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Inside Agon
Posted by First Soloist Elisabeth Holowchuk
How is Agon a special ballet to you?

Agon was one of the first Balanchine ballets I saw as a young student. It was also one of the first pieces of Balanchine repertory that I learned in school during variations class. I have always enjoyed the ballet—watching it and dancing it. The partnership between Mr. Balanchine's movement and Mr. Stravinsky's music is unparalleled. The first time I performed the ballet, I danced the section that I had first learned in school—the first pas de trois. It felt like such a huge milestone, to be able to take something that you once dreamed of doing and realize that you've reached a place in your career when you can actually accomplish it.

What is it like to dance Agon?

For me, Agon is physically thrilling. It's intense. From the moment the dancers take the stage, the choreography is action packed and very powerful. I've danced two different sections in the ballet—the first pas de trois and the pas de deux section. Both require total precision and musicality. There can be no holding back. It's meant to be enormous movement that pushes your boundaries. In the pas de deux, you challenge each other and that's what makes it work—the back and forth, the give and take.

What was it like working with Ms. Farrell in Agon?

I'm always amazed at how many details she can store in her memory. The ballet has complicated patterns and choreography. The counts are anything but simple. And it's all there inside her—every moment for every dancer right there. And the great thing is that the information she has flows freely, directly from her to us. It's as close to being in the studio with Balanchine and Stravinsky that we could possibly be.

What is one of my favorite moments in Agon?

I love the first diagonal in the pas de deux. You enter very calmly from the wings, take your place... and then it's like being shot out of a cannon! It's hard to pick just one moment. I think what I like best about dancing the ballet is how present you have to be in each moment, particularly in the pas de deux. Because there is so much play back and forth between you and your partner, you both have to be in tune to each other and the weight of the step, the timing, the balance of everything. I love negotiating through the complicated partnering. If you tip too much in one direction, the whole thing could fall apart! But because you really connect with each other and work together, it creates this amazing visual experience from the audience.

Why is Agon staged by Ms. Farrell a ballet that everyone should see?

I think we dance Agon unlike any other company, because we are coached unlike any other company. We benefit from Ms. Farrell's direct experience with both Mr. Balanchine and Mr. Stravinsky. You can't get closer to the source than that. She keeps the ballet fresh and exciting. The timing, the movement, the musicality—it could have been choreographed today rather than in 1957.

Inside Episodes
Posted by Soloist Kirk Henning
How is Episodes a special ballet to you?

Episodes was one of the first ballets in which I had the opportunity to partner with Bonnie Pickard [a former principal dancer]. I was in the corps, and she was a principal, so I was excited but nervous. Episodes is a hard ballet to count, and the timing has to be very precise, so I was apprehensive on how I would do. But she put me at ease, and I feel I learned a lot while doing that piece on stage.

What is it like to dance Episodes?

Episodes is a ballet that can really show off the music with movement. It demands a fullness of body with precision and clarity.

What was it like working with Ms. Farrell in Episodes?

It was an enjoyable experience. Ms. Farrell knows the counts very well, and I remember her taking the time to make sure I knew and was comfortable with them.

What is one of your favorite moments in Episodes?

One of my favorite parts is when all four girls, the ballerina, and I do a dance weaving together. Everyone at that point is holding hands, and it’s very fun.

Why is Episodes staged by Ms. Farrell a ballet that everyone should see?

It’s an iconic work and a piece of our dance history that should not be missed!

Inside Mozartiana
Posted by Principal dancer Heather Ogden
How is Mozartiana a special ballet to you?

Mozartiana is a special ballet to me personally because I feel at home in it. I feel like I can be inside the music, and when I'm dancing, I feel a wonderful freedom. I think the choreography touches every part of the dancer and audience because it is both physical and spiritual, and that is what I love. From the moment I learned it, I knew it would be a favorite of mine.

What is it like to dance Mozartiana?

Dancing Mozartiana is very fulfilling. In a way, it is a big mountain to climb, but it builds so well that you feel a wonderful high and sense of accomplishment when you finish. The movements are directly tied to the music and they range from spiritual, soft movements to crisp, virtuoso movements. The whole ballet is very dynamic and full of grace.

What was it like working with Ms. Farrell in staging Mozartiana?

I always love working with Suzanne, and Mozartiana was a special experience. Suzanne came to Toronto to teach me the role, and it was so wonderful how quickly we moved and the amount of information she had to pass on. We had so much fun, and she was so generous with me.

What is one of your favorite moments in Mozartiana?

One of my favorite moments is the prayer solo at the beginning. Although it’s a performance, it feels private and quiet, and it’s a beautiful way to start the ballet.

Why is Mozartiana staged by Ms. Farrell a ballet that everyone should see?

Everyone should see Mozartiana because it is a gem of a ballet combining the excellence of Balanchine, Mozart and Suzanne!

Costuming Mozartiana
Posted by Holly Hynes
Hard to believe it has already been 10 years since I designed Mozartiana costumes for Ms. Farrell’s company. It is one of my favorite designs for TSFB. The original designs, the ones NYCB uses and Ms. Farrell wore, were designed in the early 80s by Rouben Ter-Artunian who was a dear friend and one of my early mentors.
 At first I was stumped, how do you reinvent the wheel? The elements I loved about Rouben's designs were the suggestion of period and the dark richness of the black fabrics. Something about the elegance of black on everyone didn't seem down or depressing, as you might think it would. I felt the spiritual atmosphere around the costumes that seem such a part of the ballet itself. I spent 14 years being taught by nuns, 10 of those years they wore black and white habits, maybe that was influencing my thoughts. So I went to work with black velvet, silk organza, and airy lace. I played with stripes on the male principal but Ms. Farrell guided me back to Earth. We settled on a solid deep blue with a black back. I took that same blue and dyed nylon tulle in a slightly lighter hue and snuck it into the white and black romantic skirt for the prima. Maybe it was the blue I associated with the Virgin Mary. I loved dressing the little girls in black frocks. At 10-12 years old, none of them had ever worn a black dress. It felt very Victorian in a way. A first for them and a first for me.

Principal Male:

Principal Female:

Soloist Male:

Corps de Ballet:

Inside Agon and Duo Concertant
Posted by Principal dancer Natalia Magnicaballi
How is Agon a special ballet to you?

Agon will be always special to me, because it was my first black-and-white Balanchine ballet. This role, originated by Diana Adams, was passed to me by Ms. Farrell, who was coached by Adams herself.

What is it like to dance Agon?

To me, dancing Agon is almost like a chess game; I dance the ballerina part in its very physical pas de deux, where the body gets pushed to extreme positions. Although Agon means “contest” in Greek, and despite the ballet not having a story, I don’t feel women and men are competing. I rather believe Mr. Balanchine wanted to portray them as equally important, especially in the way he choreographed the pas des deux—which really invites the two dancers to create different moods throughout it, allowing them to show their individuality, then their trust in each other, until ending as one.

What was it like working with Ms. Farrell in staging Agon?

I never saw Agon before Ms. Farrell passed it to me; the first part I learned was the pas de deux, which I performed for Ms. Farrell’s “Balanchine Couple” program. Ms. Farrell is one of the most musical persons I know; she really wants you to absorb and recognize the music, and she expects her dancers to listen to the instruments, the silences, etc. Of course, she teaches the ballets with counts too, but understanding the music plays a key role in the learning process. I have to say that since the day she passed Agon to me, it stood in me forever.

What is one of your favorite moments in Agon?

Agon is one of my favorite ballets. I love the whole piece. Dancing it makes you feel like you are a part of a perfect machine.

Why is Agon staged by Ms. Farrell a ballet that everyone should see?

When Ms. Farrell restages Mr. Balanchine pieces, she makes sure they remain as true as they were originally choreographed. For the audience, that’s a unique opportunity to see Mr. Farrell’s vivid memories performed live.

How is Duo Concertant a special ballet to you?

I enjoy the rare opportunity that Duo Concertant gives us dancers in interacting with each other and with the musicians on stage.

What is it like to dance Duo Concertant?

This piece consists of five movements with two dancers, female and male, sharing the stage with two musicians and their instruments. To have the musicians on stage with us creates a very special interaction and an overall different atmosphere for the audience.

What was it like working with Ms. Farrell in staging Duo Concertant?

In all these years of dancing Duo Concertant with the company, Ms. Farrell has given me the opportunity to dance it with different partners, bringing a constant feeling of freshness to the ballet and allowing me to develop new ways of interacting with each of them, which enriches my dancing.

What is one of your favorite moments in Duo Concertant?

What I like the most about dancing Duo Concertant is that every movement is different. This helps the artists and audience see how different situations can be portrayed using the same elements in different ways on the same canvas.

Why is Duo Concertant staged by Ms. Farrell a ballet that everyone should see?

As Mr. Balanchine’s muse, and probably the most musical ballerina in history, when staging Duo Concertant, Ms. Farrell brings dancers and musicians together as one, delivering a perfect ensemble, impossible to repeat.

FSU Residency Fall 2013
Posted by Administrator
Warming up!

Paola and Natalia

Amy relaxing in the window

Paola and Michael

Paola likes the window too!

Ted, Valerie and Jordyn rehearsing


Inside Episodes
Posted by Principal dancer Michael Cook
Episodes is another example of Balanchine's genius and Ms. Farrell's coaching ability. I will be dancing the third section of the ballet, "Concerto.” This section has a world all its own within the corps dancers and soloists. My favorite part in the concerto is the last section, when the ballerina holds hands with the corps girls and the boy lifts, turns, and flips the ballerina while she is still connected with the girls. The "tangle" of linked bodies constantly moves and makes shapes, acting as a moving picture frame.

I always love to revisit ballets the company has previously danced because Ms. Farrell always find something new within the ballet—to not only make it feel fresh, but she helps us find something new within ourselves to bring to the ballet.

Suzanne thoughtfully coaches dancers in the Balanchine technique, and stages nuanced performances, like Episodes, more faithfully to Mr. B's precise technique and incomparable musicality than any other person.
Inside Mozartiana
Posted by
What is it like working with Ms. Farrell?

Working with Ms. Farrell, I feel challenged every day, every class, and every rehearsal. She is so focused on the work that it makes everyone around her feel this same responsibility. We are a small and close knit group, and Ms. Farrell is at the center of it all. She is committed to every moment—whether it’s in class, in rehearsal, or in performance—and she is always striving to pull out our best work.

How is Mozartiana a special ballet to you personally?

The style of the ballet is more classical—it takes me back to my roots of my Russian training and upbringing. Growing up, I was not familiar with Balanchine's works or his style. I was only introduced to it once I moved to the USA. Now, over in Russia and in other countries, they are exposed to a lot more of his work, but back then not so much. Tchaikovsky was paying homage to Mozart when composing the music. And of course, growing up in the former Soviet Union, Tchaikovsky's music is very familiar to me. So Mozartiana is special to me because of this classical tone, of both the choreography and the music.

What is it like to dance Mozartiana?

To me, dancing Mozartiana feels like putting on your favorite pair of shoes. Because of its classical tone, the movement feels comfortable for me. The music is exquisite, and the mood the ballet creates is beautiful.

Why is Mozartiana staged by Ms. Farrell a ballet that everyone should see?

Mozartiana was created on her—it doesn't get better than that! Ms. Farrell knows the ins and the outs of the choreography. She knows why things are the way they are, not just what they are. She lived the ballet and its inception, so she became a part of the creation process. It is an honor to be coached by Ms. Farrell for this ballet, and it is an honor for the audience to watch her hand down her legacy.

What is your favorite moment from the ballet?

It is difficult for me to pick just one favorite moment. When dancing, it is my job to make each moment as impactful and meaningful as possible. So really, they all have to become my favorite moments.

How long?
Posted by Principal dancer Natalia Magnicaballi
I often hear dancers ask Ms. Farrell, how high do you want me to raise the leg? How high do you want me to jump? How long do you want me to hold the balance? And she will answer, “As high/long as the music allows you.” So what happens when you don’t have music? Well, I think you have to create your own music inside you. At least that is what I did last month when I was part of a photo shoot that took place on stage at the Kennedy Center. It lasted 4 hours and we had 5 ballets to shoot. I had to switch costumes and get in the mood of the ballet so fast... it was exciting and challenging! Sometimes adjusting the movements for the camera angle or just posing was not the easiest thing to do. Somehow, I felt restricted. I was lacking the freedom I experience in a performance, where I listen to the music and I let myself go. What we do as performers is so in the moment that when repeating the same movement or pose, it is pretty hard to get to the same result and feeling. With today’s technology, a performance can persist a little longer in people’s minds by allowing them to watch recordings afterwards. But the truth is, that has no comparison to experiencing it live. I believe as an artist I have the responsibility to always find a way to make this art form look alive. Ballet is a live art form and we cannot let it ever die.

Elisa's Summer
Posted by First Soloist Elisabeth Holowchuk
Although the first day of fall is technically this Sunday, Labor Day signifies the end of the summer in my house. We had an eventful summer vacation here- lots of highs and lows. And very busy! The summer is a time when students get to attend summer intensive programs. They usually spend a few weeks at a program, training with new teachers, living in dormitories and having a host of new experiences with young dancers their own age from all over the country. What people don't necessarily realize is that the summer is a chance for teachers to travel and teach at various programs too! I had the opportunity to travel and teach at many programs this summer- some were new to me and some I had taught for before.

This year my travels took me back to Tallahassee where the company will be in residence at FSU next week. I taught for a week at The Tallahassee Ballet school and had the privilege of performing in their Nutcracker earlier this year with fellow company member Emanuel Abruzzo, and was happy to return for a week, teaching ballet, pointe and variations to the students. Then, I spent two weeks teaching on Ms. Farrell's island. I always enjoy my time there. I attended the program as a young student myself and I have fun reliving my experiences through the girls that attend now. It was a hot summer in the mountains, but the ballerinas had a good time, both dancing and enjoying nature. I also went back to visit my friends at Petrov Ballet School, in northern New Jersey. This was my third summer working with the students there. I'm always so pleased to see how much they've grown in the course of the year. This summer we worked on a variation from one of the ballets the company has performed, La Source.

Finally, I spent some time at home in Bethlehem, where we have our own summer intensive program at the studio where I teach year round - The Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. We are getting ready for our school year to begin soon. We have a weekend of Ballet Bootcamp to get the kids back in shape and then our regular classes begin. Nutcracker auditions are just around the corner and soon the dancers will be back in class and rehearsals. It's time for the company to start getting ready for our fall season as well. We will also be hearing the familiar sounds of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, as Tempo di Valse, an excerpt from the Nutcracker, is on one of our programs this fall. It was an exciting summer, but it's sure to be an even more exciting year.

The photos are the girls jumping in the lake after class at the island.

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