I can’t remember the first time I saw “Swan Lake” or “Serenade,” but I will never forget the first time I saw Jerome Robbins’s “Dances at a Gathering.” I was twenty-six and had just flown from California to New York City for the first time in my life. Equally frightening: I had just received a marriage proposal from the man I’d begged, for years, to marry me—and suddenly I wasn’t sure whether I should marry him. I sat smack in the middle of the orchestra section for a New York City Ballet matinee and up went the curtain and out came the man in brown (Damian Woetzel, I was very lucky in my casting). He touched the ground and strolled with his head tilting as though to take us back in his memory. And then the stage was filled with his friends, dancing for one another like real people with distinct personalities, playing games like lambs, pausing in moments of intimacy as though shocked by the seriousness of love.
Maria Kochetkova and Steven Morse in Robbins' "The Cage." Photograph by Erik Tomasson