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There’s a lot of hubbub about The Rite of Spring these days. Next year marks the centennial of the virginal-sacrifice ballet by Igor Stravinsky and Vaslav Nijinsky, whose choreography, considered ugly at the time, caused an uproar in Paris when it debuted. Orchestral tributes and modern dance reimaginings abound. But this weekend at the Kennedy Center, Suzanne Farrell Ballet reminds dancegoers that The Rite of Spring was just one of many groundbreaking ballets debuted by the Ballets Russes. The second of the company’s two mixed-repertory, all-Balanchine programs includes The Prodigal Son, George Balanchine’s art deco take on the New Testament parable, with music by Sergei Prokofiev. The three-scene ballet premiered in Paris in 1929. Twenty-one years later, Balanchine revived the piece for his nascent company, the New York City Ballet. Landmark versions of the work include Native American ballerina Maria Tallchief as the Siren who lures the son away with carnal pleasure, and an absolutely heart-wrenching performance by Mikhail Baryshnikov as the son (viewable on YouTube). The program also includes Divertimento No. 15 and “Slaughter on Tenth Avenue,” a dance sequence from a rarely performed Rodgers and Hart musical. Farrell’s pick-up company isn’t the most polished to perform on the Kennedy Center’s stage, but artistically, they are the ballet dancers who take the biggest risks.
The Suzanne Farrell Ballet performs two programs from Nov. 7 to Nov. 11 at the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theatre, 2700 F St. NW. $29–$84. (202) 467-4600. kennedy-center.org