Choreography: Peter Martins Music: Georg Friedrich Händel
About the ballet Les Gentilhommes, Peter Martins’ ballet for nine men, will mark the Kansas City debut of this choreographer’s work. Set to Händel’s Concerto Grosso, this work is a display of masculine, understated grace marked by an intricacy of steps and shifts of energy and direction, but leavened by quieter moments of reflection and repose. Mr. Martins, the current Ballet master in Chief of New York City Ballet has said of this work, “In Gentilhommes, I didn’t just want to make a big bravura piece, showing beats and double air turns, but showing how elegantly and beautifully men can move.”
Program notes Les Gentilhommes, a ballet for nine men, is filled with intricate arrangements of steps and unexpected shifts of energy and direction, as well as quieter moments of reflection and repose. Its structure is that of three trios, each one different in mood, preceded and followed by sections for the whole ensemble. The gentlemen of the title suggest, through costume and movement, 18th-century courtiers: elegant, skilled in the gentlemanly arts of dancing and fencing (note the hand-to-hip gestures), and generally adhering to courtly rules for social behavior.
Mr. Martins has said, in Dance Magazine, “In Gentilhommes, I didn’t just want to make a big bravura piece, showing beats and double air turns, but showing how elegantly and beautifully men can move.” The ballet, subtitled “Skol, Stanley!” at its premiere, is dedicated to the late Stanley Williams, Co-Chairman of Faculty at the School of American Ballet and noted for his men’s classes, and who taught Mr. Martins at the Royal Danish Ballet School. Georg Friedrich Händel was born a German in Halle on February 23, 1685, and died an English subject in London on April 14, 1759. He is considered to be one of the greatest composers of the Baroque era in both vocal and instrumental music and was a great virtuoso on the organ and harpsichord. According to legend, while in Italy (1707-1710) Händel had a duel on both harpsichord and organ with Domenico Scarlatti. According to Harold Schonburg, “As harpsichordists both were declared equal. As organist, Händel won easily.” It has been said that the twelve concerti grossi of Händel’s Opus 6 rank with Bach’s Brandenburg Concerti as “one of the twin peaks of the Baroque concerto.”
World Premiere: May 15, 1987, New York State Theater at Lincoln Center
Kansas City Ballet Premiere: May 4, 2012, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts