Ballerina Suzanne Farrell tells creative arts graduates: 'The arts are hospitals for our souls'

After receiving an honorary degree from Brandeis, Farrell delivered a speech during the creative arts diploma ceremony Sunday

Photo/Mike Lovett

Suzanne Farrell gets hooded during Brandeis commencement 2015.

American ballet legend Suzanne Farrell shared her theory on the origins of arts with Brandeis graduates during the creative arts diploma ceremony Sunday.

"For me, dance is more real than the outside world, which doesn't measure up," Farrell said. "...I have a little theory that the arts were invented because life didn't measure up to what it was supposed to be. If life were wonderful, we would all dance, we would all sing, we would all be poets, we would all paint. As it is, the arts are hospitals for our souls."

Farrell performed in more than 100 ballets during her 28-year career, nearly a third of which were created expressly for her by iconic choreographer George Balanchine, who considered her his muse.

She was introduced in the diploma ceremony by Susan Dibble, the Barbara Sherman '54 and Malcolm L. Sherman Director of Theater Arts, who recalled traveling with her mother to see the New York City Ballet's production of Don Quixote in 1965, in which Farrell starred.

"I had never witnessed magic until that day," Dibble said.

After retiring as a dancer, Farrell took up teaching ballet. Balanchine had predicted she would become a teacher, but Farrell said she initially couldn't imagine being one. She has gone on to become the founder and artistic director of The Suzanne Farrell Ballet, housed at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and has staged pieces by Balanchine around the world.

"Teaching extends my dance life beyond performance and I enjoy it in a way that I had not envisioned," she said. "The relationship, the bond, between teacher and student bridges the past, and the human chain has a foothold in the present. We are all united in our creative art passion. Now that you are free from all intense writing, studying, exam anxiety and pressure from teachers, remember someday and in some way, you will all teach."

A total of 61 received creative arts diplomas on Sunday, including 48 bachelor's degrees, 9 master's degrees and 4 PhDs.

Categories: Alumni, Arts, Student Life

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