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Ruthanna Boris


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#1 dirac

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 05:20 PM

The death of Ruthanna Boris was noted in The New York Times today. Her interview in Robert Tracy's book 'Balanchine's Ballerinas' was one of the most interesting in that volume. Does anyone have recollections related to Boris, her dancing, or her choreography? I would be interested to hear any.


Her range as a ballerina with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo from 1942 to 1950 extended from classics like “Swan Lake,” “The Nutcracker” and “Les Sylphides” to George Balanchine’s elegant abstractions and “Frankie and Johnny,” a bawdy bit of Americana. Two of her own ballets, “Cirque de Deux” and “Cakewalk,” are often revived by regional troupes.



#2 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 08 January 2007 - 06:40 PM

I'm sorry to hear this. She deserves mention and respect just because there are STILL so few women ballet choreographers. A friend of mine lives in her building in Albany, CA, as I may have mentioned in another thread, and told me that Ms. Boris was energetic, positive, and kept active by swimming nearly daily.

#3 atm711

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 06:39 AM

Very sad news. She was one of my favorites with the Denham Ballet Russe, and the only dancer I ever sent a bouquet (after 'Serenade'). She graciously invited me to an after performance dessert at the Russian Tea Room. I particularly admired her in 'Concerto Barocco'. Her compact physique was well suited to the choreography. She danced the Waltz in 'Serenade' in a production that today's audiences would not recognize which she performed in a playful and charming way. She was one of a trio in Balanchine's masterpiece 'Danses Concertantes' and played to the hilt in the Page-Stone 'Frankie and Johnny' (with F. Franklin as her Johnny). Her first ballet for Ballet Russe was 'Cirque de Deux' set to the Faust ballet music---witty and intelligent---like Boris herself. She was also a victim of the star system that is still alive and well today. We fans had hoped to see her expand her repertoire (and complained to management!). The New York season's 'Swan Lakes' were all performed by Danilova (I'm not complaining, really) and the Nutcrackers by Krassovska. However, she finally did get a chance to do a New York 'Nutcracker'; but--she fell short of what we expected. It was as though a beautiful piece of fruit hung on a tree too long, and when finally plucked, it had stayed too long on the vine and lost its flavor. (apologies for my poor poetry). I have a photo of her taken in street clothes on my Blog.

Rest in Peace, lovely Ruthanna.

#4 Helene

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Posted 09 January 2007 - 08:20 AM

The death of [url=http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/08/arts/dance/08boris.html?_r=1&oref=login] Her interview in Robert Tracy's book 'Balanchine's Ballerinas' was one of the most interesting in that volume.

I'd never seen her dance nor read much about Boris until her interview in Balanchine's Ballerinas, and I was bowled over by her intelligence and expressiveness. Thant you atm711 for that remembrance. I wish I had been able to see her teach.

Rest in peace, Ruthanna Boris.

#5 rg

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Posted 10 January 2007 - 04:45 AM

when i acquired this photo of Boris from the ballet russe de monte carlo in SERENADE, i sent a printout of a scan to her to ask about the pose, which in no way recalled any moment from balanchine's ballet as i knew it.
she replied (in a friendly note - i'd not known her previously - which i cannot right now locate!) that the pose was a due to some 'free' posing (my word, not necessarily hers) during the photo session and not an attempt to recall any moment from balanchine's choreography.

Attached Files



#6 Helene

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 01:29 PM

As the founder of the University of Washington Dance Department, Ruthanna Boris was a very important figure in Seattle. The obituary for Boris in the Seattle PI (from today's Links) gives more details of her life, an account that is a little less Balanchine-centric:

http://seattlepi.nws...orisobit11.html

"She was among the first women to choreograph in the male-dominated world of ballet," said William Whitener, a Seattle native who is now artistic director of the Kansas City Ballet. "Ruthanna had a great passion for the art of dance that was realized through dancing, choreographing and teaching. She was greatly respected by her peers for her sublime technique and great dramatic flair. She followed my career from my days as a dance student in Seattle to the Joffrey Ballet, where she cast me in the lead in 'Cakewalk,' to Kansas City Ballet when we staged 'Cakewalk.' She provided tremendous support and was a brilliant coach."



#7 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 11 January 2007 - 07:10 PM

As the founder of the University of Washington Dance Department, Ruthanna Boris was a very important figure in Seattle. The obituary for Boris in the Seattle PI (from today's Links) gives more details of her life....


Thanks so much for that link, Helene. I love how strongly she reacted to seeing pointe work for the first time. She really knew what she wanted, and got it and lived it! A true original.

#8 smith08

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 12:47 PM

The death of Ruthanna Boris was noted in The New York Times today. Her interview in Robert Tracy's book 'Balanchine's Ballerinas' was one of the most interesting in that volume. Does anyone have recollections related to Boris, her dancing, or her choreography? I would be interested to hear any.


Her range as a ballerina with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo from 1942 to 1950 extended from classics like “Swan Lake,” “The Nutcracker” and “Les Sylphides” to George Balanchine’s elegant abstractions and “Frankie and Johnny,” a bawdy bit of Americana. Two of her own ballets, “Cirque de Deux” and “Cakewalk,” are often revived by regional troupes.


I was a student at the University of Washington in the late 1970's when I happened to sign up for Miss Boris' Classical Ballet Technique I - 2.5 hours daily five days a week. I looooved it! I stayed the whole year! On to pointe in the Spring. What a fantastic experience. Ruthanna and that drum. She taught me how to dance, and so to think and organize my thoughts. Incredible teacher. I have taken many classes since and I do not know why more teachers don't use a little hand drum like she did. She also insisted we say the combinations out loud, and as the combinations got more complex the louder she expected us to chant, and we did. By the end of the year she had dancers , true believers , students. She was tiny. Her limp was pronounced. And she dispenced psychoanalysis at the barre.
It's been 30 years and I think about her alot to this day.
JS
Seattle

#9 bart

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 03:11 PM

It's wonderful to read your memories of Boris and her work, atm711, and your tribute to the influence of your teacher, smith08. (By the way, welcome to Ballet Talk, smith08).

I saw the Joffrey's Cakewalk in the early 80s, I think, and remember hearing people talk at the time about Boris and her career both with Balanchine and Ballets Russes, and the fact that she had appeared in musical comedy, but not about her subsequent work as a teacher in Washington

I hope others will post their memories here. Ballet, a most ephemeral art in the days before videotaping and dvds, needs each of us to contribute our bit to the collective memory.

#10 smith08

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 07:47 PM

It's wonderful to read your memories of Boris and her work, atm711, and your tribute to the influence of your teacher, smith08. (By the way, welcome to Ballet Talk, smith08).

I saw the Joffrey's Cakewalk in the early 80s, I think, and remember hearing people talk at the time about Boris and her career both with Balanchine and Ballets Russes, and the fact that she had appeared in musical comedy, but not about her subsequent work as a teacher in Washington

I hope others will post their memories here. Ballet, a most ephemeral art in the days before videotaping and dvds, needs each of us to contribute our bit to the collective memory.



Ruthanna never talked about what happened to be an illustrious career. Her memories were hers- in class she was " in the moment " with her students. Fridays she had us do Pilates - again she was ahead of the times. She believed in Ballet as a " process " and took true joy in all of our progress. One day she took me aside and told me I was becoming a " fine dancer , I know how hard you're working , keep it up " I fairly floated out of the building. She didn't fluff her students and she certainly didn't suffer fools gladly. But it was the pounding of that little drum, the chanting the combinations , becoming physically and mentally stronger each class that I remember most. When school was out of session for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and Spring breaks she held class early each day - at 0700 and most of us made it to class during those breaks. Class was too valuable , she was too valuable to miss. I called it the march of the faithful- the scattering of small bodies across Red Square converging in her office to strip down to our black and pink to learn.
I really enjoyed my education at the U of W. Great school. My degree is in anthropology- but I would never have been able to afford the ballet education anywhere else. We knew Miss Boris was " famous " but when I read of her passing in Time magazine with a picture of her en pointe I thought " she 's still surprising me after all these years"
I have often thought that her life would make a great book - movie. Her time at U of W was just a small part of her life, but she had a tremendous influence.
Julia

#11 carbro

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Posted 17 January 2007 - 07:59 PM

Must add my thanks to bart's. I can easily imagine the challenge and inspiration of her classes.

#12 sandik

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Posted 18 January 2007 - 12:13 AM

I was a student at the University of Washington in the late 1970's when I happened to sign up for Miss Boris' Classical Ballet Technique I - 2.5 hours daily five days a week.


We must have just missed each other -- I was one of Eve Green's students around the middle 70s.

#13 smith08

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Posted 18 January 2007 - 07:36 AM

Must add my thanks to bart's. I can easily imagine the challenge and inspiration of her classes.

By the early 1980's academic funding - and funding for arts in general was suffering under Reaganomics and I believe Ruthanna left the school because she became tired of fighting for funds. Her legacy is the large studios built to specifications provided by George Balanchine. Everything from the the special floors to the barres, the 20 foot ceilings, ( at least ) the floor to ceiling windows that provided streams of natural light on those rainy Seattle winter mornings . Ms Boris was extremely proud to provide such wonderful dance space for her students. She was not a name dropper , she just matter of factly revealed one day that there are no accidents- and that she built the studios precisely from Balanchine's plans. She had a very high opinion of him in general but again that was all she revealed. Never a name dropper. But Blanchine's plans - that was impressive.
She could be caustic, but she could also be very funny. She was a true intellect, knowledgable on a wide range of subjects. She was very respectful of the courses her students were taking. Relatively few dance majors ; theater, liberal arts, hard sciences, Medical students, - she made it clear that all learning was valuable.
JS

#14 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 09:21 AM

This is very personal, from one of her first students in Seatlle:

http://seattletimes....ruthanna11.html

When Ruthanna Boris began teaching ballet at the University of Washington in 1965, there was no dance department, no dance studio and no musical accompanist. Those of us who attended her classes on the drafty upper floor of the old Armory building in the early '70s had to compete with the sporadic banging from the ROTC rifle range downstairs. The sound of target practice didn't faze Miss Boris, who simply shouted over the noise and whacked out the beat more insistently on her drum.



#15 carbro

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Posted 11 February 2007 - 10:19 AM

Many thanks, Violin Concerto.

If I'm not mistaken, the unidentified dancers in photo #2 are Tanaquil LeClerq as a young teen and Andre Eglevsky.


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