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 r├ęgisseur 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

"...as 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