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Amy Reusch

1st Balanchine ballet produced for American public

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Nonetheless, Fisher reveals the cultural impact of Lincoln Kirstein and Edward M. M. Warburg, two recent college graduates in 1933 who devoted immense energy and most of their personal resources to bringing Balanchine to the United States and starting a national ballet school and company. The first ballet Kirstein and Warburg got Balanchine to produce for the American public, in 1934, was a lively spoof of a Harvard-Yale football game. The dream from the start was popular entertainment that could be enjoyed by a large audience. That superb short ballet, for which Warburg wrote the libretto (his own raccoon coat was used as a costume) and Kay Swift composed the lively music -- complete with a snake dance and ''rah-rah bacchanal'' -- has long since disappeared from public awareness.
- Nicholas Fox Weber in his NY Times review of Nutcracker Nation: How 'The Nutcracker' Became an Institution

And here I thought it was "Serenade"... or was this Football ballet the first produced for the public as opposed to subscribers?

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That sounds an awful lot like "Alma Mater". "Songes" and the first "Mozartiana" also preceded "Serenade".

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Writing this without checking, Serenade was the first ballet Balanchine CHOREOGRAPHED in America, but not the first performed.

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From Tom Parsons, via Estelle,

http://www.cmi.univ-mrs.fr/~esouche/dance/Balan.html

Now, apparently "Serenade" was seen by itself at the first performance of students of the School of American Ballet at the Warburg estate in White Plains, NY on June 9, 1934. It was performed again at the Avery Memorial in Hartford, CT, December 6, 1934. The first performance of the American Ballet was March 1, 1935. Apparently, both "Alma Mater" and "Serenade" were on that program. There is a picture somewhere around of (I believe) Charles Laskey in Warburg's raccoon coat, porkpie hat, and horn-rimmed glasses riding Gisela Caccialanza double on a bicycle. (not in "Serenade" :thumbsup: )

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Yes, that's what Nancy Reynolds' "Repertory in Review" says as well. So "Serenade" is the first ballet both made and danced here. (For those new to Balanchine, of course, he had created many ballets before this, both in Russia as an Angry Young Man, and for Diaghliev, including "Apollo" and "Prodigal Son.")

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Tell me again about Mozartiana? My memory is slipping, I should know this.. but I thought the first Mozartiana was performed with Ballets 1933 with Roman Jasinsky and Danilova? Honest, my memory is a terrible muddle. I tried to look it up figuring it would be in Ballinche's complete stories of the Great Ballets, but apparently it didn't make the book!

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Well, Tom Parsons likes it for 1934 and the American Ballet, which at that time would have been the students of the School of American Ballet, as the American Ballet did not have its first performance until the date abovementioned. I bow to Tom's scholarship.

Maybe there was a first first Mozartiana for the Ballets Trente-trois, which of course didn't make it to Trente-quatre.

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I'll have to write to Tom, a very thorough soul if there ever was one. I did some digging and I believe it premiered with Les Ballets 1933. There are photos with Tamara Toumanova and Roman Jasinsky from 1933... but... perhaps it was just the Preghiera? It's been one of the Balanchine Foundation projects but I'm afraid my memory is just too mirky (murky + quirky).

And moldy and rusty... it looks like Danilova danced it with Frederic Franklin in 1945. She didn't come over with Balanchine, did she?... I used to have her autobiography, but it was borrowed and not returned... When did she arrive here to stay?

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I believe that when Balanchine set the present 1981 version of "Mozartiana" he was quoted as saying he had set it twice before, but what he meant by twice could be arguable. Maybe 1933, then 1934, in a version that lasted until after the war, then the present making the third? I don't know, and the Ballets 1933 was such a foggy entity, it's tough to know just what they did, and how and if it were different from later works set on other companies.

Danilova and Balanchine were an item while he was still married to Tamara Geva, and Danilova at least was in New York when he first came to the US from Europe.

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The 1945 setting for the Ballet Russe is considered separate from the Les Ballets 1933 setting. There's a thread on the recent Works & Process showing with Freddie Franklin, he states that in his sections, the first pas de deux that he and Danilova did is different from the one originally done in '33 for Toumanova (the original dancer) and Jasinski. The second one (danced to the ninth variation in the theme and variations section also used for a pas de deux today) is essentially the same.

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Leigh, was there a staging for the American Ballet, or did that have to wait for the 1945 staging for Ballet Russe?

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There was a staging of the 1933 Mozartiana for American Ballet in 1935.

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... it looks like Danilova danced it with Frederic Franklin in 1945.  She didn't come over with Balanchine, did she?...  I used to have her autobiography, but it was borrowed and not returned... When did she arrive here to stay?

In Choura, Danilova recalls:

"Mozartiana was pearls of pure dancing, a long strand of beautiful steps strung together by the music, Tchaikovsky's orchestration of four pieces by Mozart.......Balanchine had choreographed this music before, for his company Les Ballets 1933 in Paris, and he choreographed it again later, for the New York City Ballet. But I think ours was the best version."

She continues that the version made on her (and Franklin) was more "vivace" in comparison to the Paris version which was more "triste" to reflect the mood of Paris at that time, in which the ballet had opened with a funeral procession. By contrast, the Ballet Russe version opened with the Gigue (danced by a boy in a tricorne hat, which, Danilova said, transported you to the right period instantly).

After the Gigue, The Prayer (danced by Lubov Rostova), and the Minuet (for six girls), all short sections, she and Freddie Franklin came out.

Interesting bit of history mentioned next in Choura: The following year Balanchine made Night Shadow (La Sonnambula) for Danilova. The composer, Vittorio Rieti, wanted her for the Coquette and debated back and forth with Balanchine about this, who wasn't sure which female role she should dance. Danilova was asked to make the choice herself. "Well..... I always do coquettes, and for a change I would like to do the dramatic part." Balanchine replied with "All right.....then you will do it". Guess who danced the coquette? Maria Tallchief, who always danced the dramatic roles! Danilova wrote that "Night Shadow was mine, and the Sleepwalker came to be one of my signature roles."

As to Danilova's arrival in America, she doesn't give as precise information in Choura as she does in I Remember Balanchine:

"When I first appeared in America with the De Basil Ballet Russe at the St. James Theater in 1933, Balanchine did not come to see me. We were finished as husband and wife. .....But I did see him at the School of American Ballet later, where I always went for class. At one lesson there at the barre were all the wives and ex-wives: Geva, Zorina, Tallchief, Tanaquil LeClercq, and myself."

Of course, history tells us that Danilova was never officially married to Balanchine, but we know that she always considered herself one of his wives. They did live what now is called "common-law", in Paris.

Why Balanchine did not come to see her when she danced in New York is explained in I Remember Balanchine. To not take this thread further off-topic I will not go into that.

Thanks, Amy, for giving me a reason to delve back into these two books! Every time I do I rediscover something fascinating that I had forgotten from previous reads.

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Alas, the problem with oral history. There are so many stories, all of them good.

Freddie Franklin's version of the same story is that Mozartiana was indeed different than the '33 version for exactly the reasons Danilova describes - the difference in the mood and also in her dancing personality from Toumanova.

As for Night Shadow, Franklin recalls that Danilova was not given a choice. She heard the plot and that the two main female roles were the Sleepwalker and the Coquette. "Of course I am Coquette! I am coquette!" Danilova said, and was told by Balanchine that no, she was the Sleepwalker and was quite miffed until the first rehearsal when she realized that her part wasn't half bad!

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I'm inclined to believe Franklin, who told the same story at Barnard and added that Danilova's anger increased when she was told Tallchief would be the Coquette. Tallchief was obviously the new muse. But some stories have the habit of getting better with age and retelling. I'm sure the story sounds very good now. :wink:

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Alas, the problem with oral history.  There are so many stories, all of them good.

As for Night Shadow, Franklin recalls that Danilova was not given a choice.  She heard the plot and that the two main female roles were the Sleepwalker and the Coquette.  "Of course I am Coquette!  I am coquette!" Danilova said, and was told by Balanchine that no, she was the Sleepwalker and was quite miffed until the first rehearsal when she realized that her part wasn't half bad!

Oh, yes, the stories are good! I do find that when I cross-reference historical incidents, Danilova's telling of them is always a little different than someone else's. She sometimes even contradicts herself!

I still value -- tremendously -- that these stories are told at all. If only I had as good a memory for details of the past as many of these dancers had. I marvel at how Tamara Geva, for one, seems to have remembered entire conversations word for word.

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That's what makes my "day job" so interesting. "Which of these primary sources is telling the story reliably? What is their point of view? Does self-interest play a part in this particular recounting of an incident?" And then there is forensics: "What about this given object reflects the veracity of the information given by the donor?" Once I found a pocket knife in a George Washington collection and identified it clearly as identical to one in a 1902 Sears, Roebuck catalogue! :wink:

A bit :offtopic: but, I think, reflective of the state of a lot of ballet history.

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Anatole Chujoy states that 'Mozartiana' "originally staged for 'Les Ballets 1933 in Paris. Revived and given once by American Ballet, Met Opera House, NY in 1936..", and then the 1945 version.

I would just like to add my appreciation of Maria Tallchief as the Coquette and I, for one, was happy she got the part, others I have seen in the part pale in comparison.There was an underlying mysterious quality about her interpretation

which was so appropriate for the ballet. As much as I love Danilova, I fear she would have had more woman-of-the-world weariness. The sonnambulist is one role that, I felt, did not suit Danilova. I knew this for certain when I saw Allegra Kent in the role.

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The sonnambulist is one role that, I felt, did not suit Danilova.  I knew this for certain when I saw Allegra Kent in the role.

I agree with you, even though I never saw Danilova dance it! To me, Allegra Kent IS the Sleepwalker, bar none.

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The first ballet Kirstein and Warburg got Balanchine to produce for the American public, in 1934, was a lively spoof of a Harvard-Yale football game.

to return a tad to the initial topic, it would seem that the key here is in the phrase: 'got balanchine to produce for the american public'

the author of the review - the author of PATRON SAINTS - a hefty study of kirstein and his monied pals w/ an interest in ballet - knows his stuff about these guys. so his point is to refer to the ballet that balanchine's american patrons GOT him to produce for the american public. SERENADE came from balanchine himself: ALMA MATER was more obviously someone else's idea: i.e. kirstein's and warburg's, thus the point of the initially posted sentence.

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