I stood in my tightest fifth position as the curtain came up. With the lights out in the pit, the orchestra began to play Vivaldi’s Baroque score and the crescendo of violins rushed over me from behind. Directly in front of me was a man with a Stetson hat and suede boots, calling out the steps as I danced them. “What? No other turns? Apple turnover too,” the cowboy rhymed as we completed a series of soutenu turns.
I was dancing the original version of Balanchine’s Square Dance at Ballet West. Our director, Adam Sklute, had taken the stage as the caller with his dancers. The strings were positioned upstage right, which happened to give me the best opportunity to appreciate their sound. It was such an intimate setup that it didn’t feel like I was performing for the Capitol Theater audience, but rather that I was experiencing a traditional American square dance.
While Balanchine realized that his original version didn’t quite cut it in New York, it seemed to work well in a western town such as Salt Lake City. The caller made clear the connections between Balanchine’s choreography and the patterns and formations of a square dance. “Line up for a contra” meant that the girls assembled across the room from the guys. This is how the corps begins the final movement.
All things considered, I think I’m ready to attend an actual hoedown.