Music: Ballet's Fundamentalist

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Latest estimate on the annual U.S. sale of ballet slippers: 1,250,000 pairs.

Across Europe in the wake of the New York City Ballet's tours, the word has gone that here, at last, is the "American" style. Ever modest George Balanchine, unwilling to call his style anything, attributes its special qualities to the dancers themselves. He never hesitates to pick up a gesture that comes from one of them. Once, recently, his uninhibited cast jokingly picked up a new step before he was through demonstrating it, made it look like a baseball pitch. He put it into the ballet.

The school itself was the nucleus of three earlier companies (American Ballet, Ballet Caravan, Ballet Society) before the present company achieved success. Today, more European cities than U.S. cities have seen the New York City troupe. But after last summer's visit, Los Angeles is bidding to bring the company back for six weeks instead of four this year, and San Francisco wants three. Manhattan

itself can expect a bonanza: three complete "seasons" by the end of next winter.

Meanwhile, Choreographer Balanchine is busy polishing two brand-new ballets (his 80th and 81st), which will have their premieres later this season. They will give collectors of Balanchine paradoxes fresh material for study, for they are as dissimilar in substance as any two ballets in the man's repertory. One. a severe abstraction, set to the strains of Atonalist Arnold Schoenberg's Opus 34. fits the music so closely that it seems to simplify the score. But the dance movements themselves are so involved that balletomanes will be arguing about it for a long time.

The other new work is a loving exercise in Russian nostalgia: a Balanchine version of the old story-telling Nutcracker, with music by Tchaikovsky, sugarplum fairies, and a Christmas tree as big as Balanchine can fit on to the stage. The Nutcracker will take a full evening, and provide 35 children's roles for youngsters of Balanchine's ballet school. Central theme of Nutcracker: food.

* Whose imperial ballerinas traditionally became the companions of grand dukes. * And a political success. After service in Geneva, he was appointed Ambassador to Spain (1933), died (in bed) just before he was scheduled to leave Moscow for Madrid. * Except for a rash of "Ballets Russes," all of which claimed Diaghilev's magical mantle. * Among them: Tanaquil LeClercq, Patricia Wilde. Herbert Bliss. Todd Bolender, Nicholas Magallanes, Francisco Moncion.

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