I'm expanding this topic to be a more general debate on John Rockwell's articles, since another one appeared in today's NY Times:
Dancers Without Borders: Does National Origin Matter?More
By JOHN ROCKWELL
The NY Times
April 3, 2005
WHEN George Balanchine and Lincoln Kirstein set about forming an American ballet company in the 1930's - an effort that would result in the New York City Ballet - they encountered resistance. Ballet in this country had been the province of Russian (or Russian-named) ballerinas who espoused a style that would seem theatrically artificial today. There were some, like John Martin, dance critic of The New York Times, who felt initially that American dance was modern dance and that ballet represented a regression to what might now be called "old Europe."
And he strikes again... While the premise of the article is intriguing, it's another classic Rockwell mangle of facts, fiction and opinion.
To compare the Balanchine tradition with Petipa and Bournonville is shaky at best. The former two traditions are hundreds of years old, as compared to barely fifty for Balanchine (as far as the NYCB), and developed in different eras. And for that matter, neither have emerged intact. Petipa has been tweaked and changed by every choreographer and AD who has put on the ballets and Bournonville has changed and some of his works have been lost, despite being performed in the same theatre by the same company. And the ballets probably would not be performed so well today if there had not been a foreign influx into the company, for covering a population of just 5 million people, the RDB school has not produced enough new Danish dancers to keep up the size of the company. And in the ultimate test of foreign acclimitization, the new production of "Kermesse in Bruges" is being set by an American.
Plus, to define Balanchine as American is to ignore the fact that his style derives heavily from what he grew up with in Russia and experienced while working in Copenhagen. He was the original blender of styles, and the teachers that he attracted to SAB reflected that - Danes, Russians etc.
Also, the US never has been a country of one dominant ballet school or company - like Denmark or France or Russia, to some extent, so there never was (nor will be) one distinguishable American style. If you want to see American dance, look to the Native Americans - the rest of us are but immigrants of one generation or another.