Darci Kistler's Swan (Get It!?) Song

The first time I saw the curtain rise at The New York City Ballet was in 1994, and I had to squint, the stage was so bright. Juillard, the school I was attending at the time, often got free tickets to the ballet, and I had scored some. It was Balanchine's Allegro Brillante; and the stage was so bright, the dancers in such diamond-hard, sharply drawn attitudes, that the whole tableau might have been made of crystal. It was also the first time I saw Darci Kistler dance; Juilliard shared a dorm with the School of American Ballet, where she taught, and I'd seen her in hallways, elevators, the cafeteria (believe it or not), floating through her paces in the same "simultaneously unearthly and alluring" way the New York Times described her the first time she performed Allegro Brillante. Most of my close friends at Juilliard were dancers, and even though the school focused on modern dance, every one of them knew the queens of New York City Ballet — Darci, Wendy, Suzanne, Julie. Merrill Ashley could barely walk, but still, she danced. Yesterday, Darci Kistler — the last of the Balanchine ballerinas — retired, to prevent that. "I don't want to walk around in pain," she told the New York Times . "I didn't want to see myself with a plastic hip in 10 years."

Oddly, I remember her as being very, very tall — but I think I may have imagined that, as all of those ethereal women seemed to soar, absolutely elevated beyond all physical possibility. She had that gift of being able to put a point on a movement while simultaneously reaching way, way, beyond it.

A very young Darci, in a very old movie — that I adore.

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