The Mistake Waltz: Watch the Hilarious Ballet by Legendary Choreographer Jerome Robbins

So often mis­takes are the most mem­o­rable part of live per­for­mance.

In Jerome Rob­bins’ The Con­cert (or The Per­ils of Every­body)they’re built in.

The por­tion set to Chopin’s Waltz in E Minor, above, has earned the nick­name The Mis­take Waltz. It’s an anthol­o­gy of screw ups that will be famil­iar to any­one who’s attend­ed a few ama­teur bal­let pro­duc­tions and school recitals.

When the entire ensem­ble is meant to be trav­el­ing in the same direc­tion or syn­chro­niz­ing swan­like ges­tures, the one who’s egre­gious­ly out of step is a guar­an­teed stand­out… if not the audience’s flat out favorite.

Rob­bins gen­er­ous­ly spreads the clown­ing between all six mem­bers of the corps, get­ting extra mileage from the telegraphed irri­ta­tion in every indis­creet­ly attempt­ed cor­rec­tion.

Per­formed well, the silli­ness seems almost impro­vi­sa­tion­al, but as with all of this leg­endary choreographer’s work, the spon­ta­neous beats are very, very spe­cif­ic.

It only works if the dancers have the tech­ni­cal prowess and the com­ic chops to pull it off. Les Bal­lets Trock­adero de Monte Car­lo aside, this can present a siz­able cast­ing chal­lenge.

Rob­bins also felt that The Con­cert should be pre­sent­ed spar­ing­ly, to keep the jokes from becom­ing stale.

Indi­vid­ual com­pa­nies have some agency over their cos­tumes, but oth­er than that, it is exe­cut­ed just as it was in its 1956 debut with the New York City Ballet.

For­mer NYCB lead dancer Peter Boal, who was 10 when he played Cupid in Rob­bins’ Moth­er Goose, has made The Con­cert part of Pacif­ic North­west Bal­let’s reper­toire. He revealed anoth­er side of the exact­ing Rob­bins in a per­son­al essay in Dance Mag­a­zine:

He had the unique abil­i­ty to become kid-like in the stu­dio, gig­gling with oth­ers and often laugh­ing robust­ly at his own jokes. He was cer­tain­ly his own best audi­ence for The Con­cert. How many times had he seen those gags and yet fresh, spon­ta­neous laugh­ter erupt­ed from him as if it was a first telling.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Bal­let Dancers Do Their Hard­est Moves in Slow Motion

Radio­head Bal­lets: Watch Bal­lets Chore­o­graphed Cre­ative­ly to the Music of Radio­head

The Dance The­atre of Harlem Dances Through the Streets of NYC: A Sight to Behold

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, the­ater mak­er and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine.  Join her Necro­mancers of the Pub­lic Domain: The Peri­od­i­cal Cica­da, a free vir­tu­al vari­ety show hon­or­ing the 17-Year Cicadas of Brood X. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday.


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