George Balanchine's "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" is permanently imprinted on my brain, perhaps because I saw it during the year of its debut as a stand-alone ballet and with the original cast but also because the choreography perfectly matches the music, which is gorgeous, sexy, and haunting (listen to the theme that begins at around 1:30). I've seen it many times, most recently with David, during a NYCB collaboration with The Dance Theater of Harlem, the acclaimed company started by Arthur Mitchell.
Suzanne Farrell has written that she was unaccustomed to dancing a part that required her to be overtly sexual - she plays a stripper in the ballet. Early on in rehearsal, her partner Arthur Mitchell said, "Come on, Suzanne, sex it up!" When Farrell stepped onto the stage, she really let loose. The heat these two premier dancers generated when they performed together was captivating and memorable.
It's hard to pick a favorite from among so many brilliant dances but if I had to, I might settle on Balanchine's Serenade with music by Tchaikovsky (Serenade in Strings in C, Op. 48). First conceived as a lesson in stage technique, Balanchine worked unexpected rehearsal events into the choreography. When one student fell, he incorporated it into the dance; another day, a student arrived late, and this too became part of the ballet.
Balanchine is famous also for his table talk and witty aphorisms: "God creates, I do not create. I assemble and I steal everywhere to do it - from what I see, from what the dancers can do, from what others do" and "I disagree with everybody but I don't even want to argue” and “Someone once said that dancers work just as hard as policemen, always alert, always tense. But I don't agree with that because policemen don't have to look beautiful at the same time.” When a young choreographer sought his advice, he said, "Just keep making dances. Every now and then you'll make a good one." Good advice for poets, too.