emilienne

Fan Oral Histories of Ballet?

31 posts in this topic

The oral historian (like the reader of memoirs) must listen carefully, and somewhat skeptically, and then check as many facts as possible. This is something that amateurs, even the best-intentioned, cannot always do consistently.

The historian's job is NOT a simple one!

Quite right.

I would say that Keith Money's tome on Pavlova is admirable, but in my opinion he is a biographer and that is something quite different to an historian.

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Well. this has been an interesting discussion, as usual on BT, but I strongly suspect it isn't what emilienne had in mind when she started it. I think maybe she was hoping for something more along the lines of "when I was seeing Giselle at Ballet Russe in 1947, the Willis all had green toe shoes for two performances," [yes, I made that up] or "I remember the caller in Square Dance, and how different the ballet was without the Bart Cook solo," or the like.

Let's see - I can offer a Bolshoi Spartacus from circa 1961 in which we all watched poor Maya Plisetskaya search for the body of her beloved Spartacus on the body-strewn battlefield after the slave army's defeat. She searched and she searched, with heart-rending gestures, never quite noticing the huge fellow dressed all in silver in the middle of the stage with a blinding spotlight on him. After a while, mutterings of "honey, he's the guy lit up like kleig light, OK" could be heard from unsympathetic New Yorkers, accompanied by my own muttering of "no wonder these idiots lost." I believe the staging was changed, though I can rarely make myself watch the ballet so I won't swear to it. I am sure they removed the bit from the orgy in which a couple of slaves trying to feed her bunches of grapes scrambled frantically after the wicked temptress lolling (or trying to) on a fast-travelling couch.

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...Sir Frederick Franklin...

Although Freddie was created Commander of the British Empire (CBE) a couple of years ago, that's still one grade short of Knight of the British Empire (KBE) or Knight Commander of the British Empire (KCBE), which would give him the "Sir". He's still just Mr. Frederic Franklin (CBE). I've often wondered what kind of thinking goes on behind the scenes when it comes to Birthday Honours and such. I asked somebody in the Garter King of Arms' office one time, and he said, "Well, it has a lot to do with what the Government wants. Sir Anton Dolin was, after all, Irish, and had an American passport, and there was some to-do about what kind of a precendent that would set, especially from the Tories. Besides, he did most of his work outside of Britain, and they didn't like that either, especially when it came to the War!" Politics! :wacko:

In the UK, any citizen or group thereof can nominate someone for a CBE which is awarded for :

a prominent national role of a lesser degree; or a conspicuous leading role in regional affairs, through achievement or service to the community; or

making a highly distinguished, innovative contribution in his or her area of activity.

There is a formal protocol of consideration by several levels of committees and in the end, it is the responsibility of The Prime Minister to make a list of submissions to Her Majesty the Queen who generally makes the presentation but this can also be made by members of the Royal Family. There is a Specialist Sub-Committee for the Arts and Media.

Anyone can be nominated, but only exceptional people are honoured. To be in with a chance of seeing your candidate on the Honours List, you have to make sure your nomination has what it takes to make it all the way to Buckingham Palace. Achievement comes in many forms but what is looked for is someone who has made a difference in their field of work or community.

Frederic Franklin's award was very warmly and fondly received by the ballet world in the UK as was witnessed a few years ago when he took a curtain call on the stage of the Royal Opera House(he was a member of the Sadlers Wells Ballet). It semed like a welcome home for one of ours who had made it good at home and especially proud of the name he had made abroad.

With a wealth of experience from his training with the legendary Nikolai Legat and fellow Russian teacher Lydia Kyaksht to his work with various companies, Franklin has a lot to offer for historians and thank goodness some of it has been recorded.

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Green Willi toe shoes, now wouldn't that be interesting?

Thanks, popularlibrary, for clarifying the issue when as usual I'd made a hash of my earlier words. I am indeed interested in oral histories of dancers and those who had 'made history', as it were, but the question was originally directed at the existence of 'fan' histories. I've done smaller oral history projects (but not in dance) and it's always interesting to hear stories retold by several different voices to hear what sort of details the teller considers important.

While dancers may be great sources of reminiscences, I think that the viewers themselves are often overlooked as viable keepers of lore (ha). I think Farrell once said that there were choreographic details that she had never noticed in 'Concerto Barocco' until she had become an observer herself (she was specifically referring to the staging of the two soloists, like the entwining bows by the violin soloists). Sometimes we may remember things that the dancers have forgotten. But then again, are these recollections any more credible?

In any case there is a great dearth of histories from dancers and viewers alike. Gathering up all the stories before the tellers are gone will be a daunting, but I suspect rich, adventure.

emi

Well. this has been an interesting discussion, as usual on BT, but I strongly suspect it isn't what emilienne had in mind when she started it. I think maybe she was hoping for something more along the lines of "when I was seeing Giselle at Ballet Russe in 1947, the Willis all had green toe shoes for two performances," [yes, I made that up] or "I remember the caller in Square Dance, and how different the ballet was without the Bart Cook solo," or the like.

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Well. this has been an interesting discussion, as usual on BT, but I strongly suspect it isn't what emilienne had in mind when she started it. I think maybe she was hoping for something more along the lines of "when I was seeing Giselle at Ballet Russe in 1947, the Willis all had green toe shoes for two performances," [yes, I made that up] or "I remember the caller in Square Dance, and how different the ballet was without the Bart Cook solo," or the like.

Thanks, popular library, for bringing us back on track. You are absolutely right.

About the green toe shoes: you made that up?!? Then why do I suddenly ssee those very shoes so clearly? Another ballet legend fails the accuracy test! Dang! :thumbsup::(:wacko:

I am indeed interested in oral histories of dancers and those who had 'made history', as it were, but the question was originally directed at the existence of 'fan' histories.

[ ... ]

In any case there is a great dearth of histories from dancers and viewers alike. Gathering up all the stories before the tellers are gone will be a daunting, but I suspect rich, adventure.

And thanks, emilienne, for restating your topic so clearly ... and so patiently. :D

In the U.S., Francis Mason has done a great job with this, both with his I Rememer Balanchine: Recollections of the Ballet Master by Those Who Knew Him, mentioned earlier in this thread, and in the interviews and retrospectives he publishes in Ballet Review.

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In any case there is a great dearth of histories from dancers and viewers alike. Gathering up all the stories before the tellers are gone will be a daunting, but I suspect rich, adventure.
This becomes an unending task, for as each generation dies out, the next one ages and eventually dies out, etc., etc., ad infinitum. There is always an urgency to capture those memories before the holders can no longer share them.

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