Sunday, May 18, 2008

This Week in Dance History May 18-24

May 18, 1795- Beethoven's Menuet a la Vigano written for the popular Italian dancer Salvatore Vigano was presented at the Schikander Theatre in Vienna. It was danced by Signora Venturini and Signor Chechi.

Also on this date, in 1919- Prima ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn was born in Surrey, England. The British Ballet Magazine summed up her career this way: "Where to begin? Fonteyn's name dominated British ballet for more than 40 years. One of the truly great dancers of our time, she was the most famous ballerina of the second half of the century, Ashton's muse, the perfect exemplar of the English style - and all of that even before the wonderful Indian summer of her partnership with Nureyev. For anyone who saw her, she is still the one against whom all others are measured."

May 19 1909- The ballet, Prince Igor (The Polovtsian Dances) with choreography by Michel Fokine made its debut. Fokine incorporated the vigorous style and athletic steps of Russian folk dances. These works revealed his talent for organizing large crowds of dancers on stage and transforming their previously ornamental function into a powerful dramatic force.

May 20 1970- Leading dance teacher Aleksandr I. Pushkin passed away at age 62. His obituary in Dance Magazine listed some of his most famous students and "Mikhail Barishnikov, unknown in the West, but regarded as the finest male stylist ever developed in the Leningrad Ballet."

May 21, 1959-The Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim musical, Gypsy, based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee made its debut at the Broadway Theater in New York. Directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, it ran for 702 performances and earned Tony Award nominations for Best Musical and for its stars Jack Klugman and Ethel Merman.

May 22, 1956- Gene Kelly’s all-dance film, “Invitation to the Dance” made its U.S. debut. It was Kelly’s dream to produce a film in which the stories are told entirely through dance. Unfortunately, “Invitation to the Dance” was not a financial or critical success.

And in 1979- Kurt Jooss passed away. The German-born British choreographer and teacher was known for expressionist works using modern and classical techniques.

May 23 2002- Irène Lidova, a dance critic and producer who played a major role in founding creative ballet companies in postwar France, died in Paris at age 95. As her New York Times obituary recounts, Roland Petit, one of the world's major choreographers, was an unknown when Ms. Lidova presented his first ballets with another young dancer-choreographer, Janine Charrat in 1943 and 1944. "Lidova and others founded Les Ballets des Champs-Elysées in 1945 and made Mr. Petit's ballets the talk of Paris."

May 24, 1998- The greatest number of tap dancers ever gathered for a single routine, came together to commemorate the birth of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson at the Stuttgart City Square, Germany. Choreographed by Ray Lynch, 6,952 dancers tapped away for 2 minutes 15 seconds to the specially composed tune "Klicke-di-Klack."