April 30, 1999
has been good to Darci Kistler. As a 15-year-old, Kistler was
chosen to dance the Swan Queen in George Balanchine's one-act
setting in the School of American Ballet's annual Spring workshop.
She was asked to join the New York City Ballet shortly after
and became Balanchine's last ballerina. Twenty years later, Kistler
danced the American premiere of her husband Peter Martins' full-length
version of the great classic -- a rendition that's scheduled
to be seen, with Kistler, around the country next week on public
Kister grew up in Riverside, California
the youngest of five children -- and the only girl. She longed
to escape the masculine atmosphere of her surroundings, and began
dancing when she was five in Los Angeles. Later, she studied
with Irina Kosmovska before departing for New York and SAB. Kistler
was drawn to Balanchine by an article in Vogue that described
how the Ballet Master used to give his favorite dancers perfume,
and how he knew where each of his ballerinas were in the theater
by her scent.
It wasn't long before Kister's
sunny nature, outstanding technique, and hunger for music brought
the blond teenager to Balanchine's attention. He made her his
youngest principal dancer ever at 17, but Balanchine died in
1983 and Kistler suffered an ankle injury that kept the dancer
idle for three years.
Kistler returned and over the years
has been, along with Kyra Nichols, a reminder of the magic that
is possible at the NYCB. At her best, Kistler is pure sunshine.
She was the kindest of Sugar Plum Fairies in the Nutcracker,
a sparkling Diamond in Jewels, and a majestic princess
in Tschaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 2. Life was in perfect
order when Kistler performed the precise miracles of Mozartiana
and Monumentum Pro Gesualdo/Movements for Piano and Orchestra.
Or she could be mystery personified in Agon, Scotch Symphony,
and Vienna Waltzes.
Although motherhood, back surgery,
and a host of other niggling hurts have slowed Kistler's career,
the ballerina can be seen in select parts this Spring season
at the State Theater and in July at Saratoga.--Dale Brauner