#Throwback Thursday: Stars and Stripes

This week's #ThrowbackThursday features Balanchine's short ballet Stars and Stripes.

Performed in five 'campaigns' and lasting approximately 28 minutes, Stars and Stripes is one of several ballets Balanchine choreographed as a salute to his adoptive country. The ballet recalls American Independence Day parades, and involves the entire company with marching, baton-twirling, and rifle-bearing. It being Balanchine, there is no limit to challenging choreography, particularly in the fourth 'campaign', which features a particularly difficult pas de deux.

The original premiered on 17 January 1958 at the City Center of Music and Drama in New York. It featured costumes by Barbara Karinska, and a cast which included Diana Adams, Melissa Hayden, Jacques d'Amboise, and Allegra Kent, all to music by John Philip Sousa. An anecdote of history records that when Balanchine was asked why he had choreographed a ballet to Sousa's score, he replied, 'Because I like his music.'

The ballet has been used as a marker for notable occasions, particularly Nelson Rockefeller's inauguration as governor of New York, tributes to President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson, and at the opening ceremonies for the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center. The ballet was dedicated to the memory of Fiorello H. LaGuardia, mayor of New York and founder of the City Center of Music and Drama, which was the New York City Ballet's first home. Stars and Stripes is traditionally performed by the New York City Ballet on or around July 4, usually at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

Here's part of the ballet from a 1993 recording, featuring the pas de deux and final coda:

Thanks for reading!

- Selene

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