Today is George Balanchine's birthday (he was born in 1904) and I am over the moon with excitement about tonight's New York City Ballet all Balanchine program. I splurged on orchestra seats (with a little help from my former colleagues who gave me a gift certificate as a going away present). On the program: Prodigal Son, Mozartiana, Stars and Stripes. Among my many "afterimages" (those snippets that are burned into one's mind's-eye) is a vision of Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov in Prodigal Son. She was the Siren, he was the Prodigal and when their bodies were entwined, the heat was palpable. At the time, Baryshnikov and Kirkland were rumored to be having a torrid affair and that gossip further enflamed the imagination of this young balletomane.
Tonight's program closes with Stars and Stripes,a ballet that always leaves me a little teary-eyed. Sousa has that effect and when the great big America flag unspools behind a stage filled with dancers in their red, white, and blue costumes, well, I lose it. After Iran released the US hostages on January 20, 1981, Balanchine scrapped part of the evening's program and replaced it with Stars and Stripes. He was a most patriotic American, grateful for everything this country gave him. When asked why he choreographed to Sousa, he replied, "because he makes me smile."