BryMar1995

Important Women in Ballet

71 posts in this topic

I don't know if this has been done on this board before, but I thought it might be interesting to list as many influential women we could think of who have had a profound impact on ballet in the 20th century. It might be fun to start with Artistic Directors, then move on to mentors, teachers, choreographers, department chairs, dancers, ballet masters, organizers, writers, critics, etc..

Starting with directors, my contributions are Dame Ninette De Valois of the Royal Ballet, Lucia Chase of American Ballet Theater, Barbara Weisberger of Pennsylvania Ballet, Katherine Littlefield of Littlefield Ballet, Patricia Wilde of Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, Mary Day of Washington Ballet, Francia Russel (who co-directs with her husband Kent Stowell ) of Pacific Northwest, Anna Pavlova, who toured the US and Europe extensively after the Ballets Russes, Marie Rambert, there must be more.

Some choreographers that come to mind are Bronislava Nijinska, Agnes De Mille, and Twyla Tharp.

Barbara Crocket and Lila Zali and the others who founded the RDA movement come to mind as well.

Please offer your contributions and let's see how many women are impacting our art form today.

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We actually have done this before, but quite awhile ago, and it never hurts to revisit an issue. Thanks for your list. There are so many great female personalities in modern dance, especially in its early days, that ballet's women often get forgotten.

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Jean Rosenthal, one of the pioneers of dance lighting.

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E. Virginia Williams, founder of the Boston Ballet.

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Dorothy Alexander, founder of the Atlanta Ballet, and Audrey Estee, founder of the Princeton Civic Ballet, which has today become the American Repertory Ballet. Maria Tallchief, who proved once and for all that REAL Americans can too dance this here ballet stuff.

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I remember Danilova, Doubrovska, and Toumkovski as being inspirational coaches and teachers, not to mention Diana Adams when she headed SAB.

Rick

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And don't forget Muriel Stuart, whose book The Classic Ballet was and is a work which shaped the modern standard of classic technique. This besides Miss Stuart's long and fruitful teaching career.

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And having mentioned Miss Stuart, how dare I short Agrippina Vaganova, who reshaped the whole face of the Russian school of classic ballet?

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And of course Marie Rambert, who was so amazing at recognizing and developing talent.

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How about Betty Cage? She was so instrumental in the success of the early years of NYCB. And Barbara Horgan.

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Vicky Simons has set the Balanchine Rep everywhere. Learned a lot from that lady.

Rick :)

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Catherine de Medici, who brought ballet from Italy to France. Marie Taglioni, for popularising pointe work. Pierina Legnani. Catherine the Great.

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I agree with Ruth Page, who besides being a major influence was a very nice person.

I'd also have to add Mary Day, who was also a major influence.

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Although many might disagree, I would add Suzanne Farrell and Gelsey Kirkland to the list, as "recent" American ballerinas who really pushed the envelope with the artistry and near perfection of their many performances. Farrell now is passing on her knowledge of Balanchine's works in a pure and undiluted manner (as is Maria Tallchief, also). Kirkland is behind the scenes, teaching, trying help young dancers to "feel" what they are dancing and to "think" about what they are doing and why. To remember that dancing requires your whole heart and body, not just a strong pair of legs and great feet! :)

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Nancy Reynolds- for her Balanchine Foundation projects- which gives some dancers a chance to work with the closest direct links to Balanchine, and then preserves the rehearsals for generations to come.

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I forgot about Anne-Marie Holmes and Maina Giulgud who both were directors in Boston and other places. Violet Verdy directed there as well and is a very outstanding influence in my dance career. Can anybody name some current or up and coming female ballet choreographers?

Rick :)

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I don't know if we've really moved onto dancers now, but what about Dame Margot Fonteyn?

I'm sure the soloists waiting in line at Sadler-Well's were just waiting until her dancing age was over, but then came along Nureyev, and it was that flick of the whip that made the prima ballerina assoluta what I think that people remember her as. My mom thinks that dancers are pushing it in mid-late 30's to be dancing, and I semi-agree. But this lady was on her toes into her fifties! Just another example of how the human spirit can defy 'set' laws like *that*!

Ta!

Luka

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A couple of comments on Fonteyn. First, she was a prima ballerina long before the partnership with Nureyev, and secondly, I think dancers recognize when there's a Queen or a King around. There will be grumbling, of course -- dancers live in a perpetual state of scarcity (roles) -- but I've also heard too many dancers say that it was an honor to be in the theater when this or that dancer was around, and that they all were better for the inspiration, that a great dancer made them better. I think there are more problems when there are a lot of good dancers and a lack of great ones; then it's too easy to think "what's he got that I haven't got?" (There are some people who will think that no matter who is the competition, but when there's a great star around, they'll get whacked for saying it out loud :) )

We have mentioned dancers on this thread, but I think Rick's intention was to shine a spotlight on important women who WERE NOT dancers, but important to ballet in other ways (choreographerss, company directors).

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Alright, then, to name someone who was not a dancer but whose work was seen as vital as dancing (according to a book or two I read).. Karinska, the one-name costumer for Balanchine's company. Her costumes graced famous bodies for performances and from the examples I saw as photographs on several pages, they're exquisite and beautiful!

I have never seen a live performance of NYCB (really, the only performance I've seen is Peter Martins' Swan Lake aired on PBS a few years ago). But, seeing of how much she made an impact on the books and articles of NYCB's Balanchine days, I think that costumes came alive then, and maybe even now, if there is stage magic enough. :)

Ta!

Luka

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I'd say Gelsey Kirkland. She always was behind the scenes doing research trying to figure out how she should feel at this point and then at this point. She also showed what drugs can do to dancers. I also agree with Margot Fonteyn, and Agrippina Vaganova.

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Every teacher who first got one of us interested in dance. In my case, it was Mary Ella Montague.

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Rick- you asked for current or emerging female choreographers- I could only think of two.... Lynn Taylor-Corbett, and the girl in San Francisco- Julia Adam(?). The fact that there seem to be so few female choreographers makes these two women important figures in ballet.

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I've admired the work of Lisa de Ribere. I have wondered why we haven't seen more of her work around the country. I know of a young talent whom I believe came out of Julliard - Jessica Lange I think. She did some work for ABT II. Anyone else hear about her? Also, Miriam Madhvadiani from NYCB (forgive me for not spelling her name correctly). Are there any local female choreographers people are proud of? I've met a few on RDA adjudication tours.

Rick

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