Wilde Times: Patricia Wilde, George Balanchine,
and the Rise of New York City Ballet
By Joel Lobenthal
An imprint of University Press of New England
(Wilde Book Purchase Page)
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
January 12, 2017
Read Reviews and Features about New York City Ballet.
Joel Lobenthal, ballet critic and balletomane, has enhanced all fans of New York City Ballet with this intriguing and informative new book about retired Principal, Patricia Wilde. He thoughtfully describes the origins of choreographer, Balanchine's expansive oeuvres, as well as Balanchine's own richly hued background in ballet and his leadership and influence on what is now the very fine and successful City Ballet at Lincoln Center. Lobenthal's entertaining tales about Balanchine, Jerome Robbins (City Ballet's Co-Founding Choreographer), and the Russian and European ballet artists Wilde met on tours are well worth ordering this book. I caught up with Joel Lobenthal in this written interview.
REZ: Tell me about Patricia Wilde's Ottawa childhood with her sister Nora and how her Canadian background inspired her New York and on tour ballet career.
JL: Wilde grew up with her two older sisters on what remained of her mother's family's vast estate outside Ottawa. Her mother had separated from their father and was determined to survive on her own. They farmed the estate, and their life was very rugged. It was good training for ballet. Bordering the Ottawa River, the estate itself was theatrical in its abundant diversity and beauty.
REZ: Tell me about Wilde's earliest days with Balanchine in the 1940's and 50's, her training at SAB, the Fokine opera ballets, the European tour, and her professional relationship with Balanchine.
JL: As Wilde was entering adolescence, her family's estate was appropriated by the Canadian government so that it could expand its experimental farm. Having studied ballet since age three, Wilde and her sister Nora came to New York to study at Balanchine's School of American Ballet. Nora soon joined Sergei Denham's Ballets Russes, and Wilde followed in 1945. Balanchine was then the Ballets Russes' chief choreographer and had already taken Wilde with him to perform in the opera in Mexico City. Her debut with Ballets Russes was the second lead in the company premiere of Concerto Barocco. For the next twenty years, Balanchine treasured her fearless abandon - "I can ask her to do anything", he said.
REZ: Talk about Wilde's earliest colleagues, Le Clercq, Tallchief, Danilova, as well as Wilde's impressions dancing in La Valse, Serenade, and La Sonnambula.
JL: Wilde was praised by fellow dancers as the ideal colleague. New York City Ballet, which Wilde joined in 1950, was small. Wilde and sister ballerinas Le Clercq, Tallchief, Adams, et.al, worked in the closest cooperation. Each woman had distinct onstage and offstage personalities which made the company so piquant during these years.
REZ: Wilde met her husband on tour in Barcelona. Talk about how she chose her life's path from that moment and how her mature NYCB career developed.
JL: On New York City Ballet's 1952 tour to Europe, Wilde met production manager George Bardyguine and married him the following year. He was one of many Russians who figured prominently in her life. They remained married until he died in 1994 and had two children. As Wilde matured, her repertory expanded and expanded and Balanchine gave her many opportunities to widen her range beyond the Allegro Brillante for which she was originally celebrated. Since retiring from performing in 1965, her career encompassed teaching, coaching, and administration: for fifteen years she directed the Pittsburgh Ballet. Today, at age eighty-eight, she remains active and engaged.
See a film of Wilde dancing with Magallanes in Balanchine's Square Dance in 1963.
Joel Lobenthal's Book, Wilde Times: Patricia Wilde, George Balanchine,
and the Rise of New York City Ballet
Courtesy of University Press of New England
Joel Lobenthal, Writer, Scholar, Dance Critic
Courtesy of SJ Waterman