Metro Weekly

Suzanne Farrell Ballet takes its final bow this weekend

Michael Cook: "I would never dance for anybody other than her"

Meditation: The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, Natalia Magnicaballi and Michael Cook –Photo: Teresa Wood

“I danced with many companies before Suzanne,” says Michael Cook, “and I can honestly say I would never dance for anybody other than her now. She’s quite an amazing person.”

A longtime principal with Suzanne Farrell Ballet, Cook adds that “most artistic directors…want what they want. It’s their way or the highway. Suzanne lets us explore within the ballets.” Once the dancers have created their characters, Farrell “sort of tinkers with us, and tells us, ‘Try this, or do this.’ You don’t get that kind of give and take in most dance companies.”

A native of Arizona, Cook took up ballet after outgrowing gymnastics at the age of 12. “I was not only gay, I was a dancer. So I was made fun of constantly at school until I started going to the School of American Ballet in New York, where I was around like-minded artists.” That’s also where he became an acolyte of the late George Balanchine, considered the father of American ballet, and of Farrell, Balanchine’s muse. “I fell in love with the movement style, and I’ve been hooked ever since.”

Cook, who has spent the past decade dancing for Farrell, will help the famed choreographer conclude her namesake company’s 16-season run this weekend at the Kennedy Center.

The Forever Balanchine program includes two works “that were given to Suzanne by Balanchine,” Cook says, including Meditation, “the first ballet that Balanchine ever created on Suzanne. It has a beautiful pas de deux between a man and a woman. The other one is a ballet called Tzigane…. It’s four couples, very gypsy, sort of sexy, edgy, and a lot of fun.

“We’re the only company in the world that gets to perform those two ballets,” Cook says. “I think I’m in a line of maybe four other people who have ever performed them, so it’s really special.”

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet performs Thursday, Dec. 7, Friday, Dec. 8, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, Dec. 9, at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m., in the Kennedy Center Opera House. Tickets are $29 to $89. Call 202-467-4600 or visit kennedy-center.org.

The Suzanne Farrell Ballet: Natalia Magnicaballi and Michael Cook in “Chaconne” — Photo: Rosalie O’Connor

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Doug Rule covers the arts, theater, music, food, nightlife and culture as contributing editor for Metro Weekly.