Friday, December 28, 2007

The Women of Snow Maiden

Today I would like to feature two of the ballerinas who will star in the Snow Maiden and Nutcracker productions created by the Russian National Ballet Foundation with the Natalya Sats Theater.

As you may recall, this is the production which we will be bringing to the U.S. in the winter of 2008. You can read much more about the production in past podcasts which include short biographies of the male leads, video clips of the rehearsal process, and an audio interview with Valery Lantratov.

Today we feature two beautiful ballerinas of the Kremlin Ballet. Olga Zubkova (pictured left) and Natalia Balahnicheva (right).

Balahnicheva is a graduate of the Perm Choreographic School and has been dancing with the Kremlin Ballet since 1994. She is a bright and original talent who combines lyric and romantic harmony with a rare gift of fluid motion. Her repertory consists of Cindrella (Cinderella by Prokofiev, staged by Vassiliev), Ludmila (Ruslan and Ludmila, by Glinka-Agafonnikov, staged by A.Petrov), Mery, Pastral (The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky, staged by A.Petrov), Leda (Zeus by D.Arapis, staged by A.Petrov). Pas de troi, one of the four swans (The Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky, Moscow reduction by Ivanov, Petipa, Gorsky and Messerer).

Olga Zubkova, Honored Artist of Russia, is a dramatic ballerina with perfect technique and brilliant proportions. From 1982-1990 she studied at the Moscow Choreography College under the supervision of G. L. Kouznetsova. From 1990-1995 she danced at the Grigorovich Ballet Studio directed by Yuri Grigorovich. Her tutors were N. Bessmertnova, M. Lavrovsky, L. Cherkassova, R. Karelskaya and E. Ryabinkina . There her most important roles included Luska in Golden Age, Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty, Myrtha in Giselle, Clemnestra in Electra as well as a number of other solos and variations. Since 1995 Olga Zoubkova has been a soloist of the Kremlin Ballet directed by Andrei Petrov. During her career she has created a series of roles, among which are Aphrodite in Zeus, Josephine in Napoleon, Theresa in Cavalry Halt, Naina in Ruslan and Ludmila, Odette-Odile in Swan Lake, Street Dancer, Mercedes in Don Quixote, Emmy Lawrence in Tom Sawyer, Svanilda in Copellia. Olga Zoubkova has toured extensively including the US, South America, Japan and Europe.

Incidentally, you can see pictures and video of Valery Lantratov on the Kremlin Ballet web page. He danced the role of Napoleon in the production featured on the video clips page. Unfortunately, the video quality is rather poor. But if you know who you're looking for you may be able to spot him and Olga Zubkova. The pictures of the Napoleon production in the "photogalerie" are likewise a bit blurry in spots, but you get the idea.

Remember, you can see a documentary on the Natalya Sats Musical Theater including some rehearsal footage of Snow Maiden at

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry Christmas to All

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

While you're feeling festive enjoy this snippet of The Nutcracker performed by the ballet company of the Natalya Sats Theater.

Valery is wrapping up his tour of Lebanon, and preparations are underway for the Association of Performing Arts Conference, which is coming up much faster than we imagined! Soon we'll be bringing you reports from the conference and from the road.

We are planning more recorded interviews and video clips. In the meantime, don't forget Valery Lantratov's recent audio podcast.

We've still got copies of A Child's Introduction to Ballet available. Visit the link to the right to order.

Resources of the Day:

We've been gratified to see more and more ballet appearing on You Tube. Anaheim Ballet has a regular video podcast on You Tube. It is presented with a lot of fun and enthusiasm. It captures a sense of ballet as FUN. Below is one of the episodes. You could kill a whole afternoon watching them all, but don't blame us if you do!

If you respond to a more serious treatment of the art of ballet, check out the resources on the New York City Ballet page. You can listen to audio podcasts on the creative process while doing your stretching.

This Month in Dance History: December

We haven't been on top of This Week in Dance History. So we present for you our first This Month in Dance History. Enjoy!

December 1, 1910- Dame Alicia Markova (pictured left) was born Lillian Alicia Marks in London. At six, she began dance lessons on the recommendation of a specialist, to remedy knock‑knees and flat feet. It worked out well for her. When she was only 14 she joined the Ballet Russes and went on to be, in the words of The Independent, "a living legend." When she passed away at age 94, dance critic Clive Barnes wrote, "so many Giselles, but for me really only Markova."

On this date in 1957- The New York City Ballet debuted "Agon," a collaboration between composer Igor Stravinsky and choreographer George Balanchine. New York Times critic Jack Anderson described it this way: "...both Stravinsky's score and George Balanchine's choreography for 'Agon' paid homage to 17th-century dance forms. Yet the music also contained dissonances and the choreography utilized a demanding contemporary dance technique."

And in 1990- Pioneering choreographer and artistic director Alvin Ailey passed away. Anna Kisselgoff of The New York Times wrote of Mr. Ailey, "You didn't need to have known Ailey personally to have been touched by his humanity, enthusiasm and exuberance and his courageous stand for multiracial brotherhood."

December 2, 1973- One of the great choreographers and performers in the history of modern dance, Jose Limon, (pictured right) passed away after a brief illness. His powerful dancing shifted perceptions of the male dancer. Limon choreographed at least one piece a year until his death.

December 3 2000- Senator Hillary Clinton called Mikhail Baryshnikov "the greatest male classical dancer of all time" when he was recognized with a Kennedy Center Honor.

December 4, 1955- Carl Perkins played a concert at a local high school sorority dance. Perkins saw a beautiful girl dancing with a boy wearing blue suede shoes. As they danced the boy warned the girl not to step on his shoes. Perkins was impressed that this boy was more concerned with his shoes than his date, and was inspired to write a song. He called it "Blue Suede Shoes."

December 5, 1854- Aaron Allen of Boston patented the folding theatre chair.

On this date in 2005- Serge Lavoie, former principal dancer with The National Ballet of Canada died suddenly of a heart attack at the age of 41 while on tour as ballet master with Columbia City Ballet.

December 6, 1896-Broadway would not be the same without Ira Gershwin, who was born on this date. The lyricists, mainly in collaboration with his brother George, provided the text for such musicals as Porgy and Bess; Of Thee I Sing; Lady, Be Good; Funny Face; Oh. Kay!, Girl Crazy, Lady in the Dark and in adaptations after his death, My One and Only, Crazy for You and Never Gonna Dance.

December 7 1935-At the height of the dance marathon craze, a dance marathon "Super Show"closed in Wenatchee, Washington after 342 hours (just over 14 days).

And on this date in 1998- Kirov ballerina Alla Shelest, a major Russian ballerina of the 1940s and 50s and the former wife of Yuri Grigorovich, passed away in St. Petersburg at age 79. You can find an interesting article reflecting on old photos of the dancer on the blog for the "Society for the Advancement of Auguste Vestris."

December 8, 1900- Uday Shankar, (pictured right) the choreographer and dancer who helped to earn great worldwide respect for Indian dance in the 1930s, was born.

December 9, 1942- The Aram Khachaturian ballet "Gayane," featuring the surging "Saber Dance," was first performed by the Kirov Ballet.

December 10, 1768 - The Royal Academy of Arts was founded in London by George III.

December 11, 1916- "The Mambo King" Pérez Prado was born. One of the most influential pop orchestra leaders of the early 1950s, was the first to market his compositions under the name "mambo," and his "Mambo No. 5" took Latin America and the U.S. by storm.

December 12, 1882 - The Bijou Theatre in Boston, Massachusetts, became the first to be lighted by electricity.

On this date in 2000- costumes and other memorabilia belonging to Dame Margot Fonteyn (left with Rudolf Nureyev) one of Britain's best loved dancers brought in pounds 640,000, six times more than expected, at Christies auction house. (You can hear Valery Lantratov's comments on Margot Fonteyn in the fourth section of his podcast)

December 13, 1957- Alexander Levitoff passed away. The Russian-born impresario managed such dancers as Ekaterina Geltzer and Anna Pavlova. He organized the Australian tour of the original Ballet Russe and settled in Australia in the late 1930s. He worked there until he moved to Paris a few years before his death.

December 14, 1844- English ballerina Clara Vestris Webster's dress caught fire during a performance of The Revolt of the Harem at the Drury Lane Theater. She died three days later. (The link above is to an interesting historical article "Trials, Troubles and Temptations in a Dangerous Era published in Dance Magazine in 1999)

December 15, 1879- Rudolf Laban, inventor of labanotation, was born.

Also on this date in 1944-Ballet International performed the ballet "Mad Tristan" choreographed by Leonide Massine against a set painted by the surrealist artist Salvador Dali. It was a complete flop. One critic called it a "25-minute yawn." Time Magazine reported: "Regurgitation is a hygienic, not an artistic, process. Salvador Dali, turning aside from surrealistic painting to drama, has swallowed Wagner's Tristan and Isolde and spewed it up with much of the murky contents of his unconscious adhering to the gobbets."

December 16, 1937- "The Lambeth Walk" was introduced during the first performance of Noel Gay's "Me and My Girl" in London.

On this same date in 1977- The disco film Saturday Night Fever was released. John Travolta, who was also shooting the "Welcome Back Kotter" TV series during the filming, ran two miles a day and danced for three hours daily to get in shape for this film.

December 17, 1892: The Nutcracker debuts at the Maryinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg. What can we say about the Nutcracker? BalletMet has compiled a good history.

December 18 1778- Joseph Grimaldi the "greatest clown in history" was born. The son of Giuseppit Grimaldi, an Italian dancing master, Grimaldi used his skills as a musician, acrobat and dancer to become the "father of modern clowning." He a master of physical expression and comic timing. He was so famous in his day that Charles Dickens wrote his biography. (You can read or download it in its entirety through Google Books.)

December 19, 1957-"The Music Man" brings 76 trombones to the Broadway stage. Robert Preston and Barbara Cook starred in the production which made its debut at the Majestic Theatre. Meredith Willson penned the book, lyrics and score from a story he and Frank Lacey devised. It would run for a staggering 1,375 performances.

December 20, 1911- Swan Lake makes its U.S. debut at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.

December 21, 1976- Mikhail Baryshnikov wins a big success as a choreographer and dancer with his Nutcracker at the American Ballet Theater.

December 22, 1815 - French dancer Lucien Petipa was born on this date. A handsome and popular dancer, he made his debut with the Paris Opera in 1840. He partnered Fanny Elssler in "La Sylphide," danced the role of Albrecht in "Giselle" opposite Carolina Grisi and in 1865 became maitre de ballet of the Paris Opera.

December 23 1918 - Born this day was flamenco dancer and actor Jose Greco. He went on to be the best known Spanish dancer of the 20th Century. You can see him at work in this clip from You Tube:

And on this day in 2002- Indian dancer Lakshmi Shanmukham Knight, who divided her professional career between appearances in India and the United States, passed away. You can read her obituary by clicking on the link above.

December 24, 1858-Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko, co-founder with Konstantin Stanislavsky of the Moscow Art Theatre was born. This theater, where Valery Lantratov was a principal dancer for much of his career, is featured on the Kennedy Center Artsedge Page. (The Kennedy Center Artsedge is an excellent resource)

And on this date in 1957- The London Festival Ballet presented “The Nutcracker.” The editor’s of Ballet Annual noted “The Festival Ballet has found the ideal Christmas entertainment in Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker and one need not be a prophet to foresee that this will become an annual event at the Festival Hall.” Critics especially responded to Anton Dolin’s “pleasantly frightening” Drosselmeyer.

December 25- Merry Christmas

December 26, 1869- The ballet "Don Quixote" is performed for the first time at The Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. The Footnotes ballet page offers a synopsis and quotes from famous dancers about watching and performing in this classic.

And on this date in 1957- John Cranko’s “The Angels” performed by the Royal Ballet premiered at The Royal Opera House. Arnold L. Haskell and Mary Clarke, editors of The Ballet Annual, were not impressed. “a year ago [Cranko] had seriously jeopardized the success of The Prince of the Pagodas. This time he killed his ballet stone dead,” they wrote.

December 27, 1932-The Radio City Music Hall in New York opened. Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr., and Tony Bennett are just a few of the stars to grace the stage of Radio City Music Hall since its opening. It is best known, of course, as the home to the precision-kicking Radio City Rockettes.

December 27 1976-Ballet Shoes, an Emmy-winning story of three orphan girls who attend ballet school in 1935 England premiered on PBS.

December 28, 1918-Paul Godkin, a versatile choreographer who worked in Hollywood films and on stage productions in Las Vegas, New York and Paris, was born. Godkin first danced as a professional in a mid-1930s Hollywood Bowl production of "The Bartered Bride" opposite Agnes de Mille. In 1937, George Balanchine personally requested that Godkin join the American Ballet Theater. After World War II he became a choreographer creating the 1948 Broadway production "Ballet Ballads."

December 29, 1952 - Born this day was American Ballet Theater prima ballerina Gelsey Kirkland (pictured left), perhaps best known for her partnership with Mikhail Baryshnikov. Kirkland is also the author of the children's book The Little Ballerina and Her Dancing Horse and an autobiography Dancing on My Grave.

December 30 1934- Dancer and actor Russ Tamblyn was born. He is best known for his roles in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and West Side Story. He was a gymnast before his theatrical career.

December 31, 1923-The Song and Dance Man starring George M. Cohan, who also wrote and produced, made its debut at the Hudson Theater. The story highlighted the redemption of an unemployed entertainer who turned to robbery.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Finally Our Second Podcast

Valery Lantratov spoke from Moscow today as he prepares to leave for a tour of Lebanon. He talked about his new Snow Maiden production, the difference in preparing for classical and contemporary productions and offered his advice to students who want to pursue a dance career.

Each interview segment is in .wav format. You can stream it and listen to it on line or save it to your hard drive by right clicking and selecting "save as." You will hear me ask a question, the voice of the translator, Yulia Coe, and then Valery Lantratov's response in Russian followed by the translation.

In the first segment Valery Lantratov talks about the Russian National Ballet Foundation's mission and the premiere of Snow Maiden

In the second segment, he continues his discussion of Snow Maiden.

In the third segment, Valery talks about his upcoming Nutcracker and Swan Lake tour and talks about the differences in preparing for a traditional classical story ballet and a new production like Snow Maiden.

In the fourth segment, Valery talks about teaching classes in America and gives advice to students who are worried that they may not have been born with the perfect ballerina figure.

In the fifth segment, Valery sends a greeting to the students he's worked with in the past, talks about his plans for the upcoming Association of Performing Arts Presenters Conference and discusses the "international language of dance."

After the tape was off, Valery said his favorite part of the interview was sending a message to the students.

"Will they really hear it?" he asked.

"Of course," I said.

"Fantastic," he said. (In Russian, of course)

By the way, as you will note in the interview segments above, I was incorrect in reporting that Valery Lantratov was going to be in Cyprus with The Nutcracker. While he is on tour in Lebanon with a performance of Swan Lake/Nutcracker, Snow Maiden travels to Cyprus. You can see an ad for these shows here.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Brief Report on the World Premiere of Snow Maiden

The Snow Maiden production premiered this week in Moscow. Valery Lantratov reports that it was well received by the sold-out crowd. We promise photos and reviews soon.

"I think it will be interesting to the American public," Valery says, "because Americans tend to like dymanic group dances. This has a Russian theme. It is from our tradition, but this is a show."

The performance features a variety of styles from beautiful classical duets to high-energy modern and contemporary movements.

"It has no pauses, the action never stops," Valery says. "It is fast moving. The dance is designed very well. It uses sophisticated technique and draws on Russian culture."

Valery leaves next week for a tour of Cyprus with The Nutcracker. We'll keep you updated on both these projects as information comes in.

A Very Important Date

We've added a new element to our page. You will see a calendar link to the right. If you're interested in where we'll be, you can sign up for an RSS feed and receive a notice every time we update.

Resource of the Day

We've had so much news from Moscow lately that's it's been a while since we've brought you "This Week in Dance History" or news from the world of dance. We came across a resource for your ballet fix which we'd like to recommend: Where Were You Sitting? Alexandra Tomalonis shares dance reviews and commentary.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Video from the Natalya Sats Theater

I'm very pleased to make available to you footage from the ballet company of the Natalya Sats Theater of Moscow which was sent to me by Valery Lantratov. On this playlist you will see a behind the scenes documentary in two parts. In the first part you can see preparations for the Russian National Ballet Foundation's new project The Snow Maiden directed by Valery Lantratov and choreographed by Ivan Fadeyev with an original score by Vladimir Sokolov.

The second part of the documentary includes scenes from Swan Lake. After that are three segments from the company's Nutcracker production. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Our First You Tube Creation

I have just uploaded my very first YouTube video. Gosh, I feel like part of the 21st Century.

Double V Promotions and the Russian National Ballet Foundation are thrilled to be able to present this wonderfully produced featurette on the Natalya Sats Theater in Moscow.

Part one of the behind the scenes look at life at the theater includes rehearsals for the brand new Snow Maiden production.

It concludes with the director discussing the process of working with a living composer "who can explain every note."

Pssst... While we have you here, I just wanted to remind you of our lovely ballet themed holiday cards which are available in our Cafe Press gift shop. The link is on the right. ---->

Monday, November 26, 2007

Fresh from Moscow...

A wonderful package arrived today from Moscow full of photographs, video and other information on the new Snow Maiden production created in association with the Russian National Ballet Foundation.

The production features an original score by composer Vladimir Solokov and is choreographed and directed by Ivan Fadeyev chief choreographer of the Novaya Opera Theatre whose works are described as "striking, modern and powerful."

The slideshow you see below features photographs of the rehearsal process.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Snow Maiden

We're pleased to be able to share this poster of the Snow Maiden production created with the assistance of Valery Lantratov's Russian National Ballet Foundation by the Natalya Sats Theater in Moscow. It is making its world premiere on November 30.

There is some information on the production on the theater's web page. Unfortunately, although an English language version of the page exists, it does not appear to have been updated since 2005. So if you want to find information on this show there, you'll need to read Russian. We'll keep you updated as English language information becomes available.

Monday, November 12, 2007

World Premiere of The Snow Maiden

I am pleased to be able to share with you the first information on the Russian National Ballet Foundation’s brand new production of The Snow Maiden.

The production features an original score by composer Vladimir Solokov and is choreographed and directed by Ivan Fadeyev chief choreographer of the Novaya Opera Theatre whose works are described as "striking, modern and powerful."

The Snow Maiden is the story of how the daughter of Spring and Frost longs to have her heart melted by mortal humans. It is a winter tale that is close to the heart of every Russian child. When the days grow darker and the temperatures fall, German children dream of Nutrackers, American children dream of Santa Claus and Russian children dream of the Snow Maiden and Grandfather Frost.

This original adaptation of the timeless classic has been produced in concert with the Natalya Sats Theater and is about to have its world premiere in Moscow. We will have reviews, photos and video clips as soon as they are available.

The U.S. tour next winter, produced by Double V Promotions and coordinated by Valery Lantratov, artistic director of the Russian National Ballet Foundation, will feature stars of the Bolshoi Ballet including Yan Godovsky, (pictured below) winner of the 2006 "Goden Mask" Award, dancing the role of Lel--

*You can see him in action in a production of Romeo and Juliet at the end of this article.

and Rinat Arifulin (pictured below) as Mizgir. [The links on these two artists' names will take you to their biographies on the Bolshoi Ballet's web page. They are in Russian, but the photographs are in English!]

Arifulin has been garnering international praise for his partnering of Anastasia Volochkova. "The virtuoso dancing and excellent partnering of Arifulin was especially impressive," wrote reviewer Graham Watts of their performance at Sadler's Wells.

(You may remember Volochkova as the Bolshoi ballerina who gained international attention when, at 5'7" and 110 pounds, she was fired for being "too heavy to lift" then reinstated by the courts.)

Costumes for the production were designed by Xenia Shimanovskoy, a 25 year veteran of Moscow stages. Shimanovskoy has created costumes for hundreds of productions and has had costume exhibitions in museums in Russia and the United States. American critics praised the work for its "lyrical surrealism."

Friday, November 9, 2007

News from the World of Dance

Igor Moiseyev, a legendary Russian choreographer who fused ballet with folk dance, passed away on November 2 at the age of 101 and was buried Wednesday in Moscow's most celebrated cemetery.

He was born in Kiev on January 21, 1906, and formed the "Moiseyev Ballet" in Moscow at the height of Stalin's purges after several years dancing for the Bolshoi Ballet. His company was the first to tour internationally, even before the Bolshoi Ballet.

You may watch a BBC feature on the great choreographer by clicking on the link.

In his honor we share the following clips:

Also in the news...

With our classical ballet educational tours, we are, of course, committed to helping students become better dancers. But until recently we were not fully aware of the consequences of dancing when don't know what you're doing.

The first hint that something was wrong came in April when a Chicago woman sued her boss's husband for "negligent dancing." She says he dropped her on her head after flipping her into the air at an office party.

Today we read the story of the "dancing dentist" who was sued for dancing while drilling. The dentist was breaking the monotony of another day of work at a community health center in Syracuse by listening to the radio. And when "Car Wash" comes on, let's face it, you have just got to move. There was, unfortunately, the small matter of drilling his patients tooth to consider. Focusing a bit too much on his fancy footwork, the good doctor soon found that the drill bit had snapped off and lodged near the patient's eye, the lawsuit alleges.

The moral is if you're going to dance, be sure you know what you're doing...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Latest News from Moscow

You may also notice that we've added a new feature to the right, a listing of our ballet school friends. If Valery Lantratov has taught at your school, or will be teaching at your school, and you have a Web page that is not listed here, please let us know.

I spoke briefly to Valery Lantratov by phone in Moscow, and he told me about the Russian National Ballet Foundation's world premiere production of "The Snow Maiden," now in dress rehearsals in Moscow. It is being produced with the Natalya Sats Theater, or as those rather formal Russians like to say it: "Moscow State Academic Children's Music Theater named in honor of N. I. Sats."

Within the next few days I should have pictures, video, sketches and all kinds of information on this exciting new production. I will share the information with you as it comes in. We have just reserved a booth at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters Conference in New York this January. This is where the folks who produce and present performing arts of all kinds gather to show their "products" to prospective buyers.

It is very much like a conference for any other industry, but the products and services are orchestras, modern dance, jugglers, educational shows for kids and Buddhist chants. It's a lively environment and we will be there to present the foundations new Snow Maiden and the ever-popular Nutcracker. Valery Lantratov may be convinced to come out of (semi) retirement to reprise his critically acclaimed role as Drosselmeier for U.S. audiences. Stay tuned. As I write this, Valery is preparing The Nutcracker for another tour of Cyprus in December.

On the homefront, we've gotten into the holiday spirit. We created some holiday greeting cards to send to our friends, and we decided to share them with you. The cards are based on an etherial charcoal rendering of a Russian National Ballet Foundation ballerina in Swan Lake costume, bathed in green and red holiday light. (Shown below) You can buy them as post cards, greeting cards, or note cards. All are blank inside. Available at our on-line store. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page to order)

If you do plan to order copies of A Child's Introduction to Ballet for the kids on your Christmas list, we hope you will consider ordering books directly from us. Our contract on this book does not give us royalties. So if you do plan to buy, please think of us before Amazon. Thanks! (There is a link to the right to order)

This Week in Dance History: October 22-31

October 23, 1932: The Dancing Teachers Business Association of New York City met for the first time. It would later evolve into the organization known as Dance Educators of America.

And in 1972: The musical Pippin, with choreography by Bob Fosse, had its Broadway premiere. The clip below is from a more recent touring production of Pippin.

Oct 24, 1989: The Serge Lifar international ballet competition was held for the first time in Paris, France. The first winner was Vladamir Malakhov.

Oct 25, 1996: Dancer Eugène Polyakov passed away at age 53. Trained at the Bolshoi Ballet, he left for Italy in 1973, and assisted Rudolf Nureyev at the Paris Opera Ballet from 1983. His brief New York Times obituary is available on line.

October 26 1656: A law was passed in New Amsterdam (now New York City) forbidding dancing on the Sabbath.

October 27, 1892: Vicente Escudero, a gypsy dancer widely respected for his mastery of flamenco dance, was born.

Oct 28, 1928: Florence Klotz, Six-time Tony-winning costume designer, was born. Her designs were featured in such productions as Follies, A Little Night Music, Pacific Overtures, On the Twentieth Century, Rags, City of Angels, Kiss of the Spider Woman and dozens more Broadway shows.

Oct 29, 1919: The Trinidad-born American modern dancer, choreographer, scholar Pearl Primus, who combined African, Caribbean, and African-American styles passed away at age 75. She is featured in the PBS documentary Free To Dance. The link above is to her biography on the PBS web page.

Oct 30 1924: Russian-born French ballet dancer/choreographer, Serge Golovine, was born. He was remembered by Jennifer Dunning of the New York Times as "one of the greatest dancers of his generation.. As popular as Rudolf Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov in later years, Mr. Golovine was known for the airborne quality, lightness and virtuosity of his dancing. His best-known roles were the Blue Bird in 'The Sleeping Beauty,' where the articulation and elegance of his footwork were seen to their best advantage, and the title role of 'Le Spectre de la Rose.' He was also greatly praised for his poignant portrayal of Petrouchka, which he danced at the Paris Opera in the 1970's." He became a leading teacher at the ballet school of the Paris Opera.

Oct 31 1956: The Royal Ballet, formerly Sadler's Wells, was granted a Royal Charter.

Monday, October 22, 2007

This Week in Dance History: October 15-22

October 15, 1581- The first production that resembled ballet as we know it today was commissioned by the Queen of France, Catherine de Medicis to celebrate the wedding of her sister Marguerite de Lorraine to the Duc de Joyeuse.

October 16, 1942- Agnes De Mille Choreographs Rodeo, the first "Americana" ballet successfully performed by Ballet Russe. After the success of Rodeo, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein invited de Mille to choreograph their new musical, Oklahoma! She would go on to be known as one of Americas most prominent choreographers. "If it is possible for all movement, growth and accumulated power to become apparent at one single point," she once said, "then my hour struck at 9:40, October 16, 1942." If you would like to use this ballet as a teaching tool, New York Kids Arts put together a curriculum guide originally designed for the American Ballet Theater production.

And on this date in 1997- German dancer and performance artist Lotte Goslar (pictured below) passed away in Great Barrington, Massachusetts. After leaving Germany in the wake of Adolf Hitler's rise to power, Goslar collaborated with Bertolt Brecht and created "The Pantomime Circus" which toured extensively.

October 17, 1933- George Balanchine arrives in the United States.

And on this date in 2001- Twenty-Six years after the musical Jeeves debuted in London, its American version By Jeeves begins Broadway. The musical would go on to have a 10-week run, Webber's shortest on Broadway.

Oct 18, 2000- Actress and dancer Gwen Verdon passed away. Upon her death, Broadway dimmed its lights in tribute. The daughter of a vaudevillian and an MGM studio electrician, her legs were misshapen by a childhood illness and she had to wear corrective boots. She quickly overcame this obstacle and appeared on stage as a tap dancer at the tender age of 6. She got her big breakin Bob Fosse's "Damn Yankees" in 1955. She married Fosse in 1960 and separated from him, although never divorcing him, in the mid 70's. Verdon won four Tony Awards over her three-decade stage career, for Can-Can in 1953; Damn Yankees in 1955; New Girl in Town in 1958 (in a tie with Thelma Ritter); and 1959 for Redhead. She was also nominated for her portrayals in Sweet Charity and Chicago. Verdon and her daughter, Nicole, created the current stage musical "Fosse".

Oct. 19, 1927- The first American ever to become the première danseuse étoile at the Paris Opéra Ballet, Marjorie Tallchief, was born in Oklahoma the daughter of a leader of the Osage Native-American tribe. While, perhaps, not as well know as her sister, Marira, she was a legendary ballerina in her own right. While still in her teens, Marjorie became a soloist with the American Ballet Theatre and at 19 became a ballerina of the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas. For 20 years she danced throughout Europe along side her husband, the dancer and choreographer George Skibine. She was also the first American to dance with the Paris Opera Ballet at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.

Also, on this date, in 1976- U.S. President Gerald Ford signed copyright legislation that for the first time specifically recognized choreography and pantomimes.

Oct 20, 2000- In a landmark decision by the U.S. Southern District Court in Manhattan, it was ruled that the use of the term "pilates" could not be restricted by trademark. Thus you can use the term freely as you would "aerobics", "yoga" or "sit-ups" without paying a royalty to anyone.

October 21, 1858- The famous Can-Can dance was performed for the first time in Paris.

And on this date n 1892- Lydia Lopokova ballerina with Diaghalev's Russian Ballet, was born. On this same date in 1940, Kirov and American Ballet Theater star Natalia Makarova was born.

October 22, 1883- New York's Metropolitan Opera House opened.

Resource of the Day

You can find a variety of interesting historic photos of dancers and ice skaters on the Virtual Film History web page.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

This Week in Dance History: October 8-14

Oct 8, 1961: Jerome Robbins Ballet USA, which consisted of The Concert, Afternoon of a Fawn, and New York Export: Opus Jazz Moves, opened on Broadway at the ANTA Playhouse. It ran for 24 performaces.

October 9, 1972: Broadway premiere of "Dude" The Motorcycle Musical.

October 10, 1684: Birth of artist Antoine Watteau, whose work reflects the influence of the opéra ballet. (The link takes you to his biography on the Web page of the Metropolitan Museum of Art where you can also find an essay on the theme of ballet in art.)

October 11, 1918: Jerome Robbins was born. He went on to choreograph thirteen Broadway shows including On the Town, The King and I, Peter Pan, Gypsy, and Fiddler on the Roof and to directed, and choreograph the musical and film West Side Story and the quintessentially American ballet Fancy Free. (The clip below shows a performance of a scene from West Side Story at a Tony Awards telecast)

Oct 12, 1892: Imre Kiralfy creates a "grand dramatic, operatic, and ballet spectacle" to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in America.

Oct 13, 1998: Victor Ullate's Ballet de la Comunidad de Madrid becomes the first Spanish ballet company to present the full-length "Don Quixote" in the United States.

October 14, 1939: The film "On Your Toes" is released. The film is the story of a vaudevillian who convinces a visiting Russian director to compose a ballet called "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue."

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Resource of the Day: Dance Channel TV

A few days ago I wrote about a New York Times article which lamented the lack of classical ballet on television. It's the Internet to the rescue! If you long to see the Kirov on a screen in your house, but your cable company isn't cooperating, try your computer screen.

We've just discovered Dance Channel TV. It features free, high quality videos. most of which you can watch for free. Right now their offerings include performances by ABT, The Joffrey, Los Angeles Ballet, An Evening of Balanchine, Eifman Ballet and the Kirov. There are short documentary clips on Vladimir Vasiliev in Spartacus, on Rudolf Nureyev and (for a fee) you can rent a documentary on Alexander Godunov. There is also a section with interviews of ballet stars. If you run out of ballet, you can view other "channels" with different dance styles. Recommended!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

This Week in Dance History: October 1-7

October 1 1936- Edward Villella, the New York City Ballet dancer and founder of the Miami City Ballet, was born. His Kennedy center biography calls him "certainly America's most celebrated male dancer," and says he "did much to popularize the role of the male in dance through the supreme artistry and virility he exhibited during his performance career."

And on this date in 1905- The Julliard School of Music was founded in New York City. It's dance division was established in 1951.

October 2, 1929-Tanaquil LeClercq, one of the original members of Ballet Society, the forerunner of the New York City Ballet, was born. (The link above will take you to a YouTube clip). She was one of New York City Ballet's first great ballerinas, exuding what Edwin Denby called a ''Heavenly Radiance.'' She originated roles in such ballets as George Balanchine's ''The Nutcracker'', ''The Four Temperaments'', and ''Western Symphony'' (She was also Balanchine's wife from 1952-1969) and Jerome Robbins's ''Afternoon of a Faun'' and ''The Concert'' before her dance career was tragically cut short by paralytic polio in 1956.

October 3, 1886- Birth date of Russian-born costume designer Barbara Karinska, responsible for the costumes worn in every major ballet presented by the New York City Ballet from 1948 to 1977. "Karinska could turn a tutu into a poetic essay on yearning," wrote Robert Sandla in Playbill. (Full article available through the link) One of her greatest accomplishments was costuming Balanchine's Nutcracker, for which she produced 150 costumes on a budget far below that of the Russian Imperial original. The Nutcracker production, along with its costumes, introduced many Americans to the ballet and influenced what American audiences expect to see when they go to The Nutcracker.

And on this date in 1956- The Bolshoi Ballet appeared at Covent Garden, the first appearance by any Russian dance troupe in the West since the Revolution. People lined up for nights to get tickets and on opening night such luminaries as Margot Fonteyn, Frederick Ashton, Ninette De Valois, Svetlana Barisova, John Cranko, Kenneth MacMillan, Anton Dolin, and Robert Helpmann were in attendance. The ovations lasted an hour and a half.

And on this date in 1974- Gelsey Kirkland and Mikhail Baryshnikov danced the "Don Quixote" pas de deux with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet at the Manitoba Centennial Concert Hall inaugurating their dance partnership.

October 4 1951- The Gene Kelly musical "An American in Paris" had its premiere in New York City. The film featured a 17-minute ballet sequence choreographed by Kelly to music by George Gershwin.

And in 1973- Hans Van Manens' ballet "Adagio Hammerklavier" premiered in Amsterdam. One of Van Manen's most important choreographies, it was based on movement 3 of Adagio sostenato of Beethoven's Hammerklavier Sonata. It was described as a piece on the "disharmony in relationships caused by unfulfilled desires."

And in 1978-T.M. Smirnova discovered an asteroid and named it "Annapavolva" for the 20th century Russian ballerina.

October 5 1883-Serge Grigoriev régisseur of the Ballets Russes for twenty years from 1909, was born. In an era before videotape, Grigoriev remembered and recorded the choreography of the Ballet Russes’ great choreographers like Vaclav Nijinsky and Michel Fokine.

And on this date in 2002- Mia Slavenska, one of the leading ballerinas of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo passed away at age 86. Known for her "glamorous virtuoso technique," she also starred in the 1938 motion picture "La Mort du Cygne" or "Ballerina." In his book, "Writing in Motion," Kenneth King described taking class with Slavenska. "She was both outrageous and endearing," he wrote, "when she waasn't poking or insulting you. She told me I had arms like sausages and was hopeless; it was very inspiring!"

October 6, 1949- Roland Petit's "Les Ballets de Paris" opened on Broadway at the Wintergarden Theater. It consisted of scenes from "Carmen," "L'Oeuf a la Coque," "Pas d'Action" and "Le Combat." Dance News said the company performed "what is generally accepted as typical French theatre: emotional, vivacious, at times exciting, at all times concerning itself with the great passion called love." It ran for 116 performances until January, 1950.

October 7, 1909- Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's last opera, "The Golden Cockerel" opens in Moscow. Five years later it gains fame in Paris as a Diaghilev ballet.

Dance Quote of the Day

" many dance observers will testify, you don't really have to know dancers to know them. They so often dance surreptitiously naked, their personalities, perhaps even their souls, stretched out by the choreography, exposed by the music and illuminated by the necessity of that gold and silent communication dancers always offer, sometimes unwittingly. Every dance fan knows this and many dancers are aware of it, perhaps a little uneasily."-Clive Barnes

Saturday, September 22, 2007

This Week in Dance History

This Week in Dance History

September 24, 1932-Birthday of Svetlana Beriosova -Lithuanian-born classical ballerina. She was one of the most beloved of the British ballerinas during the great days of the Royal Ballet, renowned in the classics, especially Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. Read a tribute to the artist on the Magazine web page. You can also see a video clip of her on YouTube. (She dances a pas de deux with Nureyev. The clip is slightly blurry.)

September 25, 1905-Harriet Hoctor, known as "America's Most Cleverest Ballerina," was born. She was famous for her backbends and stunts like tapping up and down an escalator en pointe.

September 26, 2002- Mikhail Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project premiered "The Show," a new commission by New York cabaret maverick Richard Move at PACT Zollverein in Essen Germany. The production was described by Dance Magazine as a hybrid dance melodrama that "takes us from Hollywood hyperbole and reality TV to video-game warfare."

September 27 2003- Donald O'Connor the actor and song and dance man best known for the "Make 'Em Laugh" number in the film "Singin' in the Rain" passed away at age 78. He also appeared in such '50s musicals as "Call Me Madam," "Anything Goes" and "There's No Business Like Show Business" and starred in the Francis the Talking Mule series.

September 28, 1934- "The Fountain of Bakhchisaray" debuted at the Kirov. It is considered one of the earliest and best examples of the Soviet genre "dram-ballet." ''Dramballet'' is a contraction of "dramatic ballet," and it relied heavily on gesture rather than dance steps.

And on this date in 2000, "Ballet for Life," a ballet based on the life of rock star Freddie Mercury of Queen, opened at Sadler's Wells Theater.

September 29 1964- President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a bill creating a National Foundation for the Arts and Humanities.

On this date in 1981- Astronomer L.V. Zhuravleva at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory charted a new asteroid and named it Maximova for the ballerina Ekaterina Maximova. (Seen below in Don Quixote)

And on this date in 2001- An animal psychologist from Exeter University in England held a "horse ballet" at her farm. She taught what she called classical ballet steps to her horses. Read more about it on the BBC's web page. (Although I haven't come up with video of the horses' classical ballet moves, there is no shortage of videos tagged "horse dancing" on Youtube.)

September 30 1961- The Kirov Ballet finished a successful run at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York. Dance Magazine reviewer Doris Hering wrote of the company: "The Kirov ... has used restraint as the key to its style, both in dance and in mime. But with the exception of Shostakovitch Seventh Symphony, it has not created a comparable simplicity in its staging and decorative aspects. If it is fair to judge from the repertoire of three full-length classics and two variety programs that the company brought to New York, it, too, gives dance an operatic context. The Kirov Ballet might almost be called anachronism."

Resource of the Day

Today's featured resource is Ballet-Dance Magazine. The on-line magazine features reviews and discussion forums for balletomanes everywhere. We would especially like to draw your attention to the features on the Bolshoi Ballet's recent performances in London. (The younger V.V. Lantratov-- Valery's accomplished son Vladislav-- was part of this tour.)

Quote of the Day

"If I could tell you what it meant, there would be no point in dancing it."-Isadora Duncan

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

This Week in Dance History

Sept 18, 1905- The Tony Award winning dancer and choreographer Agnes De Mille was born. (Pictured left) In 1939, she was invited to join the American Ballet Theatre's opening season. Here, she created her first ballet, Black Ritual, in 1940. This ballet became the first ever to use Black dancers. But it was her 1942 Americana ballet Rodeo that truly put her on the dance map. She choreographed the musicals "Oklahoma, “in 1943, and "Brigadoon," in 1947.

September 19, 1927- Isadora Duncan passed away in a tragic auto accident in Nice, France. Her life story was made into a movie in 1968. Read more about her on the web page for the Isadora Duncan Foundation for Contemporary Dance.

September 20, 1967-The ballet Astarte created and choreographed by Robert Joffrey was first presented by the City Center Joffrey Ballet at the City Center, New York with Trinette Singleton and Maximiliano Zomosa. Described as "choreo-cinema." Astarte featured acid-rock music, film segments and disco-style lighting.

September 21, 1998- Russian deputy prosecutor general Aleksandr Zviyaguintsev announced that Rudolf Nureyev was posthumously rehabilitated. The dancer had been sentenced in absentia to seven years in prison when he defected to France in 1961.

September 22, 1996- The Canadian ballerina and founder of Les Ballets Chiriaeff and the Academy of Les Grands Ballets Canadiens and L'Ecole Supérieure des Grands Ballets Canadiens, Ludmilla Chiriaeff, passed away at age 72. In October of 1993 she had received the Governor General's Award for performing arts in recognition for her exceptional contribution to culture in Canada. (Pictured below)

September 23, 1996
- Alberto O. Herrera, father and lawyer of ballerina Paloma Herrera of the American Ballet Theater, filed suit against designers Paloma Picasso and Carolina Herrera for the right to register his daughter’s name as a trademark. Paloma Picasso launched a perfume bearing her name in 1984. Carolina Herrera introduced a perfume called "Herrera" in 1988. Both opposed the trademark.

Ballet Headlines

Beijing's controversial China National Grand Theatre will open its doors on September 25 with a performance of The Red Detachment of Women ballet, one of eight stage shows allowed during China's tumultuous Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, was chosen to coincide with the October 15 Communist Party Congress. The new opera house was designed by French architect Paul Andreu. The "tear drop" design has three theatres encased in a gigantic titanium frame and covered by glass. It was selected by the Chinese government from among several international and domestic designs in 1998. It has been dogged by controversy with construction postponed for 18 months in the early stages as opponents sought to derail the project. Source: AFP Google News.

Also from China:

A typhoon thrashing the eastern coast of China has stranded members of the Alberta Ballet and forced the touring group to cancel one show. On September 19, CBC news reported that more than 30 members of the ballet are waiting in Ningbo, about 150 kilometres south of Shanghai. The group, which has been touring China for the past two weeks, expects to resume the tour soon. Source: CBC News.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

So You Think You Can See Dance on TV?

News from the World of Dance

The producers behind Bravo TV's Project Runway and Top Chef have announced that they will be creating a dance-themed reality series for the network. Open casting calls are scheduled to be held in several U.S. over the next month. Open casting calls are currently scheduled for Los Angeles on September 22; Chicago on September 29; New York on October 6; and Atlanta on October 13. If you want to try your luck, you can find audition information here.

Meanwhile Sarah Kaufmann, the Washinton Post's dance writer, published an article today with the title:
Dance Dilemma: Schlock Triumphs Over Ballet.

Kaufmann argues that even though it appears dance is one of the hottest things on TV now with shows like Dancing with the Stars, quality professional dance is becoming increasingly scarce, swept away by amateurs.

"Here's the irony," she writes. "The sharp rise in reality-show dance on TV is matched by a dizzying drop in public television broadcasts of the pros."

The article explores some of the reasons for this disparity including a lack of corporate sponsorship for dance.

What do you think? See our new poll feature to the right and log your opinion.

Ballet Blogs

We're just in the process of transforming our blog into something useful for the dance world at large. Great Dance has been at it since 2005. It features dance news, interviews, podcasts and lists of other ballet blogs and even dance companies on Myspace. It is a great resource.

For the inside view of a professional dancer's craft it doesn't get much better than The Winger. It was founded in the Spring of 2005 by Kristin Sloan, a dancer with the New York City Ballet, and features behind the scenes posts from numerous dancers.

The links and articles you can get to from these two sources can keep you surfing through dance articles for days.


If you have "friended" Valery Lantratov on Myspace, you may have noticed a change in our musical selection. The new selection is from the Dearing Concert Duo. They are a husband and wife team based in metro Detroit, Michigan. They perform at music festivals, chamber music series, small concert halls, universities and church music series on both sides of the Atlantic. In the past three years they won six awards presented by the Motor City Music Foundation.

Quote of the Day

“A ballet observed from the wings... is far more wonderful and far more beautiful... the wonderful compositions that lie ready to hand– the entrancing beauty of co-mingled beams of coloured light, with their myriad reflections on the dresses and limbs of the dancers; the tense attitude of the dancer awaiting her entry; the spectral figures of the attendant dressers encumbered with shawls, cloaks, powder-puffs and glasses of water; the terrific leap through the wings as a dancer makes her exit; the grotesque appearance of a closely-viewed painted face; the little groups of men and women exercising...the marvelous ever changing shadows.. What magnificent material!”-C.W. Beaumont, “Some New Paintings of the Russian Ballet,” Dancing World, June, 1922.