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Francis MasonEditor of Ballet Review, etc.


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#16 bart

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 12:41 PM

The Fall 2009 Ballet Review just arrived, containing a treat: Francis Mason writing on "Merce Cunningham on Martha Graham."

BR is not on-line, so I've included a section from the conclusion. His starting point is Merce's early education in the theater (Cornish School, Seattle), which included exposure to Graham technique.

Later, as a young man, he reached New York and was invited by Graham to take class with her company. Eventually he performed with her company.

(I've cut out parts of this section, so it stays more or less within copyright guidelines.)

When I fist came to New York there was a general feeling that if you were in one group you didn't have anything to do with other dance companies. I had never see ballet, so the first year I was in the city I went to Ballet russe de Monte Carlo. I sneaked in at intermission. It was so bewildering to me. I saw Alexandra Danilova, this astonishing creature. There was real wit in her dancing ... But hther was a sense also that there was this woman with a warmth, all-pervading. Wonderful.

[ ... ]

Martha suggested that I study at the School of American Ballet. [ ...] She called up Lincoln Kirstein. I went to the school and was terrified because Lincoln was such a fierce person or thought he was. Lincoln said, "Well, what do you want to study? You're a modern dancer. What do you want?" O can still hear him shouting at me: "What do you want to study ballet for?" I said, "Well, I like all kinds of dancing." Which is true.

[ ... ] When I studied at the School of American Ballet, I couldn't go all the time. I was trying to learn something about ballet, which I knew I didn't know enough about. I began to read about it and find out its history. I read the letters of Noverre and a wonderful book by the Italian Carlo Blasis, with beautiful drawings of the classical positions.

I continued to dance with Martha.

[ ... ]

When I was ready to leave Martha and her company, I told her that I wanted to work on my own things. At that time there were not that many male modern dancers. Mostly they were in ballet. I knew that it would be difficult to replace me, so I told her I would stay another year to give her time to find someone.

[ ... ]

Coming to New York, that in itself was so interesting. The city struck me from the first day I was here. You turn a corner and find something exciting. With all the difficulties, New York remains colossal. You can have a far more pleasant day-to-day existence in London or Paris, but if you're attracted to New York, somehow you can't ait to come home.



#17 Dale

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 01:45 PM

Thanks Bart.

I've been meaning to write. I treasure Mason's contribution to the world. His books, interviews and stewardship of Ballet Review have been invaluable to me. I can read I Remember Balanchine for days. Add in his work for the Martha Graham company and as a cultural ambassador, his passing is a great loss, yet also a great life.

#18 Natalia

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 01:48 PM

Just read the news. Mr. Mason will be sorely missed. May he rest in peace.

#19 Paul Parish

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Posted 03 November 2009 - 08:26 PM

Me, too, Dale -- His books will stand up to re-reading over and over. I Remember Balanchine is just fabulous -- esp of course, William Weslow [what would that book be like if they ALL talked like that, but of course, you don't get THAT from hardly anybody.]

And the strength of the book is that it doesn't depend on any one person's being wonderful -- He understood that different people would have different kinds of relationships with Balanchine, would see him from different experiential points, and that the mosaic would be endlessly fascinating....



Thanks Bart.

I've been meaning to write. I treasure Mason's contribution to the world. His books, interviews and stewardship of Ballet Review have been invaluable to me. I can read I Remember Balanchine for days. Add in his work for the Martha Graham company and as a cultural ambassador, his passing is a great loss, yet also a great life.




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