Saturday, September 27, 2008

This Date in Dance History September 28-October 3

September 28, 1934- The Fountain of Bakhchisaray debuted at the Kirov. It was the first ballet to be created by the notable choreographer Rostislav Zakharov. Based on a Pushkin poem, it tells the story a brutal Tatar chief, the Khan Girei, redeemed by tragic love for a young Polish princess, Maria. Dance critic Clive Barnes described the ballet as a “melodramatic, blood-and-thunder tearjerker.”

And on this date in 2000- Ballet for Life, which celebrated the lives of Bejart Ballet dancer Jorge Donn and rock star Freddie Mercury, both of whom died of AIDS at the age of 45, opened at Sadler's Wells Theater. “It was a moving but joyful appreciation for the two men, and it showed the company in so many different moods and styles,” wrote Dance Magazine reviewer Margaret Willis.

September 29, 1964- President Lyndon B. Johnson signed a bill creating a National Foundation for the Arts and Humanities.

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. The equine dancers performed in a ring to music which ranged from classical to country and western and the Beatles

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.”

And on this date in 1974-Cynthia Gregory, principal dancer for American Ballet Theater, announced she would perform in Cuba. She was the first important U.S. artist to visit the island nation since 1961, when diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba were severed.

October 1, 1936- Edward Villella, the New York City Ballet dancer and founder of the Miami City Ballet, was born. In recognition of his achievements, President Clinton presented to Mr. Villella the 1997 National Medal of Arts. Also in 1997, Mr. Villella was named a Kennedy Center Honoree, and was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.

October 2, 1929-Tanaquil LeClercq, one of the original members of Ballet Society, the forerunner of the New York City Ballet, was born. During her brief career, he danced 40 roles, most of them created for her by George Balanchine, to whom she was married from 1952-1969. Her dancing career was ended prematurely when she was stricken with polio and paralyzed from the waist down in 1956. (A video of Tanaquil LeClercq is available on Youtube, but embedding is disabled.)

October 3, 1886- Birthdate 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. The New York City Ballet has a tribute to the costumer on their web page.

And on this date in 1941- Chubby Checker was born. He would go on to record the only song to go to No 1 on the U.S. singles chart twice—once in 1960 and again in 1962. That song was “The Twist.” “The Twist, wrote Eldridge Cleaver the author and civil rights leader, "was a guided missile, launched from the ghetto into the very heart of suburbia.The Twist succeeded, as politics, religion and law could never do, in writing in the heart and the soul what the Supreme Court could only write on the books.”

And on this date in 1956- The Bolshoi Ballet appeared at Covent Garden for the first time.

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. It was described as a piece on the "disharmony in relationships caused by unfulfilled desires."