As a Russian émigré visiting Oakland Cemetery in Sag Harbor knowing who established American Ballet and who said: “By blood I am Georgian, by culture I am Russian, by nationality I am Peterburgian”, I stumbled on the well-taken care of monument of “The Ballet Master – George Balanchine”. It was Russian custom to put elaborate monuments on graves, but Balanchine’s burial place looked tasteful and modest like most Americans and it reflected his life.
Knowing that Balanchine had a “small house in the country that needed to be put together”, I tried to find it, but the search was unsuccessful. One of the local Sag Harborites said that Balanchine lived a very private life. From Balanchine’s biography his favorite animal was a cat and as he said: “ A cat is a lovely person, she understands everything, but does not like a lot of people around, does not like being bothered or upset”.
Living in the Hamptons resembles the master’s association with Saint Petersburg: “Fantastic, simple, refined, without pretension, but majestic”. The colorful, unforgiving, some places primordial ocean, sparkles in the rays of the sunset. The mystery of ocean unknown life and smell of iodine, reminds one of Balanchine’s favorite book by Jules Verne “ Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, The Mysterious Island”.
In the Hamptons, the spring is in an always-continuous fight with the winter like in Saint Petersburg where Balanchine moved from his home to study classical ballet when he was nine years old. The nakedness of the forest and surrounding areas, the loneliness of the seagulls on the beaches, the rays of the warm sun during the daylight melts the snow and kisses ones who dare to walk on the beach inhaling the unforgettable fresh, cleansing ocean air. The Rose Garden at Southampton Roger’s Memorial Library is where the rare, fragrant and lively roses are in bloom every spring, which was Balanchine’s favorite flower. Rose is always associated with love. The rose garden with dedicated benches depicts that love. “Love” said Balanchine “is a very important thing in a man’s life especially toward the end. More important than art.”
The wonder of the winter forest surprises while driving the internal roads of the Hamptons as if sitting in the front row of the Nutcracker Ballet where the trees are covered with velvety pillows of snow sparkling with light breezes of ocean air floating and teasing the skin. During the winter nights the light pole by the door reflects the moist, sparkly air and uncovers the wonders and tranquilizes the minds as it was in Saint Petersburg – city on the water and the intellectual capital of Russia where Tchaikovsky lived and produced. Balanchine never saw Tchaikovsky but he was his favorite composer and mentor in life. “Without Tchaikovsky’s help, I would not have managed” he said once.
Love was always in Balanchine’s life and it is everywhere in the Hamptons. Art shows are full of love of life and all its forms and expressions. Femininity is in fashion! Balanchine was not spared of the destiny to understand the mysterious female nature. He once said:” When you are getting old it seems that the art can wait, but a woman won’t. In art, you think you understand a thing or two already. But with a woman, that is not the case. You can’t understand her totally – never, ever. It’s all so confused, so complicated…Horrible!”
The Hamptons’ sunrises are so powerful with their nocturnal quietness and the mystical power of light appearing through translucent glass waking intellectual constructiveness. The continuous search for Balanchine’s home in the Hamptons remains an unfulfilled journey.