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Cardinal Ballet licensed to perform parts of Balanchine piece

The Cardinal Ballet Company will present excerpts of The Four Temperaments, one of choreographer George Balanchine's earliest experimental ballets, with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra April 5 and 6 at Urban Nights Dance Fusion 2003.

The second annual dance concert also will feature performances by two other student-run troupes: Bent Spoon, which specializes in modern dance, and Urban Styles, which specializes in hip-hop and jazz dance. Shows are scheduled for 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday and 8 p.m. Sunday in Dinkelspiel Auditorium. Admission is $13, or $6 with a Stanford student ID. Tickets are available at the door or in advance at the Stanford Ticket Office.

The Cardinal Ballet obtained the rights to perform parts of The Four Temperaments from the Balanchine Trust, the New York-based organization that licenses his works and sends repetiteurs -- rehearsal directors -- to stage them. According to Kristine Elliott, lecturer in the Dance Division and company director, getting the OK from the trust was a coup. "We pushed hard for it," Elliott said. "I talked to people who I knew at the trust, and they grilled me hard, asking me: Are you sure they're up to it? Do they have the technique? Are they strong enough?"

The work premiered in New York in 1946. It is known as a "leotard ballet" -- that is, it is staged without costumes or a set. It features Balanchine's signature fusion of classical steps choreographed in a bold, modern and physically demanding style. "Speed, energy, muscularity -- it's ballet extrême," explained Elliott. "He really pushed the limits."

Balanchine's inspiration for the piece was the medieval notion that a person's temperament was determined by "four humors" -- black bile, blood, phlegm and yellow bile. When one of these humors held more sway than the others, the result was a corresponding imbalance in a person's attitude: Too much black bile led to melancholy; too much blood led to being sanguine (headstrong and passionate); too much phlegm resulted in sluggishness and a lack of emotion; and a bad temper was the result of too much yellow bile.

Each of the four movements of the ballet reflects a humor. The Cardinal Ballet will perform "Melancholic" and "Phlegmatic," as well as some other excerpts.

Over two weekends during Winter Quarter, the company worked with Colleen Neary, a Balanchine Trust repetiteur who once danced for the New York City Ballet under the famed ballet master's direction.

"She was fabulous -- just a wealth of expertise and knowledge, but really down to earth and friendly," said sophomore Sara Sullivan, a ballerina and president of Cardinal Ballet. "Four Temperaments is a very, very difficult ballet, and she was very committed to teaching it to us like Mr. Balanchine would have wanted it done."

Cardinal Ballet also will perform Paquita, by Marius Petipa, and a new work titled Echolalia, by local choreographer Bill Iha.


By John Sanford

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