Academy Village resident and ASA member Suzanne Erlon Kee is shown here in a Ballet West production of Stravinsky’s “Firebird.”
“From Russia with Love” is the first of a three-part series entitled Roots of American Classical Ballet.  The series will be presented from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on three consecutive Thursdays, starting April 5, in the Great Room of Arizona Senior Academy.  It is free and open to the public.

Earlier in the week, on Monday, April 2, the ballet film, “The Red Shoes,” will be shown in the Academy building at 7 p.m.  “Red Shoes” is a classic movie based, in part, on impresario Diaghilev who is featured in this lecture.  The Academy is located in Academy Village, an active adult community off Old Spanish Trial, six miles southeast of Saguaro National Park East.

The series will be presented by Suzanne Erlon, who has a nearly 50-year career as a ballet dancer, teacher, choreographer and company director.  She has studied with some of the world’s leading ballet instructors, including George Balanchine, Willam Christensen, Anthony Tudor and Toni Lauder.  After a 20-year career as a dancer (mostly with New York City Ballet and Ballet West), Erlon founded two ballet academies and a ballet company, Metropolitan Ballet Theatre.  She has choreographed more than 50 ballets, including “Nutcracker,” “Coppelia” and “Cinderella.”  Her husband and co-presenter, Jed Kee, is a professor at George Washington University.  After marrying Erlon, he became interested in the history of ballet and traveled with Erlon and the NYC Ballet to Russia, Ukraine and Monaco.

Erlon and Kee will discuss the influences of the Russian dancers, choreographers and teachers from Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes that toured the USA in the early 20th Century,   They will show excerpts of works, originally commissioned by Diaghilev, by the music revolutionaries Serge Prokofiev and Igor Stravinsky , including a NYC Ballet production of the “Prodigal Son,” choreographed by Balanchine, and a Ballet West production of  “The Firebird” (featuring Erlon).  Diaghilev introduced the West to Russian artists of many disciplines and collaborated with them on music, sets, and costumes for monumental productions.

Erlon and Kee  will also talk about the Italian influence on American and Russian ballet, particularly that of Enrico Cecchitti and the legendary Russian-born dancer Anna Pavlova, who inspired many American ballet hopefuls when she toured the U.S.  Erlon will conclude with a discussion of the influence of the American Christensen brothers (Lew, Harold and Willam), who founded several ballet companies, including Ballet West.  Willam choreographed the very first American “Nutcracker.”

Session two will be devoted to the legendary George Balanchine (April 12); and session three on the art of choreography (April 19).

The Roots of American Ballet: April 2012
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