Craig Hall on Jerome Robbins’ AFTERNOON OF A FAUN: Anatomy of a Dance

– I’m Craig Hall, and I’m a ballet master
with the New York City Ballet. Here I’m dancing
the role of the Faun with Sterling Hyltin in Jerome Robbins’
“Afternoon of a Faun.” We’re both
young students here, and we’re looking through
the imaginary reflection, which is the audience, and we’re both intrigued
and infatuated by our own image. [gentle music] This ballet is an awakening. It’s a discovery of movement and a discovery of each other. This is a very private,
intimate moment between two students, and the audience is almost
looking in on something they shouldn’t be seeing. The trickiest thing
about this ballet is to imagine there’s
an actual mirror there. We do most of the dancing
looking at each other through the reflection. We practice quite a bit,
spotting something out in the theater, which is
usually one of the jewels that is near the first ring. So the eyes are actually
looking at the same point. As a ballet master, when I’m coaching it
with new dancers, I think it’s difficult
for them to completely let go. I see the dancers trying
a little too hard to look like they’re looking
in the mirror. When I first learned
this ballet, I was a young dancer,
and I just didn’t get it. I thought I needed
to create something out of the simplicity, and it is the simplicity
of the ballet that makes it so pure
and so special. The entire thing is about
being as natural as possible. There are very few
moments I’ve had onstage where I was so zoned in to every single aspect
of the performance. The way the ballerina felt
the first time I touched her. The way her cheek felt
on my lips. How I felt the breeze
in the air. I felt a heightened sense
of awareness, and the curtain came down,
and I remember thinking, oh, wow, this was such
a magical experience. It’s nice to see
the beginning process of these dancers learning this, and I am very excited to see what the end product will be
once they get out onstage. That’s what makes this ballet
still very interesting. The steps don’t change,
but the personalities do, and to witness that
is a lot of fun. [applause]

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