Episodes (ballet)

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Episodes is a two-part ballet made by Martha Graham and George Balanchine to Anton von Webern's Symphony, Op. 21, Five Pieces, Op. 10, Concerto, Op. 24, and the Ricercata in Six Voices from Bach's Musical Offering, which Webern had arranged in homage to Bach, as Balanchine conceived the ballet as one to Webern. The premiere took place under the auspices of the Ballet Society on 19 May 1959 at City Center of Music and Drama, New York, with scenery and lighting by David Hays; the conductor was Robert Irving.

Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein invited Martha Graham to choreograph a joint work using all of Webern's orchestral pieces. The result was not a true collaboration but a work composed of two separate sections. Graham's contribution, Episodes I, danced by her company plus four dancers from New York City Ballet, was a depiction of the death of Mary, Queen of Scots. Dancers for this section were attired in ornate, Elizabethan costumes designed by Karinska. Episodes II, Balanchine's contribution to the work, was danced by New York City Ballet and Paul Taylor, who was then a dancer in Graham's company. This portion, definitively more abstract, dressed the performers in simple, non-descript, stark black-and-white practice clothing. The overall effect allowed Graham's portion to be perceived through a more classical focus—though created and performed by a modern dance company—while Balanchine's portion was viewed in the reverse: a modernist work being created and performed by classical dancers.

City Ballet ceased performing Graham's section in 1960 (at which time it was performed Balanchine's as Episodes II) [1][2][3][4] and in 1961 eliminated the solo variation which Balanchine choreographed for Paul Taylor, since which time the remaining four movements have been performed by NYCB under the original title, Episodes.[5] In 1986 Taylor reconstructed the solo on Peter Frame, who danced it as part of the ballet that year and the next.[6][7][8]

Original cast[edit]

Episodes II[edit]