“Balanchine is my life, my destiny.” Suzanne Farrell still talks about George Balanchine in present tense. Hailed as the most influential ballerina of the 20th-century, Farrell has dedicated her career and her life to preserving and promoting the legacy of the great ballet master. In her dancing days, she was New York City Ballet’s brightest star—and one of the most important muses to Balanchine. They formed the greatest artistic partnerships between a choreographer and a dancer in the history of ballet. An epitome of the ideal Balanchine ballerina, Farrell was his perfect creative instrument and a source of inspiration for nearly 30 ballets, many of them deemed masterpieces. After retiring from her dancing career in 1989, she became NYCB’s ballet master but was dismissed from her job by Peter Martins in 1993. Yet her devotion to Balanchine didn’t end—she went on coaching and staging his ballets around the world and eventually founded her own company, the Suzanne Farrell Ballet (2001-17), which unfailingly brought unique perspectives and offered deep insights into the universe of Balanchine during the troupe’s seasons at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
Sara Mearns in “Slaughter On Tenth Avenue” by George Balanchine. Photograph by Paul Kolnik