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Friday Cat ReadingArticle in NY Times


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#1 dirac

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Posted 06 January 2006 - 11:24 AM

No, this will not be a regular feature, and I really shouldn’t be posting this at all, but The New York Times has an instructive feline-related article today for your reading pleasure. Salient paragraphs:

http://www.nytimes.c.../06cats.html?hp

Later, several American cat lineages returned to Asia. With each migration, evolutionary forces morphed the pantherlike patriarch of all cats into a rainbow of species, from ocelots and lynxes to leopards, lions and the lineage that led to the most successful cat of all, even though it has mostly forsaken its predatory heritage: the cat that has induced people to pay for its board and lodging in return for frugal displays of affection.


Italics mine. I feel certain that Nicholas Wade is a snarky dog person who should not have been assigned this piece. Also, he should meet my friend’s cat Ginger, who naps on your shoulder like a baby.

Despite their evolutionary success, most of the large cats are in peril because their broad hunting ranges have brought them into collision with people. "With the exception of the house cat and a few other small cat species, nearly every one of the 37 species is considered endangered or threatened," Dr. Johnson and Dr. O'Brien write in the current Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics.

Fewer than 15,000 tigers, cheetahs and snow leopards remain in the wild, they estimate, and pumas and jaguar populations have been reduced to about 50,000 each.


I fear it is only a matter of time before big cats and other animals that needs lots of space are confined to parks and zoos. Very sad.

#2 bart

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Posted 06 January 2006 - 12:38 PM

Thanks for the post, dirac. As to relevance, our cat Basil has the most beautiful ballet walk, toes first -- not to mention incredible elevation, lovely epaulement, elegant positioning of the head, and numerous other attributes of the most legendary dancers. Balanchine admired the balletic quality of cats. That alone should justify the inclusion of your post here at Ballet Talk.

#3 dirac

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Posted 06 January 2006 - 01:38 PM

Thank you for the kind words, bart. I have a copy of Tanaquil Le Clercq’s children’s book about Mourka, with Martha Swope’s photographs, and of course I’ve seen the famous photos of Balanchine with his kitty.

Although I confess the latter always reminded me of an incident in a Monty Python sketch. Briefly, Graham Chapman appears as a guest on a television show. He explains that his cat can fly across the room into a bucket. The host asks how she accomplishes this feat and Chapman says matter of factly, “I fling her.” He then takes his cat by the tail, twirling her over his head like a lasso, and boom, off she goes. But I digress.

Edwin Denby also pays tribute to the balletic quality of cats.

#4 Pamela Moberg

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Posted 06 January 2006 - 03:41 PM

Just watch a cat doing a very deep plie before pouncing!
Needless to say. I love cats and have a Russian blue, the joy of my life.

#5 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 06 January 2006 - 06:11 PM

It looks like the folks who did the study ("Warren Johnson of the National Cancer Institute in Frederick, Maryland, US, led the study.") issued a press release that the papers and other services have picked up. The BBC has a similar article: http://news.bbc.co.u...ech/4585766.stm .

I agree that any news about cats is relevant to news of and thoughts about ballet, and am sure Mr. B. would concur. I saw the recently-closed "Moscow Cat Circus" in Manhattan, and thought they were all most graceful and disciplined.

#6 carbro

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Posted 06 January 2006 - 06:15 PM

I feel certain that Nicholas Wade is a snarky dog person who should not have been assigned this piece.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Oh, I don't know. I think he appreciates the domestic cat's resourcefulness and exceptional salesmanship.

Edwin Denby also pays tribute to the balletic quality of cats.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

AHEM, AHEM

I wonder if perhaps the estimable Mr. Denby has it backwards. I think it's the feline quality of ballet dancers. Would a cat deign to mimic a human?
You think?

#7 Paul Parish

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Posted 06 January 2006 - 07:19 PM

I too read that article cover to cover and have gone afield doing further research....

My cat Ziggy could jump 5 feet from the floor and land on an embroidered cloth covering a hard-topped turntable without skidding even a fraction of an inch.

It thrilled me no end to discover that the cheetah comes from a family of cats that evolved in the Americas and migrated BACK to Asia and thence into Africa.... Cheetahs are the most beautiful things to watch run there ever was -- They're THE fastest land animals, can run 65 miles an hour, can get 0-30 in 3 seconds, in full career their backbones look like ropes with waves up and down them and actually dislocate in the process. (Saw it on the Animal Channel.)

Yes, Denby compared a good pas de deux to meeting a cat on the street at night -- she comes up to you, you offer your hand, maybe she rubs it, maybe not, but if she does, you rub one cheek, then the other, and then she walks away for a moment, comes around behind you and approaches from the other side, you stroke her back, she takes three steps, turns round comes back, you do it again, but now it's the other way...

Very simple rules for how to construct a good pas de deux, it's amazing how many bad choreographers don't follow them....


Ziggy taught me a dance for the moon roof. One year -- around 1997 -- I went swing dancing every other night, and would get home often around one in the morning. Ziggy knew the characteristic sound of my car -- a 1981 Datsun SX -- and would be out at the street to greet me and would jump onto the hood just as I'd park. If I was listening to a song on the radio I wouldn’t necessarily get out of the car right away – so she took to walking up the windshield onto the roof. So I'd open the moon roof a crack and wave and she’d put her nose out and I’d stroke her whiskers, whereupon she'd walk back down the windshield and come round to the driver’s side window, which had an electrical control and I'd glide it down, at which point she'd usually step onto the shoulder of the bucket seat and walk round the back as I’d reach over the top of my head and scratch between her ears. She'd sometimes step down onto the gear-shift and let me stroke her back, but if she did, it never lasted long before she was back onto the seatback and onto the window ledge again. She did not like getting into cars, even if they weren't rolling, except for this ritual greeting, and it was clear at this point that it was time for me to stroke her back, let her jump down, and then for ME to get out of the car and walk her to the door and let her into the house.

It was never the same twice -- one night I hit the remote and lowered the window on the passenger's side, so she obligingly stepped up onto that ledge and looked out, but she wasn't interested in any developments of that motif. Another, very special night it became a pas de trois as a cop car rolled quietly by, stopped about 15 feet ahead, slowly backed up, rolled down its window, and the driver asked “is everything all right?” Ziggy obligingly popped her head out the moon roof and I was able to explain, and he drove off again about his rounds.

Oh, GOd, how I loved that cat. She was so good to me.

#8 Estelle

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 09:03 AM

Thanks for all those lovely memories, Paul.

Our cat Venise doesn't seem to be a pas de deux person, but she definitely loves to jump (she loves flying things), however she often isn't especially careful about her landings (as some plants painfully remember).

I came across the following quote by Bernard Taper:
"Balanchine has trained his cat to perform brilliant jetes, and tours en l'air; he says that at last he has a body worth choreographing for." -- Bernard Taper"

and the following photographs:
http://www.humanesoc.../photos/037.jpg

http://www.danceumbr...uk/images/O.gif

#9 zerbinetta

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 10:43 AM

I suspect it was Mourkha who trained Mr B rather than the reverse.

There was the Great Natasha (no prizes for guessing whom she was named after) who delighted in setting off the burglar alarm. & her brother Fernando (no prizes either) who delighted in setting off the fire alarm.

& Buster who thought I would drown in the shower & would fasten his teeth into any available body part to drag me out & save my life. Every day.

& Tara who loved pound cake but would only eat it if it was on top of the refrigerator.

& Seamus who was always smiling.

Cats are definitely one of the proofs of the existence of God, along with Suzanne, Mr. B, Mozart, Vermeer, Dikembe Mutombo ..

#10 koshka

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 12:07 PM

koshka _likes_ this thread.

Cats, of course, provide us with perfect examples of how to jump and land, and of how to react to a stage error or problem (problem? I see no problem...)

The Kuklachev Cat Theater of Moscow, by the way, reportedly did The Nutcracker as one of its recent shows in Moscow.

#11 bart

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 12:23 PM

The Kuklachev Cat Theater of Moscow, by the way, reportedly did The Nutcracker as one of its recent shows in Moscow.

Koshka, you can't simply drop in that sentence and go away. Tell us more about it. Please.

#12 Dale

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 01:06 PM

Bart, the Moscow Cat Circus recently performed in Manhattan and had to extend its run due to popularity.

#13 bart

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 01:50 PM

Delighted to hear it. For those of us not in Manhattan or familiar with this company, what is it that these Moscow cats actually do? And how do their human assistants convince them to do it?

#14 Estelle

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 04:49 PM

I really wonder how cats are trained to perform in a circus.

Recently my husband and I tried to imagine what a corps de ballet of cats would look like. "Oh, that left ear does itch, doesn't it ?" "I really MUST catch that fly- OOPS, the orchestra pit!" "What about stopping here and licking the most private parts of my anatomy?" "The conductor always agitates that little stick, that must be a new game, let's try to catch it" "I'd like to have a little walk on the piano" "Perhaps if I sit down right at center stage and look cute enough, someone will give me a bit of tuna fish" "I'm fed up with the entrance of the Shades, what about playing with the tail of the cat before me" "I've climbed on the stage curtain and now I have no idea how to get down, could someone help pleeease ?"and so on... :cool:

By the way, are there some feline roles in ballet, besides Puss in Boots and his partner in "The Sleeping Beauty" ?

#15 Dale

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Posted 08 January 2006 - 05:21 PM

Estelle wrote:

"I'm fed up with the entrance of the Shades, what about playing with the tail of the cat before me"


I like that one, it fits perfect (or purrfectly) with the idea of The Shades scene.

By the way, are there some feline roles in ballet, besides Puss in Boots and his partner in "The Sleeping Beauty" ?


Balanchine's La Chatte.


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