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RuminationsAn Anniversary


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#1 atm711

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Posted 02 January 2005 - 09:25 AM

I have an anniversary, of sorts, coming up this month. It will be 60 years since I saw my first ballet performance on Saturday evening April 22, 1944. Accompanied by my sister and her friends we went to the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City to see Ballet Theatre. Our seats were in the first row of the balcony around the curve of the horseshoe shape of the theater ---and 4 levels up. I had a fairly good view of the stage by leaning over the brass railing. The program was Fokine's "Les Sylphides", Robbins "Fancy Free" and Lichine's "Fair At Sorochinsk". To this day, I feel the only way to truly appreciate Fokine's masterpiece is to see it from this perspective. Normally, one likes to sit up close when viewing a ballet, but in this case the distant vantage point had a distinct advantage: it made it easier to see the movements envisioned by the choreographer. Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin danced the leads.

This was followed by "Fancy Free" (with Leonard Bernstein conducting---my schoolgirl crush at the time.) The ballet had its premiere a few days before on April 18; this was probably the second or third performance of the work. It received a raucous reception, and the old opera house erupted in waves of enthusiasm. Robbins masterfully captured the personalities of his original cast to perfection. Robbins was the 'rhumba' sailor, John Kriza the 'dreamy one' and Harold Lang, the 'show-off'. The pas de deux that Robbins danced with Janet Reed was in the best tradition of the Hollywood WorldWar II romance movies at the time---casual relationships could quickly become immediate. Muriel Bentley was deliciously insoucient as the 'girl with the red pocketbook'. At the end Shirley Eckl slithered hesitatingly on to the stage, and Rex Cooper was properly bored as the bartender.

The last ballet was David Lichine's "Fair At Sorochinsk" to music of Moussorgsky---a colorful work that has probably not been seen since. Anton Dolin appeared as the Devil and danced the role 'on pointe' and Andre Eglevsky was most appealing as the lover. I always thought he was shown to best advantage during his Ballet Theatre days. A Hopak was a high point of the work, but I cannot recall who danced it, although in retrospect it might have been Nicholas Orloff.

Before this performance my other encounters with ballet had been mainly in operettas, i.e., "The Chocolate Soldier", "New Moon" and the Warner Bros films of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in "Capriccio Espagnol" and "Gaite Parisienne". The year before I saw Agnes deMille's "Oklahoma". But this first encounter with a ballet company had a profound effect on me, unlike the other performances I saw. I went on to study ballet for seven years and although I was in my teens, I had a natural flexibility which eased my way. Ever since that first performance so many years ago, ballet has been a big part of my life.

#2 Farrell Fan

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Posted 02 January 2005 - 06:43 PM

Happy anniversary, atm711! I can understand why that first performance would be habit-forming. And it's great to have your Ruminations on the board for other posters' comments. Personally, I have just one overall comment: Brava!

#3 perky

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Posted 03 January 2005 - 05:25 AM

60 years of ballet going! Congratulations! I love to read firsthand recollections of ballet going memories. Thank You!

#4 Richka

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 03:44 PM

I have an anniversary, of sorts, coming up this month. It will be 60 years since I saw my first ballet performance on Saturday evening April 22, 1944. Accompanied by my sister and her friends we went to the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City to see Ballet Theatre. Our seats were in the first row of the balcony around the curve of the horseshoe shape of the theater ---and 4 levels up. I had a fairly good view of the stage by leaning over the brass railing. The program was Fokine's "Les Sylphides", Robbins "Fancy Free" and Lichine's "Fair At Sorochinsk". To this day, I feel the only way to truly appreciate Fokine's masterpiece is to see it from this perspective. Normally, one likes to sit up close when viewing a ballet, but in this case the distant vantage point had a distinct advantage: it made it easier to see the movements envisioned by the choreographer. Alicia Markova and Anton Dolin danced the leads.

This was followed by "Fancy Free" (with Leonard Bernstein conducting---my schoolgirl crush at the time.) The ballet had its premiere a few days before on April 18; this was probably the second or third performance of the work. It received a raucous reception, and the old opera house erupted in waves of enthusiasm. Robbins masterfully captured the personalities of his original cast to perfection. Robbins was the 'rhumba' sailor, John Kriza the 'dreamy one' and Harold Lang, the 'show-off'. The pas de deux that Robbins danced with Janet Reed was in the best tradition of the Hollywood WorldWar II romance movies at the time---casual relationships could quickly become immediate. Muriel Bentley was deliciously insoucient as the 'girl with the red pocketbook'. At the end Shirley Eckl slithered hesitatingly on to the stage, and Rex Cooper was properly bored as the bartender.

The last ballet was David Lichine's "Fair At Sorochinsk" to music of Moussorgsky---a colorful work that has probably not been seen since. Anton Dolin appeared as the Devil and danced the role 'on pointe' and Andre Eglevsky was most appealing as the lover. I always thought he was shown to best advantage during his Ballet Theatre days. A Hopak was a high point of the work, but I cannot recall who danced it, although in retrospect it might have been Nicholas Orloff.

Before this performance my other encounters with ballet had been mainly in operettas, i.e., "The Chocolate Soldier", "New Moon" and the Warner Bros films of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in "Capriccio Espagnol" and "Gaite Parisienne". The year before I saw Agnes deMille's "Oklahoma". But this first encounter with a ballet company had a profound effect on me, unlike the other performances I saw. I went on to study ballet for seven years and although I was in my teens, I had a natural flexibility which eased my way. Ever since that first performance so many years ago, ballet has been a big part of my life.


Congratulations on your anniversary which I, sadly, missed.
I don't check into RUMINATIONS that often. Actually at this moment I'm trying to put in some kind of a contribution myself in the way of "Memories Of George Zoritch" who as you probably know was my neighbor and friend and died a couple years ago.
I still must learn how to do it.
I really envy you seeing that performance at the old Met. I've always wondered about "Fair At Soroshinsk". But at that time I was not in New York and I think still in High School in Massachusetts. I had not even seen any ballet. We have talked before about George Chaffee and his studio where we both went, but I a bit later than you. I have an ABT souvenir program in my collection from that season with some pictures of Fair. Of course we've always read about Dolin dancing en pointe so that makes it all the more interesting. Why oh why did they not film those things??? The expense I suppose.
When you said the 'Hopak' was in it! I've done Hopaks ever since I started dancing in the classes of Yurek Lazovsky.
Another item I would like to put up, either as a blog or in this RUMINATIONS, is a list of ALL my teachers; not just a list but my impressions of each one and how they influenced my entire life. I'm sure, besides Mr. Chaffee, you had many of the same. Do you think that would be of any interest?
So nice to run into you again here.
Richka

#5 kfw

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Posted 11 May 2011 - 06:48 PM

Sixty-six years and counting - that's just wonderful. Are men allowed to say "you go, girl"? I hope you'll tell us about what you see this season.

#6 atm711

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 03:28 AM

Thanks Ken---I am really looking forward to this season---NYCB, ABT, RDB, and topped off with Lopatkina in July :clapping:


Richka, you REALLY should start your own blog----why the hesitation? We are all waiting......

#7 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 12 May 2011 - 07:22 AM

atm711...t is funny, but every time I ask for a certain ballet, or premiere or something from those golden years, I'm POSITIVE that you will contribute to the discussion starting with something like "I saw that", or "I was at that premiere"-(like when I inquired about the Alonso/Youskevitch premiere of T&V). Congratulations on your wedding anniversary with Monsieur Le Ballet...!! :clapping:


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