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New York City Ballet in Paris - Full Episode

New York City Ballet in Paris is the part one of a two-part special featuring four ballets by NYCB co-founder George Balanchine set to the music of French composers. The program opens with Gounod’s Walpurgisnacht Ballet and culminates with Ravel’s La Valse. Both parts are hosted by NYCB Ballet Master in Chief Peter Martins.

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-Next on 'Great Performances,' the New York City Ballet makes a triumphant return to Paris in an all-Balanchine program of dazzling ballet masterpieces.

In 'Walpurgisnacht Ballet,' 24 ballerinas soar across the stage.

♪♪ In Ravel's powerful 'La Valse,' we are swept away by the whirl of some fantastic and fateful carousel.

♪♪ 'New York City Ballet in Paris' is next.

♪♪ ♪♪ -Hello. I'm Peter Martins, Ballet Master in Chief of the New York City Ballet.

In the summer of 2016, the company was honored to be invited to Paris to perform at the city's annual summer dance festival, Les Etés de la Danse.

For our three-week stay at the historic Théâtre du Chtelet, we presented the full range of our repertoire with 20 different ballets, including 14 works by our co-founder George Balanchine.

For the finale of the engagement, New York City Ballet presented an all-Balanchine evening consisting of works that were created to music by French composers.

Tonight, we present two of those ballets, 'La Valse' and 'Walpurgisnacht Ballet.'

Dance has always featured prominently in the French opera, and in 1975 the Paris Opera invited Mr. Balanchine to choreograph a new staging of Gounod's 'Faust' to be danced by members of the Paris Opera Ballet.

The centerpiece of the production was the Walpurgisnacht scene, and it was this section of the choreography that Mr. B brought to the New York City Ballet as an independent work in 1980.

In the opera, this scene occurs at the beginning of the last act, when Mephistopheles brings Faust to watch the May Day Eve celebrations.

And while the ballet is not a literal depiction of the Walpurgisnacht scene, it does build on its sense of joyful revelry.

Balanchine once famously said, 'Ballet is a woman,' and in 'Walpurgisnacht Ballet,' he sends 24 women soaring across the stage with wild abandon.

[ Baton clicks ] [ Applause ] [ Dramatic tones play ] [ Light tones play ] [ Light melody plays ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Light melody fades, ends ] [ Applause ] [ Light tones play ] [ Light tones swell ] [ Low-tempo melody plays ] ♪♪ [ Mid-tempo melody plays ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Light tone plays, song ends ] [ Applause ] [ Dramatic tones play ] [ Upbeat fanfare plays ] [ Upbeat melody plays ] ♪♪ [ Music swells ] [ Song ends ] [ Applause ] [ Low-tempo waltz plays ] ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Song ends ] [ Applause ] [ Light tones play ] [ Low-tempo melody plays ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Song ends ] [ Applause ] [ Fanfare plays ] [ Mid-tempo melody plays ] ♪♪ [ Upbeat melody plays ] [ Mid-tempo melody plays ] [ Song ends, applause ] [ Dramatic tones play ] [ Upbeat, dramatic music plays ] ♪♪ [ Mid-tempo melody plays ] ♪♪ [ Upbeat, dramatic music plays ] [ Tempo increases ] [ Music swells ] [ Song ends ] [ Applause ] [ Applause ] [ Cheers and applause ] -The composer Maurice Ravel once wrote of his tone poem 'La Valse' that, 'We are dancing on the edge of a volcano,' and these words aptly describe both his music and Balanchine's neo-Romantic choreography for the ballet.

Ravel envisioned 'La Valse' as set in the Austrian imperial court, a sort of apotheosis of the Viennese waltz.

When Balanchine first created this ballet in 1951, he found the score to be too short for his purposes and decided to precede it with Ravel's 'Valses nobles et sentimentales.'

He thought these eight short waltzes would help to establish the spirit of the ballet, a mood of superficial gaiety mixed with impending catastrophe.

As the ballet unfolds within the cavernous ballroom, a young woman in white, perhaps attending her first ball, is both fascinated and horrified by the uninvited figure of death.

[ Upbeat music plays ] [ Mid-tempo melody plays ] [ Music swells ] [ Upbeat melody plays ] [ Song ends ] [ Light tones play ] [ Low-tempo music plays ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Mid-tempo music plays ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Music swells ] [ Light music plays ] [ Dramatic tones play ] [ Light music plays ] [ Upbeat music plays ] [ Music swells ] [ Song ends ] [ Applause ] [ Light tones play ] ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Low tones play ] ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Light tones play ] [ Low tones play ] [ Light tones play ] ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Tones fade ] [ Applause ] [ Low, ominous tones play ] ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Mid-tempo music plays ] ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Music swells ] [ Upbeat music plays ] ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ ♪♪ [ Music swells ] [ Low tones play ] [ Mid-tempo music plays ] ♪♪ [ Dramatic tones play ] [ Mid-tempo music plays ] [ Ominous tones play ] [ Low tones play ] [ Mid-tempo music plays ] ♪♪ [ Music swells, tempo increases ] [ Dramatic tones play ] [ Ominous tones play ] [ Mid-tempo music plays ] ♪♪ [ Music swells, tempo increases ] [ Dramatic tones play ] [ Dramatic music plays ] [ Song ends, applause ] [ Applause ] -To find out more about this and other 'Great Performances' programs, visit pbs.org/greatperformances, find us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

[ Cheers and applause ] [ Applause, whistling ]