Tuesday, November 18, 2008

This Week in Dance History: November 16-22

November 16, 2002- William Marrie, 33, was tragically killed when his motorcycle collided with a cab in New York City. A former principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada, he was performing in the Twyla Tharp/Billy Joel Broadway hit Movin' Out at the time of his death.

November 17, 2002- More than 200 dancers completed Russia's first 24-hour ballet marathon. The dancers performed about 20 arrangements, both classical and modern, at the Marinsky theatre in St. Petersburg.

November 18, 1989- The Los Angeles Times reported on a new dance craze. "Lambada is a mix of Latin rhythms like Colombian cumbia, Dominican merengue, Argentinan tango and Brizilan samba ensembled in a new and contagious sound."

November 19, 1988- Alan Covacic of Great Britain finished square dance calling after 26 hours and 2 minutes, a Guinness World Record. The event happened at the Wheelers and Dealers Square Dance Club in Aylesbury, Great Britain.

November 20, 1903-Russian ballerina Alexandra Danilova was born. One of the most popular dancers of her day, she began her career at the Marinsky Ballet before forming a small group with George Balanchine and left Russia for a tour to Europe in 1924. From then on she was a presence in the West, engaged by Diaghilev for his Ballets Russes from 1924-29, she next danced with de Basil's Ballets Russes and Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Read more about her life and career at Andros on Ballet or watch her in action at Youtube.

November 21, 1766- The first permanent theater in America, the Southwark Theater in Philadelphia, opened.

And on this date in 1912- Eleanor Powell was born. Known as the "Queen of Tap," she began her career in Vaudeville and went on to be one of the greatest film dancers of Hollywood's golden era. She co-starred with many of the silver screen's greatest stars including Jimmy Stewart, Robert Taylor, Fred Astaire, Nelson Eddy, and Robert Young. (The clip below features Eleanor Powell in Ship Ahoy. Singing at the beginning is Bert Lahr best known as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz.)

Also on this date, in 1937- Eugene Von Grona's American Negro Ballet debuted at Harlem's Lafayette Theater. The company was comprised of respondents to an advertisement in the Amsterdam News offering free dance lessons at the Harlem YMCA. Thirty of the strongest dancers were chosen, and trained. The original program, choreographed by Von Grona to Ellington, Stravinsky, W. C. Handy, and J. S. Bach, received a lukewarm reception by critics. The company survived only five months.

November 22, 1928-The one act ballet Bolero with music by Maurice Ravel opened at the Paris Opera. The music was more enduring than the ballet.