Sara Leland, Ballerina of Ardour and Abandon, Dies at 79
Sara Leland, a principal dancer with New York Metropolis Ballet who was entrusted with staging George Balanchine’s ballets worldwide even throughout her performing profession, and who went on to grew to become a beloved ballet grasp with the corporate, died on Nov. 28 in Westwood, N.J. She was 79.
The reason for her dying, in a hospital, was congestive coronary heart failure, her niece, Mary-Sue O’Donnell, mentioned.
Ms. Leland, who was identified to pals and colleagues by her delivery title, Sally, was a younger dancer with the Joffrey Ballet in New York when Balanchine, the ballet grasp in chief of Metropolis Ballet, noticed her dance in a category and invited her to hitch his firm.
In 1960, her first 12 months with Metropolis Ballet, she was given a principal position in “Les Biches,” a brand new ballet by Francisco Moncion; she was promoted to soloist three years later and commenced to carry out principal components in a variety of ballets, together with Balanchine’s “Agon,” Symphony in C” and “A Midsummer Night time’s Dream”; Jerome Robbins’s “Interaction”; and Frederick Ashton’s “Illuminations.”
Balanchine created a task for her within the “Emeralds” part of his full-length “Jewels” (1967) and within the short-lived “PAMTGG,” primarily based on a industrial jingle for Pan American World Airways (1971). Robbins created roles for her in “Dances at a Gathering” (1969) and “Goldberg Variations” (1971). Her skill to quickly take in and bear in mind choreographic sequences led Robbins to ask her to help him at rehearsals, they usually labored collectively carefully through the creation of each these ballets.
Ms. Leland was promoted to principal dancer in 1972, simply earlier than Metropolis Ballet’s Stravinsky Competition, which opened with “Misplaced Sonata,” a pas de deux created by Balanchine for Ms. Leland and John Clifford. That very same night she carried out the second motion with Edward Villella within the premiere of Balanchine’s “Symphony in Three Actions,” a ballet with which she could be related all through her profession, and which she later taught to generations of Metropolis Ballet dancers.
“Sally was a fast learner, and Balanchine actually struggled with ‘Symphony’ with regard to tempos, so he gave Sally a whole lot of steps to point out the corps de ballet,” Barbara Horgan, Balanchine’s longtime assistant, mentioned.
These steps stayed with Ms. Leland. “Once I first staged ‘Symphony,’ I bear in mind writing down the difficult counts from Sally, who had all of it in her head,” mentioned Christine Redpath, a repertory director at Metropolis Ballet. “I nonetheless bear in mind her deserted, quicksilver dancing in that work.”
Balanchine went on to choreograph roles for Ms. Leland in “Union Jack” (1976) and “Vienna Waltzes” (1977), and her steely method and flexibility allowed her to carry out in an exceptionally big selection of the corporate’s repertory, together with summary ballets like Balanchine’s “Serenade” and “Agon”; romantic, expressive items like “La Valse” and “Davidsbündlertänze”; and standard story ballets like “The Nutcracker” (as Dewdrop and the Sugar Plum Fairy) and “Don Quixote” (as Dulcinea).
“She was enjoyable to observe since you didn’t have to carry your breath,” Ms. Horgan mentioned. “She was so sturdy that she may take dangers — however they weren’t dangers for her. Some dancers are the identical in every part, however she wasn’t.”
Ms. Leland started to stage works by Balanchine and Robbins within the mid-Nineteen Seventies, whereas nonetheless performing. She traveled to Amsterdam, Havana and Copenhagen to show their ballets in addition to engaged on them with firms within the U.S., together with the Joffrey Ballet, Dance Theater of Harlem and the Boston Ballet. She was appointed an assistant ballet grasp with the corporate in 1981, two years earlier than retiring from the stage.
“I’m watching Mr. Balanchine as a lot and as carefully as attainable today,” she mentioned in a 1982 interview with The Christian Science Monitor. “I treasure each minute of each rehearsal that he conducts. I’m making an attempt to be taught his ballets so precisely that I’ll always remember them and might stage them sooner or later precisely as he meant.”
Sally Harrington was born on Aug. 2, 1941, in Melrose, Mass., the second little one of Ruth (Gibbons) Harrington and Leland Kitteridge Harrington, often known as Hago, a former participant for the Boston Bruins of the Nationwide Hockey League. She later adopted the stage title Sara Leland.
An older sister, Leeta, was born with spina bifida, and a health care provider prompt she take up ballet as bodily remedy. The household lived close to the varsity of E. Virginia Williams, a famous instructor who admired Balanchine’s work and had studied his instructing strategies. Ms. Leland went alongside together with her sister to review there.
Her expertise was instantly obvious, and she or he started to coach intensively with Ms. Williams, who in 1958 based the New England Civic Ballet, the forerunner of the Boston Ballet. Ms. Leland’s mom and Ms. Williams grew to become shut pals, and Ruth Harrington ran the corporate’s entrance desk, took dancers into the household dwelling and made costumes for the troupe.
“It grew to become their life,” mentioned Ms. O’Donnell, Ms. Leland’s niece.
Robert Joffrey noticed Ms. Leland carry out with the corporate in 1959 and invited her to hitch the Joffrey Ballet. On trip in Boston the following 12 months, she attended ballet lessons with Ms. Williams and was noticed by Balanchine, who was an inventive adviser to the New England Ballet.
“Balanchine adored Sally,” mentioned Richard Tanner, a former ballet grasp at Metropolis Ballet. “She was such an uncommon dancer, with such freedom of motion and lack of inhibition. She danced actually huge, and he liked that. He appreciated her character, too, every part about her.”
Quickly after Ms. Leland started to tackle rehearsal duties, Balanchine requested her to teach the principal ballerina roles in his ballets. Her uncommon skill to retain the choreography of all components of a ballet, and to show it, meant that she may work on greater than 30 works within the repertory. She additionally continuously staged Balanchine’s works overseas, notably “Jewels” on the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1998.
Ms. Leland married Arthur Kevorkian in 1975; they divorced in 1993. In later years Ms. Leland, a eager gardener, lived in New Metropolis, N.Y. Ms. O’Donnell, her niece, is her solely survivor.
Wendy Whelan, the affiliate creative director of Metropolis Ballet, mentioned that Ms. Leland made an indelible impression on a number of generations of dancers.
“She was greater than life; she had this big, large smile and so many issues that I imagined a Balanchine dancer ought to exude after I joined the corporate,” Ms. Whelan mentioned. “Ardour, freedom, individuality — she was all that. When she taught, it was at all times ‘Extra! Larger! Go for it!’ She embodied all of the qualities that we tried to place into the dancing.”
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