Of all the works Balanchine allowed to slip away during his lifetime, the 1932 Cotillon, created for de Basil’s Ballet Russe, the first of the post-Diaghilev companies, became the most shrouded in myth and mystery. Set to seven pieces for piano by Emmanuel Chabrier, orchestrated for the occasion, the ballet was episodic in structure. The narrative, based on a scenario by Boris Kochno, was ambiguous. Eyewitness accounts abound with speculation concerning the action; viewers ended up resorting to words like “atmosphere” and “perfume” in attempting to describe the ballet’s overall effect. Its logic seemed that of a dream, the dreamer a girl on the brink of adolescence attending her first ball, and experiencing her first romantic disillusion. The critic Arnold Haskell compared her presence in the ballet to that of Alice in Wonderland.

In November at City...


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