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 rĂ©gisseur 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.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The Ballet Trivia Quiz

I've been hard at work updating the web page for our book A Child's Introduction to Ballet. We've added a special ballet trivia quiz that you can take. Find out if your score qualifies you for the corps de ballet or a principal dancer role!

I've also updated the website dedicated to my books so that it has a shopping cart. Now through the end of the year I will be offering people who buy two or more books a special bonus-- an absolutely free copy of Bad Predictions. Just order two or more books and make a note in the instructions field that you'd like the free book and I'll send it out with your order.

Incidentally, we still have stickers with Valery Lantratov's autograph. If you'd like a copy of A Child's Introduction to Ballet with his signature, you can order that the same way. Just let us know in the "options" field on your order form. (I haven't tested the cart all the way through to a completed sale, so if you have any problem with it just e-mail me at

By the way, I wanted to remind you about a few features of this website. At the end of each article is a set of keywords. If you click on one of the keywords it will bring up all the articles related to that keyword. Want to see only stories related to your state? Click on "Virginia" and see what comes up. Want to look at dance news or resources? Try those keywords. (The older posts weren't as consistent with keywords, but going forward they should be)

Want to be sure you don't miss an article? Sign up to receive this in your e-mail box (on the right) or you can get it as an RSS feed. (I was able to do this automatically on my browser at work, you should be able to do so as well)

Finally, I wanted to point out that this blog has a feature for comments. We'd love to know that you're out there and reading. Let us know what you'd like us to cover here! And remember Valery has a profile on Myspace ( If you were in one of his classes and are on Myspace we'd love to "friend" you. Keep in touch!

Monday, September 10, 2007

This Week in Dance History

September 10, 1896- Adele Astaire, the Vaudeville entertainer whose star shone brighter than her younger brother and partner Fred, was born. The picture below is of young Fred and Adele in 1921. Adele was especially a hit in England. The UK's National Museum of the Performing Arts has a photo feature on the Astaire's trip to England.

September 11, 1850- Swedish soprano Jenny Lind was born. She was so popular that many dances were created in her honor: The "Jenny Lind Polka" and "Jenny Lind's Set of Waltz Quadrilles" are two such dances published in an 1858 dance manual.

And on this date in 1964, The ballet Cinderella to music by Sergei Prokofiev was presented in the United States for the first time by the Kirov Ballet at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York with Irina Kolpakova and Yuri Soloviev.

September 12, 1905- Dance director and choreographer of such musicals as Oklahoma and Carousel, Agnes Demille was born. Her Kennedy Center biography tells the story of how her sister's fallen arches led her to start dancing and how she went from being a "rotten dancer" considered "too fat" to being a successful dancer and one of the nation's top choreographers.

September 13, 1960- The American Ballet theater, the first American ballet company to perform in the USSR, began its tour before a packed house at Moscow's Stanislavsky Theater.

September 14, 1996- Actress and dancer Juliet Prowse (below) passed away at age 59. Prowse's dreams of becoming a ballerina were thwarted by her height. By the time she was 14, and attending the Royal Academy of Dance, she was almost six feet tall. Instead she became a dancer in European nightclubs. While dancing in Paris, she was spotted by Hollywood choreographer Hermes Pan and signed to a role in the movie "Can-Can." Soviet Premier Khrushchev was invited to watch rehearsals for the movie. The next day, he denounced the dance as immoral. Prowse's photo accompanied the news stories in newspapers worldwide and she became an instant celebrity.

September 15, 1834- Fanny Elssler made her debut in Paris in La Tempete a ballet based on William Shakespeare's The Tempest.

And on this date in 1876- Birthdate of Nikolai Sergeyev, dancer and company manager of the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg.

September 16, 1996- Dancer and actor Gene Nelson passed away at age 76. He was inspired to become a dancer after seeing the Fred Astaire film "Flying Down to Rio." He is best remembered for the role of cowboy Will Parker in the film "Oklahoma!"

September 17, 1904-The first major British choreographer, Frederick Ashton was born. An entire biography of Ashton has been released online. You can read Following Sir Fred's Steps here courtesy of the British bookseller Dance Books Ltd, which has a huge collection of dance books and DVDs. Here Anthony Dowell and Natalia Makarova dance the main pas de deux from Frederick Ashton's "A Month in the Country."

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Spasibo, Everybody!

Thank you to everyone who helped make our summer educational tour such a success. Valery is now back in Russia working on his new project the premiere of a brand new ballet based on the "Snow Maiden."

Before he left we recorded a special interview. Unfortunately, due to a technical glitch the voice of the translator was not recorded. What was left behind are my questions in English and his answers in Russian. Since this is probably not ideal for anybody, I'll do my best to paraphrase his answers as best as I can with my rudimentary Russian. [Blogspot also seems to be having a problem with uploading pictures today.]

First I asked Valery what he remembers most from his trip. He began by thanking me and Double V Promotions for planning his route. He said he thought the route was very well thought out and planned. He was especially pleased to be able to spend several days at the same school.

I followed up by asking how spending longer periods at each school worked out and what his plans are for next time. He said that he liked these classes and that it is a very professional system. He was able to teach many interesting combinations and more challenging combinations with a focus on things like pirouettes, chaines and fouettes and that having a full week to work on this was the best approach.

I asked him if any schools or areas particularly stood out in his mind. He said, "Of course." He remembers the school in Charleston, West Virginia. Michelle Raider was a wonderful host and very professional to work with and has wonderful students. He also remembers another school in the city of Beckley, West Virginia run by Jerry Rose. It was a very good time, and he had time to work with the students and finally Crystal Lake in the state of Illinois-- the last school of our tour. It was a very professional school. He was very pleased to work with the students here. They worked on many combinations and technique. (As well as other things that are, unfortunately, beyond my level of Russian.)

I next asked, "Having seen so many schools in America now, is there any advice that you could give to students overall?" He responded that he believes that from what he has seen American schools in general need to put more focus not only on the technical aspects but on dancing with proper emotion and dancing with the music. Students need to understand why they are dancing in this style to this music. He has seen many students dancing something lyrical like balance in a mechanical style. Students should not only know the steps of the waltz but understand why they are doing a waltz, what does the waltz express. He feels that often American students aren't taught to dance the music and think about the emotion of the music.

I asked him to speak a little bit about his next project when he returns to Russia. He said he is planning to get back to work on his new ballet "Snow Maiden." It is an absolutely new version with a new ballet master, new choreography and an original score with new, completely original costumes and sets. This will be produced with the Natalya Sats Theater in Moscow and this project will come to America with Double V Promotions. This winter, in the month of January, he returns to the U.S. for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters Conference in New York and will present information on this production as well as The Nutcracker, the children's ballet Cipollina and Swan Lake which will feature soloists from the Bolshoi, Kremlin and Moscow Stanislavski ballets with corps de ballet from the Sats theater. We will also present information on the ethnic dance ensemble Mercury. A very interesting ensemble.

Finally, I asked if he had any last words for the students and teachers in America. He thanked the teachers for inviting us to their studios. He saw many teachers taking notes and pictures and video and he hopes his combinations and his system are helpful to them. He hopes to come back and teach classical ballet to American students. He's looking forward to the next time working together.