Sunday, May 11, 2008

This Week in Dance History: May 11-17


May 11, 1894: Martha Graham was born. "Martha Graham's impact on dance was staggering and often compared to that of Picasso's on painting, Stravinsky's on music, and Frank Lloyd Wright's on architecture," wrote the authors of PBS' American Masters. The Graham technique, which is now used by dance companies throughout the world, became the first enduring alternative to the idiom of classical ballet.

May 12 1969: Dancers Suzanne Farrell and Paul Mejia announced that they would be resigning from George Ballanchine's New York City Ballet, claiming that since their marriage three months before, Mejia's roles had been drastically cut.

May 12, 1912: The Ballet Russes premiered Le Dieu Bleu in Paris choreographed by Michel Fokine and startrring Vaclav Nijinsky,
Tamara Karsavina and a cast of dozens. Jean Cocteau wrote the libretto and Reynaldo Hahn the score. They were the first Europeans to collaborate on a Ballet Russe production. Joan Acocella, writing in the Dance Research Journal, called the production a tired reworking of the Ballet Russes orientalist formulas."

May 14, 1840: Fanny Elssler performed in New York at the prestigious Park Theater. This performance, say dance historians, "marked the acceptance by upper-class audiences of ballet."

And on this date in 1954- Jerome Robbins interpretation of Nijinsky's L'Apres-midi d'un Faune, was presented by the New York City Ballet.

May 15 1920: The one act ballet Pulcinella presented by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes preimiered at the Theatere National de L'Opera in Paris. Dancer Léonide Massine created both the libretto and choreography, and Pablo Picasso designed the original costumes and sets. An account of Picasso's work on this production can be found in an article original printed in the July 2003 BBC Music Magazine.

May 16 1968: A sold-out performance by the Paul Taylor Dance Company was shut down by a student-worker protest. Students from the Sorbonne occupied the Odeon theater as a "symbol of bourgeois and Gaullist culture." They invited the company to dance for them for free, but the company turned down the offer.


May 17, 1909: The Diaghilev Company gave its first performance in Paris. Nijinsky's slave costume in Le Pavillon d'Armide included a collar that was originally intended to rest on the edge of his coat. The dancer raised the necklace to form a band around his neck. This led to a new style in Paris in which the fashionable called necklaces a l'Armide.