Posted 31 May 2003 - 01:28 PM
I met Janet Collins twice in my life. Once, when I was 6 or 7, and "went to work" with a young, talented mezzo who lived in town here. She went to study with a teacher who had a studio at the Old Met, and then she took me to see some rehearsals of operas that they were doing that season. One of them was La Traviata and Ms. Collins was dancing the Spanish dance in that. I knew really very little about ballet then, and nothing about sex, but I knew that this lady was really, really pretty, and she could dance like anything. After the rehearsal, I was introduced to her, and she became the Ambassadress of the Opera to the second grade. She asked me if I were enjoying all the singing, and acting, and dancing. We had a nice conversation, as I recall it, but the details have faded. A few weeks later, I was taken to see Aïda, and she was dancing the lead in the ballet in the "Gloria all'Egitto" scene. I wanted to go back and say hello to her, but we had to catch the train back home.
Flash ahead some 10 years, and I'm at a matinée performance at NYCB. The first ballet was "Con Amore" which I enjoy very much, despite the disapproval of some critics, The second was "Agon" - an interesting choice for a matinée in those days, a pause and then "Tchaikovsky pas de deux" with André Prokovsky and Violette Verdy, then "Ballet Imperial" with the Ter-Arutunian sets! Now, for the first ballet, I wondered about the empty seats next to me of two unlucky absent balletgoers who were late and didn't see the funny number. When I returned to my seat, the "absent" were in place. Ms. Collins and Robert Joffrey! Ms. Collins looked for a moment, thought, then said, "Why I remember you! Why, how you've grown! You came to see me in rehearsal at the Opera!" Immediately we were in conversation as old friends and talking about the performance, and during the ballets, keeping quiet, but opera glasses were trading back and forth like mad. In the intervals, we were comparing impressions and concluded several points in common about the show, including that "Agon" had seemed like madness, but was actually a spectacularly good harmony with the rest of the program. I never had the pleasure of meeting her again, but she lives on in sweet memory.