Choreography: Jerome Robbins
Music: Frédéric Chopin
“One of the pleasure of attending a concert,” Jerome Robbins has written, “is the freedom to lose oneself in listening to the music…The patterns and paths of these reveies are influenced by the music itself, or its program notes, or by the personal dreams, problems, and fantasies of the listener.”
In 1956, Robbins embodied these notions in his ballet The Concert and created what is undeniably the funniest ballet of all time. This accomplishment is even greater than it sounds, because dance history has shown that is next to impossible to choreograph a truly and consistently funny ballet. Indeed, ballet, by definition, requires a seriously disciplined technique and strict adherence to form, which allow little opportunity for the distortion necessary to produce humorous theater. In The Concert, Robbins revealed that his understanding of the nature of ballet was so profound that he could, without the aid of a story per se, hilariously distort technique, form, gesture, and situation.
The Concert’s comedic force derives in large part from its ironic use of Chopin’s music. While some have considered this device blasphemous, Robbins himself has stated that his intention “was to denude certain pieces of their banal titles—‘Butterfly,’ ‘Raindrop,’ etc.—perhaps restoring them to their purity by destroying the fabricated interpretations.” And, in fact, the choreographer displays only the most reverential treatment of Chopin’s music in his masterpiece Dances at Gathering (1969) and in In the Night (1970) and Other Dances (1976).
After the ballet’s highly successful premiere by the New York City Ballet, Robbins revived it in 1958 for his own Ballets: U.S.A. at the first annual Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. Two episodes were eliminated, and Saul Steinberg’s décor replaced the original one; in this form it was revived again by the New York City Ballet in 1971.
World Premiere: March 6, 1956, City Center of Music and Drama, New York
Kansas City Ballet Premiere: October 7, 2004, Lyric Theatre, Kansas City, Missouri