New York City Ballet is known for a lot of things—Balanchine’s choreography, no real “stars,” those extra-wide fourth positions—but none more so than putting the women up front and center. As Andy Veyette puts it (and as Balanchine himself put it, many years ago), “Ballet is woman” at NYCB. Again and again in this episode, the male dancers emphatically state that their main job as partners is to make the ladies look good. “It’s not about you,” says principal Amar Ramasar. “It’s about making the woman look beautiful.”
The dynamics of this attitude frankly fascinate me. I mean, maybe women have a historical position as always being right when it comes to their interactions and arguments with men, but the men of City Ballet are so finely attuned to their female counterparts, so ready to take the blame for any kind of onstage mishap, that they almost come across as devotional. I was fascinated by this article in the current issue of Pointe magazine where five leading male dancers remember School of American Ballet teacher (and former principal and partnering all-star) Jock Soto instructing them to always, always take the blame. No matter what.
I’m sort of touched by this attitude, even as I recognize the unfairness of it. (Let’s face it: At some point, it’s gotta be the woman’s fault when a bit of partnering goes wrong, right?) It’s a hybrid of modern-day chivalry, in a way. As Chase Finlay says, “It’s about making the woman feel safe.”