Airs de Ballet

Music: Andre Gretry, Zemire et Azor
Costumes: Robert O'Hearn
First Performance: San Francisco Ballet, May 26, 1971, Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco
Principal Dancers: Violette Verdy, Philippe Arrona, Sara Maule, Laurence Matthews, Susan Williams
Number of Dancers: 5
Duration: 17 minutes

Airs de Ballet was choreographed for New York City Ballet principal dancer Violette Verdy whose vivacious, piquant and elegant artistry was the inspiration for Christensen's spirited choreography.

Set to the ballet music from Andre Gretry's opera Zemire et Azor, Air de Ballet is a light, playful sequence of pas de trois, pas de deux, adagio, variations and finale which offers a whirlwind of non-stop dancing. "Christensen sees to it that every action of the dancers' joints and limbs is stimulated by a musical prompting," said one reviewer. "particularly in its opening movements, the light flinging patterns and sizzling beats give the impression that the dancers are skating on air."

Airs de Ballet has remained in the repertory for over a decade and was presented as part of San Francisco Ballet's 1985 tribute performances to Lew Christensen. Reviewers continued to find the work successful. "Christensen creates his own counterpoint," wote dance critic Allan Ulrich, "with internal rhythmic vivacity, with spiky point excursions for his principal woman, a gallant duet and a male variation. In any hands but Christensen's, this might look precious." "Beguiling fun and games." said the San Francisco Chronicle. "Airs de Ballet is bliss, innocent grace, an expression of joy."

Photograph: Gina Ness and Alexander Topciy in Airs de Ballet (1984). Photo by Marty Sohl.

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