. I got to do most of the full length classics (minus Don Q and Bayadare. Next lifetime) I got to do tons of Balanchine and also tons of contemporary works. What more could a dancer ask for?  Then I married the man of my dreams whom I have 3 amazing boys with and we have just celebrated our 10 tenth wedding anniversary. Life is so inspiring!

 7. Do you have any advice for young dancers?

1) Find a school to train at that can give you a good classical background. It’s very important these days when you enter a company that you can dance in every style. Classically trained dancers can do anything.  There could be 3 ballets on a program : one Balanchine, one classical and one contemporary.  You must be able to dance them all! It’s not enough anymore to just be able to do one of them well. You want to be the dancer that the director feels can conquer the entire repertoire.

2) Finish your education. Life on stage is very short indeed and you will still be so young when your ballet career is over. Another career might be there waiting for you if you keep your mind and heart open enough to see it!











Jenna has been teaching ballet to young dancers throughout her career, beginning in Chicago when she was 17. She has taught master classes in Atlanta, Michigan and for the Nashville Ballet School.

Ms. Lavin has been on the faculty at Ballet Academy East in NYC since 2003 where she teaches and choreographs for the Graded Level.

She is married to Cornel Crabtree and they are the proud parents of three boys: Sky (age 8), Grayson, (age 4) and Cooper (age 1).