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The quintessential piano ballet, Dances at a Gathering distills the spectrum of human interaction into the most natural of movements, a landmark for its invention, virtuosity, and constantly shifting emotions.
Dances at a Gathering, which premiered in 1969, heralded Jerome Robbins’ return to New York City Ballet after a 13-year absence. Inspired by Chopin’s piano music, Robbins quickly began choreographing in the rehearsal studio. When he showed 25 minutes of choreography to Balanchine, he said, “Make more, make it like popcorn,” pretending to pop popcorn into his mouth. The work eventually expanded to an hour in length with a cast of ten dancers.
Chopin’s mazurkas, waltzes, and études, groundbreaking at the time of their composition, are rooted in the Slavic character of his Polish homeland, yet still convey the elegance of Paris, where they were created. Robbins ultimately used 18 of Chopin’s piano pieces, creating dances for various duets, solos, and larger groupings.
“The ballet stays and exists in the time of the music and its work,” wrote Robbins. “Nothing is out of it, I believe; all gestures and moods, steps, etc. are part of the fabric of the music’s time and its meaning to me.”
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