Dancers to ‘Serenade’ attendees at first-ever festival |

Dancers to ‘Serenade’ attendees at first-ever festival

The Manhattan Youth Ballet performs George Balachine's "Serenade" in June 2013.
Courtesy photo / Erin Baiano |

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first in a four-part series of “Collaborators in Conversation” stories, as told by members of Tahoe Youth Ballet, in preview of the inaugural Lake Tahoe Dance Festival, taking place Aug. 14-16. Look for Part 2 next week.

TAHOE CITY, Calif. — Tahoe Youth Ballet is dedicated to bringing excellent training to the young dancers of this gorgeous area.

I began as a coach to the artistic director, Christin Hanna, when she was a professional dancer in New York. We worked together on new choreography by contemporary young dance makers, and I also began to teach her the work of my former company and director, George Balanchine.

Ms. Hanna eventually went on to dance this very work she is bringing to TYB with Cincinnati Ballet, and it is very meaningful for both of us to share this with these dedicated students.

I was chosen to join the New York City Ballet by Mr. Balanchine and danced for 13 years with this prestigious company.

As a dancer there, my repertoire centered on the work of Mr. B (as he was fondly known), and eventually I was selected to stage the great master’s work as part of the Balanchine Trust.

My specialty is teaching young dancers about this choreography which has shaped the current contemporary dance scene. Balanchine’s ballets are decades old now, but still resonate with audiences of all ages and remain startlingly modern.

Two years ago, for their inaugural August performance at Sugar Pine Point State Park, I secured permission for Ms. Hanna to dance the second pas de trois from Agon, and coached her personally.

It was a special experience to stage and coach Christin in this work, and eventually led to the idea to share the challenging, inspiring choreography with her own dancers for the occasion of turning the August event in this year’s Lake Tahoe Dance Festival.


Mr. Balanchine came to America to create new work, but realized the training was not up to the standard he grew up with in Russia.

His first ballet made in the U.S. was “Serenade,” to the lush and glorious music, Serenade in C, by Tchaikovsky. It was designed to promote the dancers of his School of American Ballet, and at the same time served to teach them how to dance better.

He used the 17 female dancers that showed up for the first rehearsal, placing them in diagonal lines, “like the orange groves of California.”

Each new rehearsal brought a different number of dancers so Mr. B worked with what he had. This allows for the dancers to learn to work in a variety of groups and patterns and teaches them how to navigate the demands of the choreography.

The most important part of “Serenade” is learning to dance “as one woman.” The ballet doesn’t have an actual story, but the goal is to become the music, not just dance to along with it.

The technique that is required pushes the dancers to move bigger, with more volume and magnitude, and to dance expressively.

Before Nike coined the slogan, Mr. B often said, “Just do dear.” These young students will learn to rely on their technique to speak for them, and learn that by dancing this work they will “be better.”

The gift that Ms. Hanna is giving her students is to share not only the masterful choreography of George Balanchine, but also her teacher and coach.

I have worked with these students from the beginning of Tahoe Youth Ballet, teaching them my own choreography in preparation for this project.

I am thrilled to teach them this ballet and look forward to watching them grow and develop as dancers, artists, and young women.


Tahoe Youth Ballet’s founding Artistic Director Christin Hanna and frequent collaborator Constantine Baecher have turned the company’s annual August performances into the first annual Lake Tahoe Dance Festival, Aug. 14-16.

The festival has partnered with the North Lake Tahoe Historical Society and will feature two main stage performances at the Gatekeeper’s Museum, and three days of free classes, meet-the-artist events, and demonstrations throughout Tahoe City.

Guest artists include Baecher, Kristina Berger of Erick Hawkins Dance Company, and Yannis Adoniou’s Kunst-Stoff from San Francisco.

For information and tickets, visit

Deborah Wingert is a choreographer with Tahoe Youth Ballet. Learn more about her here.

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