Sunday, May 4, 2008

This Week in Dance History May 4-10

May 4, 1870‑ Alexandre Benois was born.The St. Petersburg stage designer and art historian created designs for "Le Pavillon d'Armide, "which became the first ballet Sergei Diaghilev staged in Paris in 1909. His most famous production was the 1911 "Petrushka" for which he also co‑wrote the libretto with Igor Stravinsky.

And on this date in 1907, Lincoln Kristein was born. He was co-founder and administrative head of New York City Ballet and its affiliated academy, the School of American and founder of the Dance Archives of the Museum of Modern Art in New York which, many years later, were to form the basis of the Dance Collection of the New York Public Library.

And on this date in 1971- Alvin Ailey’s “Cry” premiered at New York, City Center. Ailey choreographed Cry as a birthday present for his mother to be danced by Judith Jamison. In her autobiography Dancing Spirit, Jamison wrote: "Exactly where the woman is going through the ballet's three sections was never explained to me by Alvin. In my interpretation, she represented those women before her who came from the hardships of slavery, through the pain of losing loved ones, through overcoming extraordinary depressions and tribulations. Coming out of a world of pain and trouble, she has found her way-and triumphed.”

May 5, 1726- Marie Camargo made her debut at the Paris Opera in Les Caracteres de la Danse. She became such a celebrity that barbers named hairstyles after her, milliners made Camargo hats and a shoemaker created a Camargo shoe.

Also on this date in 1880-Michael Fokine, known as the father of modern ballet, was born. wrote of the choreographer: "In a full-scale assault on choreographers’ century-long obsession with the leg and foot (it had been 89 years since Marie Taglioni first went up "en pointe"), Fokine urged ballet to reconsider the arm. His 'Dying Swan,' set to the evocative music of Camille Saint Saëns, gave ballet not only arms but also wings. The arm's fluid movement suggests bonelessness, evoking a swan’s wings and undulating waves of sorrow. 'The Dying Swan' has become a signature piece for most dramatic ballerinas."

May 6, 1973- Dancer Johan Kobborg of the London Royal Ballet was born.

May 7, 1840- The son of a mining inspector, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky was born in Votkinsk, in Russia. Tchaikovsky was the first Russian composer to become famous in Europe, and he is still one of the most popular composers in history. He wrote 11 operas, four concertos, six symphonies, a great number of songs and short piano pieces, three ballets, three string quartets, suites and symphonic poems, and numerous other works including The Nutcracker Suite.

Also on this date in 2002- Tap dancer Buster Brown passed away at age 89. Brown was one of the last survivors of The Copasetics, formed in 1949 to preserve the legacy of Bill Bojangles Robnson. His funeral was attended by tap legends Gregory Hines, Savion Glover and Jimmy Slyde.

May 8- In Cornwall, England the annual Furry Dance is performed on the streets of Helston to celebrate the return of spring.

May 9 1948- Ballet Ballads opened at New York’s Maxine Elliott’s Theater. The musical of song and dance directed by Mary Hunter with music by Jerome Moss and lyricist John Latouche was based on American folklore. It featured three shows Susannah and the Elders choreographed by Katherine Lintz, Willie the Weeper choreographed by Paul Godkin and The Eccentricities of Davy Crockett choreographed by Hannah Holm. Although it won high critical acclaim, it ran for only sixty-two performances.

May 10, 1844- The polka was danced professionally for the first time in America by L. DeGarmo Brooks and Mary Ann Gannon at the National Theater in New York.

And on this date in 1866- Leon Bakst was born. A painter and stage designer, he was a close friend of Sergei Diaghilev and designed several of his most celebrated ballets. His costumes and sets for Diaghilev's Scheherezade caused a sensation whenever the ballet was performed and prompted new fashions in both interior design and clothing.

And on this date in 1899- Fred Astaire was born.