Richmond Ballet News


March 19th, 2015


Studio Three performances will close the regular season in Richmond,as Phillip Skaggs says good-bye with a Choreographers’ Club Night on April 14


 George Balanchine’s elegant Liebeslieder Walzer (“Love Song Waltzes”), the most popular Studio Theatre production in
Richmond Ballet history, returns to Richmond, April 14-19, to mark both the conclusion of the 2014-15 regular season, and to celebrate Phillip Skaggs as he retires from the stage this year. As is custom with Liebeslieder Walzer, the dancers will be joined on stage by six musicians – two pianists and four singers – who will perform Books One & Two from Johannes Brahms vocal waltzes, Op. 52 and Op. 65. Dr. Joanne Kong and Dr. Paul Hanson of the University of Richmond will also return to share a single piano, while alternating quartets of singers will breathe life into the written words of Friedrich Daumer and Goethe. Liebeslieder Walzer will be at the Ballet’s Studio Theatre for the first time since the fall of 2011, when it was set by Balanchine Trust répétiteurs and former New York City Ballet dancers Karin von Aroldingen and Philip Neal. Mr. Neal will once again travel to Richmond to rehearse the company in Mr. Balanchine’s noble and exacting steps ahead of April’s nine show run.

Liebeslieder Walzer has been one of my favorite ballets since my dancing days,” said Stoner Winslett, Artistic Director of Richmond Ballet. “I always wanted to build a company that would be strong enough to do Liebeslieder Walzer, and I am so proud that we have done that here in Richmond. It’s one of the most precious ballets in the New York City Ballet repertory and we were incredibly honored when we were given the rights to do it two years ago. It’s just four couples, so the dancers have to be really strong, not only technically, but artistically.”

Originally created in 1960 for New York City Ballet, Liebeslieder Walzer is a complex work woven not only from the threads of Mr. Balanchine’s classical vocabulary and his fascination with sweeping waltzes, but from a series of unspoken conversations between the ballet’s four couples. Love, in its infinitely varied incarnations, serves as the tempo to which all of Mr. Balanchine’s waltzes are set, danced and observed against the background of a 19th century German salon. As a work performed in two parts, Liebeslieder Walzer first invites the audience into a world not so different from its own, punctuated by the intricacies and restraint of a life lived within the temporal world; after a brief intermission, the audience is then swept into one that is free and more spiritual. Indeed, Mr. Balanchine was famous for saying that “in the first act, it is the real people who are dancing. In the second act, it is their souls.” “I love that thought of Mr. Balanchine’s” added Ms. Winslett. “Members of our audience have often told me the reason why they loved this particular ballet so much is because they felt that their souls danced with the dancers, and that they felt free like the ballet dancers on stage.”

The transition between temporal and spiritual is famously marked by a costuming shift. The ladies are first dressed in satin ball gowns and heeled dancing pumps, but later in lush romantic tutus and pointe shoes; and the gentleman, while remaining in their white ties and tails, remove their formal gloves from one section to the next. But it is the ballet’s subtleties that round out Mr. Balanchine’s dancers – they are utterly human, with a hint of regret, and an all too knowing sense of lost, or perhaps, unrequited love. Though the ballet has no specific storyline, Mr. Balanchine knew well how to read the human soul, believing that one would need nothing more than to have a man and a woman on stage together to create the most interesting of stories.

Between the master’s dreamy waltzing phrases, the choreography gives way to meaningful gestures and artful pauses that communicate much like words left unsaid. “As a choreographer,” Philip Neal said, “I continue to be inspired by Mr. Balanchine’s ability to create dramatic gestures in the abstract, as opposed to traditional mime. There is purposeful room for interpretation. At New York City Ballet, I was coached in detail about the length of appropriate pauses and subtlety of gestural intent. What seems ‘right’ might also evolve within a particular performance, based on the mood of the dancers or the tempo of the music.”

“By knowing the dancers well, having both staged and choreographed for Richmond Ballet through the years, I have an advantage in casting Liebeslieder Walzer,” said Mr. Neal. “I can quickly identify when a particular dancer will need to project more or perhaps pull back. And with Stoner, Malcolm Burn and Jerri Kumery [Ballet Masters at Richmond Ballet] in charge of rehearsing the ballet, I have every confidence that Liebeslieder Walzer will receive its finest performance possible. In terms of a positive work environment, Richmond Ballet sets the gold standard.”

The Ballet’s intimate Studio Theatre expertly brings the audience close to the dancers, much as if they were seated together within that German salon; together, both audience and dancers are easily enveloped by the romantic enigma that sits at the heart of Liebeslieder Walzer.  Goethe’s words, “Now, Muses, enough! You try in vain to portray how misery and happiness alternate in a loving heart,” close the ballet, and reflect poignantly upon the questions that will forever linger between the ballet’s couples as a return to convention settles in with the final notes.

Singers Anne O’Byrne, Martha Prewitt, Matthew Hassmer with Christopher Lindbloom and Gabrielle Bergeret, Erin Freeman, Wesley Pollard with Joseph Cuilla are currently scheduled to perform alongside the professional company and Dr. Kong and Dr. Hanson.


Liebeslieder Walzer  |  TICKETS START AT $20.00

© The George Balanchine Trust.

Choreography by George Balanchine | Music by Johannes Brahms

Richmond Ballet Studio Theatre  |  407 E. Canal Street, Richmond, Virginia 23219

Tuesday, April 14, 6:30 pm*

Wednesday, April 15, 6:30 pm

Thursday, April 16, 2:00 pm and 6:30 pm

Friday, April 17, 6:30 pm

Saturday, April 18, 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm

Sunday, April 19, 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm

Tickets available at, by calling 1.800.514.3849, or through the Richmond Ballet Box Office at 407 E. Canal Street.


*Special Farewell Choreographers’ Club includes an opportunity to ask Phillip Skaggs questions about his career during the Q & A after the show. Read more about Phillip as he reflects back on a 16 year career with Richmond Ballet. 



The 2014-15 Studio Series is generously sponsored by

Liebeslieder Walzer is also generously supported by

Morgan Stanley      KPMG

The Richmond Ballet Choreographers’ Fund

Richmond Ballet, The State Ballet of Virginia, receives support from the Virginia Commission for the Arts

and the National Endowment for the Arts.

 spotlight_sm_2    NEA-logo-color

Richmond Ballet also receives support from the Arts and Cultural Funding Consortium

(City of Richmond, Hanover County and Henrico County)



BALANCHINE is a Trademark of The George Balanchine Trust.

Feature Photo: Richmond Ballet in Liebeslieder Walzer. Choreography by George Balanchine. (C) The George Balanchine Trust. Photo by Sarah Ferguson.

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