IN BALANCHINE’S CLASSROOM – Review by Susan Granger

0 Flares 0 Flares ×

When Connie Hochman was a youngster, she took classes at the School of American Ballet, where George Balanchine reigned supreme. She danced with the New York City Ballet and the Pennsylvania Ballet before becoming a ballet teacher.

As time went on, Ms. Hockman became increasingly intrigued with charismatic Balanchine. Thinking to write a book about him, she began to talk with his dancers in 2007 and soon realized that telling his story required a more visual medium. Many of her interviews, along with never-before-seen archival footage, are incorporated into this intriguing documentary.

Born in Russia, George Balanchine studied at the Imperial Ballet School in St. Petersburg and worked with Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes in Paris. In 1933, he moved from Europe to New York, where he helped found the School of American Ballet and the City Ballet. With his unique interpretation of classical dance, he revolutionized ballet in the United States.

Focusing on the extremely arduous morning class that Balanchine conducted every day, Hochman chronicles the growth and creative development of Heather Watts, Suki Schorer, Gloria Govrin, Merrill Ashley, along with Edward Villela and Jacques d’Amboise, who later founded their own companies..

Although Balanchine was relaxed and focused when he choreographed, he would not let outsiders watch his class. “He really pushed the dancers,” Hochman explains. “They were trying things. He wanted them to feel unselfconscious, uninhibited. If they fell or looked awkward, he wanted that privacy for them. This was their private place to learn and not be observed or judged.”

However, perfectionistic Balanchine did permit choreographer Jerome Robbins and dancer Christine Redpath to film, often acknowledging them by waving to the camera.

“There are a lot of misconceptions about Balanchine,” Hochman goes on. “I would love for people to get a sense of what a positive, groundbreaking force he was…It took a special kind of person to take that class…and this kind of artistic collaboration, this symbiosis was unique.”

On the Granger Gauge of 1 to 10, “In Balanchine’s Classroom” is an exquisite, energetic 8, aimed specifically at balletomanes.

0 Flares Twitter 0 Facebook 0 0 Flares ×

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.