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Balanchine had admired Chabrier's music since discovering it after leaving Russia during his early years in France. He knew well the pieces he would assemble into the score of Bourrée Fantasque, but waited a long time before he used them to create one of the first works for the newly-formed New York City Ballet.
Balanchine was well-known for his wonderful wit as well as an encyclopedic knowledge of dance forms. Here he takes comic aim at many of the conventions that typify the classical dance while providing glimpses of such popular dances such as the can-can and tango. This large ballet for 42 dancers is performed in four movements with each of the first three sections having its own principal couple and culminates in a rousing finale for the entire cast. Critics have cited Bourrée Fantasque for its Gallic style, Russian dance vocabulary and American dynamism.
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