Jean-Pierre Frohlich: Jerry [Jerome Robbins] had a way of piecing or putting a puzzle together in his ballets. He had a theater mind. It was very particular to him and I think because of his theater background a ballet had to make sense for him in a certain way. It had to have a beginning and a middle and then he would work out the end. It could not be an unanswered question for him. I remember when we were in Paris we saw someone’s choreography…and I asked the choreographer, whom I know very well, “Listen, do you mind if I bring Jerry to the rehearsal?” He said, “Sure,” but then he got very nervous. After the rehearsal Jerry and I had something to eat and Jerry said, “I don’t understand what they are doing. I don’t know, it just doesn’t make any sense to me. Why is he doing it?” It was very interesting for me because to Jerry, it had to have closure or a sense of meaning.
When looking at Jerry’s work you can see a number of ballets where he composed a series of dances and then watched what he was making and figured out how to put them together. For Piano Pieces or Dances at a Gathering he just choreographed dances, you know, first this dance, now that dance. Another one is 2 & 3 Part Inventions. He worked at SAB for that one – just choreographed, choreographed, choreographed. But then eventually he would find his order, the way he put the puzzle together. He was brilliant at that. Because he was conscious of the audience at the same time and of how they would react. Not many people have that talent.
Cover photograph by Nancy Lassalle: George Balanchine, 1961. From Balanchine Teaching, available from The Eakins Press Foundation.