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Diana Adamsretouched newspaper archive photo


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#1 rg

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 09:21 AM

the scanned photo attached here shows Adams as the Sugar Plum Fairy in Balanchine's/NYCB/THE NUTCRACKER.
the date on the back indicates it was intended to run in a newspaper during August, 1955.
the retouching and use of opaque paint to silhouette and highlight the photo indicate the 'design' addition of what would seem to be the arm of a male dancer, possibly Sugar Plum's cavalier.
this documents an era when the stage designs were those of Horace Armistead, which are unknown to me, first hand, and when the pas de deux was not yet rearranged to have the ballerina's 'celesta solo' occur earlier in the act and apart from the pas de deux.
the headpiece looks esp. pretty and seemingly different from the one worn by LeClercq when she danced Sugar Plum around this time, in this same tutu.

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#2 bart

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 10:37 AM

Thanks for the fascinating photo, rg.

I was wondering: am I alone in thinking that Diana Adams was a dancer who is not treated well by the camera? I see so few really "living" photographs of her. In this, she's like Marie-Jeanne. The effect tends all too often to be stiff and heavy.

I never saw Marie-Jeanne dance, but I did see Adams -- remembering her first performances of Agon and her Swan Lake Act II surprisingly well. She was quite vivid and alive on stage. Only a few of her photos -- always action photos, not posed -- come even close to suggesting what she was like.

#3 dirac

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 11:29 AM

Thank you for the photo, rg.

I was wondering: am I alone in thinking that Diana Adams was a dancer who is not treated well by the camera? I see so few really "living" photographs of her. In this, she's like Marie-Jeanne. The effect tends all too often to be stiff and heavy.


The posed photos of Adams I've seen are much better than this one as a rule, but it's possible maybe she didn't like posing that much. She seems to have been a shy person in many ways and not everyone is good at this sort of thing. In Balanchine's Ballerinas she's the only one who doesn't have a fancy 'glamour' shot.

There is a ravishing Lynes photograph of Adams standing in profile, with one long lovely leg exposed in front. She had a gorgeous figure.

#4 rg

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 11:50 AM

the difference and/or distance between photogenic and stage-genic often bears noting.
pavlova for ex. was uncanny w/ her instincts for the camera.
not all dancers are.
posing, as noted above, and performing are two different activities.
some are good at one, over the other; some, at both; and o'course, some, at neither.
in this photo's case, the eagerness of newspaper's hands for layout/design/retouching have further muddied the waters of the moment meant to be caught in this photo.

#5 bart

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 01:20 PM

I checked a few books and found that Robert Garis describes her as having a "lovely, natural style." He ranks her just below Tallchief and Le Clercq in his personal pantheon of the 1950s. She certainly seems lighter in body and spirit in, for instance, the Swope rehearsal photos for Agon. Perhaps it's the quality of "movement" -- rather than stand-still pose -- which Swope's camera captured.

The Farrell comparison is a small but recurring theme in Garis's book. I was surprised to be reminded that Adams originally danced the Farrell role in Liesbeslieder Walzer:

[S]he too was the most exuberant, joyous, young and free of the four women ... And Adams was as lovely, and danced as beautifully as one could ever want.

This lightness of movement -- in the sense of legerete, not lack of weight or impact -- was also evident in very different kind of role, Odette. She was stunning in that in the late 50s, when I first saw her. It's interesting that Adams was one of Hayden's replacements as Titania, as was Farrell.

#6 Dale

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 01:43 PM

Bart, Hayden actually replaced Adams in Midsummer, before the premiere, not the other way around.

#7 Mel Johnson

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 01:58 PM

the retouching and use of opaque paint to silhouette and highlight the photo indicate the 'design' addition of what would seem to be the arm of a male dancer, possibly Sugar Plum's cavalier.


Yes, that's the "ribbon-candy" tutu from the first production. But if that's a partner's arm, then that's one TALL partner!

#8 bart

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 02:03 PM

Bart, Hayden actually replaced Adams in Midsummer, before the premiere, not the other way around.

Oops! Thanks, Dale, for reminding us of that.

Now THERE's a lesson in not believing everything you read. Garis clearly writes (Following Balanchine, p. 140):

"Hayden was soon replaced by Adams and Farrell ...

It's true that Garis considered Villella and his Supreme Goddess Verdy (in the Act III divertissement) to be the true stars of this ballet, so I guess his mind wandered when he wrote this.

It's interesting, in the light of rg's statuesque photograph, the way that Adams and Farrell are associated as to the impression they made and in the roles in which they excelled. Arthur Mitchell referred to her as having a "nervous" quality in her movement. Others mention her risk-taking. These qualities were so clear in Agon pdd, which happens also also to be the one early role of Farrell that I remember best.

Sadly, many younger ballet lovers probably "see" Adams -- if they see her at all -- lying on her sofa teaching Suzanne Farrell her role in Movements for Piano and Orchestra.

#9 Dale

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 02:23 PM

During one of the big photo displays shown at New York State Theater (yup, stlll NYST to me) is one of Adams and Nora Kaye in, if I remember correctly, La Gloire. Kaye is in slippers and a sort of Robin Hood getup, whereas Adams is in a soft short tutu or dress and on pointe. Both are in arabesque. Kaye's is textbook 90 degrees and there's a very electric intensity to it. Her head is very rigid and dramatic. Adams' arabesque is so big and generous and full. Her head is thrown back slightly. Both arabesques, like the women performing them, are glorious in their own way. And so fitting to their dancers' styles.

#10 Mel Johnson

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 03:22 PM

Verdy? Act III divertissement? Now, I do recall seeing Hayden doing the String Symphony divertissement, but not Verdy. It was set on Kent, if I remember correctly. And the whole ballet only has two acts. Hey, I even remember Hayden doing Titania!

#11 rg

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 03:49 PM

the originators of Balanchine's second act Midsummer Night's Dream "divertissement" pas de deux were Violette Verdy and Conrad Ludlow. I don't know how soon Kent went into the mix, she certainly danced in the the film (led by Farrell and Villella) w/ d'Amboise as her partner.
i rem. trying to divine if Adams ever did do Titania afterall. E.Gorey recalls someone's saying she did, once, in Washington, D.C. but when another person asked Farrell if she had any recollection of this, she said she doubted it happened, because if it had, she would have made a decided point of seeing the perf. and she has no recall of seeing her "guarDIAN Angel" in the role.
CHOREOGRAPHY BY GEORGE BALANCHINE notes a '64 tour to Wash. D.C.'s Carte Barron Amphitheatre, where I think MND was given, but as noted there seems to be no data around to confirm Adams's performing Titania there.

#12 Mel Johnson

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 03:57 PM

Very shortly after the premiere of MSND, Adams left performing to take over the School of American Ballet. Now that you mention it, I do recall seeing photos of Ludlow and Verdy in the original cast, he wearing a costume meant to suggest a well-muscled cuirass, but which must have been the very devil to partner in! I never saw the ballet at City Center. In fact, I have my program (a large red affair) marked "Inaugural Performances/April 1964" from my first viewing of Midsummer right in front of me as I write.

#13 dirac

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 04:36 PM

his Supreme Goddess Verdy


She was really Haggins’ Supreme Goddess, not Garis’, although the latter admired and respected her a great deal and got to know her well.

#14 rg

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Posted 18 July 2008 - 04:43 PM

off topic somewhat but a look a the orig. cast of NUTCRACKER w/ Tallchief and Magallanes w/ MT in her version of the ribbon-candy-edged tutu w/ her own tiara. the uncaptioned/uncredited photo is undated but assume it's 1954-ish.

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#15 bart

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Posted 19 July 2008 - 03:18 AM

Thanks, Dale, for the wonderful description -- and evocation -- of that photo-poster. I wish I had been around to see Kaye. I wonder what the Robin Hood getup could have been for? The one where she plays an acress playing Hamlet?

And Mel, I'm sorry for the transposition from "II" to the nono-existent "III". Been watching too many 3-act Petipa videos on my time off this summer, I suppose. I would have sworn I got this from Garis, but then I noticed that I had written the Roman numerals incorrectly in the margin of his book.

[Verdy}She was really Haggins’ Supreme Goddess, not Garis’, although the latter admired and respected her a great deal and got to know her well.

Or possibly a goddess for both? Verdy seems to fill Garis's book. He obviously adores her and often uses her as an examplar as well as a contrast when discussing other kinds of dancing he did not entirely approve of. In religion it's not unknown for the follower to become even more of a proslytiser than his teacher was, I think. So possibly the same applies in this case? :)


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