Sunday, October 5, 2008

This Date in Dance History: October 5-11

October 5, 1883-Serge Grigoriev régisseur 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.

October 6, 1949- Roland Petit’s Les Ballets de Paris opened on Broadway at the Wintergarden Theater. Featuring scenes from Carmen, L’Oeuf a la Coque, Pas d’Action and Le Combat, it ran for 116 performances until January 1950.

And on this date in 1974- Bernadette Peters and Robert Preston give "two of the finest performances of the season," in the words of the New York Post when they opened in Mack and Mabel, the David Merrick produced musical about the silent film era. The production ran only 65 performances at the Majestic Theatre.

October 7, 1909- Rimsky-Korsakov's last opera, The Golden Cockerel, opened in Moscow. Five years later it gained fame in Paris as a Diaghilev ballet.

And on this date in 1982- The Musical Cats had its U.S. premiere at the Winter Garden in New York City.

October 8, 1961- Jerome Robbins’ Ballet USA, which consisted of The Concert, Afternoon of a Fawn, and New York Export: Opus Jazz Moves, opened on Broadway at the ANTA Playhouse. It ran for 24 performances.

October 9, 1928-The Light of Asia opened at Hampden’s Theater. It featured the last choreography by Ruth St. Denis for a Broadway show and ran for 23 performances.

And on this date in 1972- "Dude: The Musical” had its premiere on Broadway. I might, as theater writer Patricia Bosworth speculated, “go down in theatrical history as Braodway’s most monumental disaster.” The Broadway Theater was transformed into a thematic area for the elaborate production at a cost of $800,000. The audience sat in valleys, foothills, mountains and trees. The musical itself was universally panned and ran for 16 performances. During one of the final performances, its author Gerome Ragni, reportedly barked at audience members “Go back to your seat. Just go sit down and suffer with everybody else.”

And on this date in 1975-Drums, Dreams and Banjos, a work choreographed by Gerald Arpino for the U.S. bicentennial celebration, featuring the songs of Stephen Foster, had its premiere by the Joffrey Ballet in New York City.

October 10, 1684-Jean-Antoine Watteau, an artist whose work (an example of which appears to the right) reflects the influence of the opéra ballet, was born on this date.


October 11, 1907-Tap dancer Peg Leg Bates was born.

And in 1918- Ballet master and Broadway choreographer Jerome Robbins was born. He would go on to be an innovative choreographer of ballets created for the New York City Ballet, Ballets U.S.A., American Ballet Theatre, and other international companies as well as a director of musicals and plays for Broadway, movies and television programs. In his 79 years he choreographed 60 ballets and won numerous awards including five Donaldson Awards, four Tonys, two Oscars for the 1961 film version of West Side Story and an Emmy for a televised version of Peter Pan.

And in 1970-Natalia Makarova, prima ballerina with the Kirov Ballet, who had defected from the USSR in September joined the American Ballet Theater.