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The virtuosic pas de deux Tarantella showcases two pyrotechnical dancers in an ever growing profusion of steps.
This sprightly music, despite its Italian air, was composed by Louis Moreau Gottschalk (1829-1869), a New Orleans–born composer and pianist who made a large impact in his brief life. The audacity and wit of his works, along with his brilliance at the keyboard, made his compositions immensely popular — perhaps too popular, as he fell out of favor after his death, considered old-fashioned and clichéd. But Gottschalk was a true American original, and his achievements had a great impact on composers and performers who followed. Balanchine admired this particular composition and choreographed a pas de deux for Patricia McBride and Edward Villella — two virtuosic dancers — in 1964. In his Complete Stories of the Great Ballets, Balanchine wrote of the music, “It is a dazzling display piece, full of speed and high spirits. So, I hope, is the dance, which is ‘Neopolitan’ if you like and ‘demi-caractère.’ The costumes are inspired by Italy, anyhow, and there are tambourines.”
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