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Remembering Patricia McBride

65 posts in this topic

"Liebeslieder Walzer" is performed in the duo piano version. Conductor Robert Irving was one of the pianists in the original season. I'm not sure how long he continued.

On another topic, Patricia McBride is interviewed briefly in the new Verdy DVD. But she is also filmed sitting quietly next to Bonnefoux as he is interviewed, and she looks beautiful.

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This may have been in '72, but as I recall (and unfortunately I wasn't there) the Stravinsky Festival was wall-to-wall Stravinsky. No fauns -- or even Swans.

The Stravinsky Festival was indeed wall-to-wall Stravinsky, but there was a faun involved -- not Debussy's but a Stravinsky

song suite for mezzo-soprano and orchestra called The Faun and the Shepherdess. Long time fans of the New York City Opera will remember the great mezzo Frances Bible, who performed it. Thanks to the wonderful little book "The Stravinsky Festival of the New York City Ballet. by Nancy Goldner, I can report that it was done on the third evening of the Festival, June 21, 1972. I may have been there but doubt I would have remembered it without this indispensable book.

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I'm a little surprised that nobody else has mentioned this particular role, so I will. As it has been more than twenty years (yikes!), my memory may well be faulty so please everyone feel free to correct!

The role I remember Patricia McBride dancing in almost as vividly as Tchaikovsky PDD is her role as the Pearly Queen. Obviously it's not her greatest role, but she so conveyed a sense of "isn't this great fun to dance" to the audience that I can still visualize it well today. Partially that was the result of her wonderful interaction with and warmth toward whoever her partner was that night (so well described by others above) but partially it was her great big smile, which on others might appear rather un-ballerina-like but on her never did. I used to sit toward the front of the orchestra and remember marveling at how heavy that costume must have been because you could hear it clacking whenever she turned sharply. She never - at least the nights I was there - seemed the least affected or slowed down by it, much less thrown off by the weight of it. It was perhaps that sense of centeredness that, as much as her joy in dancing, I remember best.

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The role I remember Patricia McBride dancing in almost as vividly as Tchaikovsky PDD is her role as the Pearly Queen.

Thanks for noting that, Victoria. I was fortunate to see her dance that role once in 1979, with Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux, whom I guess she had by then married. As you said, she was warm and vivacious -- and unforgettable.

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The Pearly Queen was definitely one of MacBride's most memorable roles, and she performed a bump and grind in it unmatched by any of her successors.

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McBride was delightful as Pearly Queen. I was lucky to have seen her do the role four times in the 80's, each with Bart Cook.

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Those who didn't get a chance to see the Costermonger pas de deux onstage with McBride and Cook (as Pearly Queen and King) might watch out for it in a video archive, as it was broadcast in a PBS program called "Gala of Stars 1983" in March of that year.

I don't know -- I doubt, actually, that it's the role she'd most like to be remembered for, but she did always seem genuinely to enjoy the fun of it, not least when the donkey which pulled the cart with them (and two little girls) in it out on the apron ad libbed.

One evening this only consisted in taking the cart off into the (audience) left wing ahead of cue, leaving the dancers to run off waving to us, but another time -- well, McBride improvised some large melodrama expressing distress and disgust for a few moments, completely in character, until Peter Martins, already suited up in his bell-bottom whites for Royal Navy to follow, emerged from the right wing with a broom and dustpan to clean up the mess while we howled and roared and clapped. What had "our" company got itself into this time? But they showed themselves the equal of anything.

(Remembering this reminds me how Croce had concluded her review of Union jack, unusually, a long precis, with the words, "Union Jack is like that -- grand, foolish, and full of beans." An understatement on these occasions.)

But Rubies and Scotch were among the "big" roles that I remember her in most fondly. Just these three roles mark an enormous range, and she made them complete.

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Love the story, Jack.

What disturbs me is that I realize I think I never saw 'Umion Jack'! It's like hearing about it all the time was enough, but even worse than that, I might have seen it and forgotten it (but is that possible?)

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Possible, of course, but not likely. I can understand someone forgetting one of the three sections if s/he hadn't seen it often, but I think Balanchine here provided something for every taste -- or nearly so.

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I think it wasn't responsible, even if it was possible, to think about NYCB without reference to Farrell, while she was there. It's not exactly that Farrell set the standard, but if anything, she happened to exemplify Balanchine's... approach. (I was going to say his philosophy.)

You could say that Balanchine chose Farrell to set that standard and exemplify his approach. Which is not to take anything from McBride, but she didn't hold that kind of symbolic role in the company or the Balanchine repertory, as important as she was to both.

McBride was Edward Gorey's favorite ballerina.

I hope the question isn't impertinent, but do you know this from having spoken with Gorey, or do you have it from a member of his circle of devotees who sat with him during intermissions, or---? He *was* devoted to McBride, I'm sure, but in interviews gives the impression of being no less devoted to Allegra Kent. He also mentions Diana Adams, on occasion, and---less frequently---Jillana, Helgi Tomasson, and Maria Calegari. In any event, I only know this from interviews with McBride, Jillana, Villella, Peter Anastos, and others, and from burrowing deep into his interviews. Curious to know if he or someone told McBride was his favorite.

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Not impertinent in the least. It's entirely secondhand information and from print. It's been so long I can't quite recall, but I either came across the information in an obituary, or possibly Ballet Review, or both. I am certain I read it at least once.

I can't speak for our friend rg but I believe he has written on this board that Diana Adams was a very great favorite of Gorey's, as much as McBride if not more, which assertion should be searchable using our engine. The relative position of both ladies in Gorey's hierarchy of ballerinas would be interesting to know. When I'm not near the girl I love, I love the girl I'm near, etc. :) Looking forward to your book.

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Thanks for jogging my memory regarding the RG quote, which does indeed appear on this site and certainly has an authoritative ring to it. (There's no arguing with firsthand knowledge of Gorey, acquired over 25---was it?---years of friendship!) Interestingly, while I gather from RG and published sources that Gorey esteemed Adams and McBride highly (highest?), he seems to have had something like an actual friendship with Kent. To be sure, he refers to her almost as frequently (if memory serves---and it may not!) in his interviews. Having just spent a delightful hour or so on the phone with McBride, I *can* say with some authority that she knew Gorey only as a worshipper from afar, although his fur-coated, tennis-shoed presence at performances and rehearsals was unmissable, if there is such a word. One thing that *is* certain is Gorey's status as conscientious objector to the cult of Suzanne Farrell. He was famously not a fan! (In the Gorey interview collection, _Ascending Peculiarity_, he does admit to having given her a chance, initially, but says she succumbed to "mannerisms.")

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I was thrilled to read that Robbins actually was inspired to begin imagining Dances by observing McBride and Villella working together, intimately and with great concentration, in a studio.

I think Bart is referring to Robbins seeing Villella and (I'm not sure it was McBride) in the studio inspiring "Afternoon of a Faun."

I also remember McBride dancing (I saw her from 1979 through her retirement), and she was always, aside from technically spot on, emotionally honest, warm, caring, and perfectly musical. My favorite role of hers was late in her career, the last pas de deux with Bart Cook in "Liebeslieder Waltzer."

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I realize we're now on to Gorey, but going back o McBride, didn't Balanchine tell her something along the lines that it was a good thing he took her into the company because she would never have passed an audition? I have always been mystified as to what he could have meant by this....

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