Reporter’s notebook: Dancing with Balanchine

Earlier this month, Paul Boos, a former Balanchine dancer and a master répétiteur with the Balanchine Trust, the organization that licenses the work of the legendary choreographer, spent two weeks with Ballet Austin setting the choreography of Balanchine’s “Agon,” on the company.

Paul Boos, a master répétiteur with Balanchine Trust and a former Balanchine dancer, works with Ballet Austin dancers on “Agon.”
Paul Boos, a master répétiteur with Balanchine Trust and a former Balanchine dancer, works with Ballet Austin dancers on “Agon.”

Ballet Austin will perform “Agon” this weekend at the Long Center in a program that also includes Stephen Mills’ “The Firebird.”

At age 15, Boos relocated by himself to New York from North Dakota and soon afterward landed a scholarship to Balanchine’s American Ballet Theatre School. Boos was asked to join New York City Ballet at age 18.

Since retiring from dancing in 1990, Boos has been a sanctioned Balanchine répétiteur — a unique and personal connection to the legacy of the dancemaker everybody closest to called “Mr. B.”

During an interview with the American-Statesman, Boos reflected on what it was like to dance for Balanchine. A few of Boos’ ruminations, which did not make it into the published story, are offered here:

“Mr. B went through a process of initiating people. He wanted to see how a person’s body functioned. Like a sculptor he was constantly pushing, pulling on a dancer’s body, seeing what your body could actually do.

“Mr. B compared training dancers to training horses, and quite accurately too.”

“He worked in extremes and he wanted to know what the extremes were with each dancer: How much your feet can bend, how much your legs can open, how high your legs can extend, how high you can jump.”

“He was extremely critical and he never gave praise. Still we felt that he was 100 percent invested in us.”

Read the feature story on Boos’ work with Ballet Austin here:

Author: Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin is the arts critic for the Austin American-Statesman. She writes about visual art, theater, dance, music, performance, public art, architecture and just about any combination thereof.

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