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Following in Mr. B's footsteps, for 12 hours

'Wall to Wall George Balanchine' marks the centenary of the great choreographer.

March 23, 2004|Susan Reiter | Special to The Times

The final, three-hour segment was dominated by performances -- necessarily to taped music since Symphony Space, a converted movie theater, has no orchestra pit. Dance Theatre of Harlem gave the New York premiere of its "Apollo," staged by Eve Lawson and coached by D'Amboise, who restored details he knew from the 1950s that have fallen away over the years. Rasta Thomas, as the still-unformed young god, faultlessly stumbled on a step that he would later, as the more mature Apollo, execute nobly.

"Renard," an unfamiliar 1947 work that Balanchine created to a jaunty Stravinsky score, came back to life in Kansas City Ballet's charming restoration, staged by Bolender of the original cast. Now 90, he was present to introduce it.

With free admission and unreserved seating, "Wall to Wall Balanchine" kept Symphony Space's 750 seats well occupied throughout the day. By 4 p.m., a line of hopeful audience members stretched for a block outside, and competition for seats for the evening portion was intense. Officials at Symphony Space estimated that total attendance was about 3,000.

Backstage, Sheffer reported, "many emotional reunions" took place. For one exhilarated patron leaving at the end, who noted that he had been watching Balanchine's ballets since the late 1950s, the experience "was like going back in time."

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