Marjorie Thompson.Mr.B. at SAB

My parents were proud to be Young Democrats for Kennedy, but I never took my own patriotism very seriously until I landed at the School of American Ballet as a young dancer. The passion Mr. Balanchine exuded for all things America was absolutely infectious for this young bunhead.

I remember we were invited to perform Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes at the DC Armory for the Kennedys on a snowy January celebrating the anniversary of his first year in office. SAB students were chosen to compliment the corps in the finale. The principal dancers were Allegra Kent, Jacques D’Amboise, and Edward Villella. We were so proud to perform that homage to the flag for our President and First Lady. Balanchine was a big fan of the Kennedys and one of the very first guests of Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis to visit the White House.

When the Apollo 11 was set to land on the moon, we were performing at our summer home in Saratoga. Mr. Balanchine was backstage where he had managed to get a small, black and white TV set up to watch history in action and proudly proclaimed to all of us: “We did it! We beat the Russians!”. He bravely programmed Stars and Stripes on a mid-60s European tour during a time of great distrust of Americans. Our performances at Paris Opera Ballet were booed and booed. We weren’t discouraged, he had instilled such a pride in us of being American dancers. We relished the opportunity to share a little bit about what is beautiful and wonderful about being an American.