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November 12, 2010

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Balanchine spoke many memorable lines. I'm not surprised by his remark to Rodgers. Balanchine was a musician first - an accomplished pianist - and always stressed that the music came first. He said that the demands of the music should set the pace for the dance. He once had to sub for a conductor who had become ill and one of the dancers said later that she had never had to dance so fast in her life. His advice to an aspiring choreographer: "Just keep making dances. Every now and then you'll make a good one." Good advice for poets too.

I love this quote by Balanchine: "We, too exist and hope to be beautiful without words." I used it as the epigraph to a poem of mine called "Goodbye" that appeared in The Seattle Review last year. I also love: "Classicism is enduring because it is impersonal." I was lucky enough to work at New York City Ballet during the last ten years of Balanchine's life. Watching him at work taught me more about how to be a truly rigorous artist than any other experience I have ever had. Although he would have hated my use of the term "artist."

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I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark


from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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