Celebrated Balanchine Muse Merrill Ashley Guests at CPYB
New York City Ballet former principal dancer inspires young dancers
Carlisle, Pa. (June 4, 2012)– Merrill Ashley, renowned former New York City Ballet principal dancer, will teach class for Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB) dancers on stage at the Whitaker Center, Harrisburg, on Friday, June 22. The distinguished George Balanchine Trust Répétiteur, Ms. Ashley is the author of “Dancing for Balanchine” and also co-author and co-artistic director of the video series “The Balanchine Essays.”
Also on Friday, June 22, ballerina Ashley will discuss her years as a principal dancer with Balanchine in a special pre-performance program “The Faces Behind the Steps.” Joining Ms. Ashley will be CPYB Associate Artistic Director, former New York City Ballet dancer and CPYB alumna Darla Hoover, and CPYB CEO and Resident Choreographer Alan Hineline. The pre-performance program, free and open to the public, will begin at 6 p.m. and be held in the Whitaker Center Sunoco Theatre Amp Lobby. In addition to the program, there will be a question-and-answer session with Ms. Ashley.
The last ballerina fully trained by Balanchine, Ms. Ashley danced in the New York City Ballet for 31 years, twenty of those years as a principal dancer. Known for her virtuosity, speed and clarity, Ms. Ashley stages Balanchine ballets around the world. She most recently returned from staging Ballo della Regina at the Royal Ballet, London, and Diamonds for the Bolshoi Ballet, Moscow.
Ms. Ashley’s guest teaching is particularly timely as CPYB will perform three Balanchine masterworks during the Company’s upcoming June Series production: Divertimento No. 15, Who Cares? and Serenade.
“Ms. Ashley’s artistry and legacy are internationally renowned,” says Ms. Hoover. “She has been an inspiration to me throughout my career. It is a dream come true to expose our students to her astounding skill and dynamic presence.”
Divertimento No. 15 is the ballet in which Ms. Ashley performed her first solo. Choreographed for eight principal dancers, five women and three men, with an ensemble of eight women, the ballet’s sixth role became one of Ms. Ashley’s signature roles because of the speed of the choreography.
Ms. Ashley was the original understudy for the jumping solo in Who Cares?, the masterwork Balanchine choreographed to 16 George Gershwin songs,including “I Got Rhythm,” “The Man I Love,” and “Embraceable You.” She went on to perform all three principal women roles in the ballet – something no other New York City Ballet dancer has yet to accomplish.
In the iconic, soulful and mysterious Serenade, Balanchine’s first ballet created in America, the Los Angeles Times commends Ms. Ashley's “tautly reined power in the latecomer/fallen-woman role.”