Jump to content


This site uses cookies. By using this site, you agree to accept cookies, unless you've opted out. (US government web page with instructions to opt out: http://www.usa.gov/optout-instructions.shtml)

Jacques D'Amboise: Memoirs"I Was a Dancer"


  • Please log in to reply
115 replies to this topic

#91 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,965 posts

Posted 25 April 2011 - 01:07 PM

d'Amboise doesn't go on about this,


He sure doesn't.

Within a few years, of course, standards changed, and so did casting. "Exquisiteness of changing bodily configurations" and "poetic aura" became the new aesthetic ideal, and Farrell became its priestess. Dancers who expressed themselves differently, or whose body types were different, went out of fashion, fairly or unfairly.


Clive Barnes complained about that, saying that Balanchine was neglecting mature dancers like Hayden in favor of “the young and heartless," I think was his phrase.

I’m also reminded of Tallchief’s story about teaching class and asking the young Farrell to lift her leg a bit. “Like this?” said Farrell as her leg swept upward. Tallchief said it was then that she understood why Balanchine wanted to work with the new young dancers. Most generous of her.

#92 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,965 posts

Posted 25 April 2011 - 01:24 PM

Quiggin writes:

Garis* says that with Farrell and Mimi Paul who alternated between 1963 and 1968, the impact of the sheer size of their bodies, allowed him to read the roles they did differently, as if they were in large type, than he had with Verdy and Schorer.



Melissa Hayden said something similar to Nancy Reynolds for “Repertory in Review.” When Balanchine moved to the new, big theater, the emphasis in his classes changed. He wanted larger, sweeping movements, whereas before he had concentrated on aspects of technique such as the “articulation of the foot,” as Hayden said.

D'amboise says that when Farrell came back, Balanchine became more interested in Kyra Nichols and Darci Kistler and created few, if any, new roles for her.



You are right, and I was puzzled by that. When Farrell returned to the company in 1975 she resumed her place as the de facto prima, although things were different than they had been in the Sixties personally and within the company. Balanchine created or revived a series of great roles for her, and like von Aroldingen she had a new one almost every year until Balanchine’s illnesses. D’Amboise does indeed give the impression that although Farrell returned, Balanchine’s attention was already turning to new young dancers, and if you didn’t know better you’d not guess that many regarded the five or six years after Farrell’s return as the fulfillment and summation of the artistic partnership of dancer and choreographer. Eventually, sure, he was looking to the new girls.

#93 papeetepatrick

papeetepatrick

    Sapphire Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,486 posts

Posted 25 April 2011 - 02:13 PM

d'Amboise's comments just come as a surprise because they were partners for so long, that one would think he would feel some loyalty towards Suzanne too, and see the difficult situation Balanchine created for the entire company, and that he wasn't helping matters either.


You might think it, but why? He's giving facts that we didn't know, and why shouldn't we want to if we can? Which doesn't mean Balanchine was 'innocent'; there's no such thing as an urbane, sophisticated man being 'innocent'. In that part, you are right, and it was normal for Suzanne to use her charms as far as she wanted to and could (whether unconsciously or consciously, either way it's normal in my book). But he wasn't all that 'guilty' either. I don't think 'loyalty to a partner' has a thing to do with it. It's much stranger that it's taken this long to find out some of the facts, as far as I'm concerned; it's not like anybody's 'privacy has been invaded'. And it's very interesting, and doesn't change the artistry of anybody a whit. They all still have much to offer, alive or dead, since it's art and continues.

Helene has quite incisively pointed out the difference in what we thought were the facts with Martins in the 90s and what we now know. Farrell is a strong-minded woman, and I like her. I think she's funny even. If some people are more respectful than fond of her, as Bart suggested, then that's no big deal. Nobody can have all ranges in anything, and if Farrell danced 'imperiously' in her 70s period at NYCB, that's all the better for one aspect of what one admires, but it doesn't cover everything. That's why when she was really dominating the atmosphere at NYCB in the late 60s, it was perfectly natural that she wouldn't exactly be 'loved' by her fellow dancers, there's always a trade-off. And if Croce, as Bart also indicates, suggested that what she gave was 'ultimate', that doesn't mean we can't agree to disagree with her too. There are some who don't admire Farrell at all, think she was only 'mannered' and one ballet dancer even said 'she's the biggest bore in the world'. I'm a big fan, and long have been, but I can see some of what she was up to, and I'm glad d'Amboise said it out loud: It was high time, and Villella already alluded to it strongly in the old post I resurrected. She's a strong person, with a not inconsiderable ego, and I look forward to seeing what her company does. I even admire her 'ultimatums', they showed guts, which doesn't mean I think anybody ought to have said 'well, sure, whatever you want'. She's tough and can take it just like Hillary Clinton can, and they both get reversals, although it's true that Farrell does tend to project some aspect of the 'good, pretty schoolgirl' well into her 60s. That's cool, it's part of her personality. I can't wait to see if she really lets Toni Bentley write her next biography!

And Bart, your quote of Haggin:

Hayden is a very efficient dancer, but -- lacking the exquisiteness of changing bodily configuration, the poetic aura that one can see Fonteyn's dancing has -- Hayden is not what one can see Fonteyn is, a ballerina. And for anyone who judges not by names and words but by what he sees, the "inexperienced young dancers" Mimni Paul and Suzanne Farrell whom the company has been offering occasionally in place of Hayden are not only amazingly strong in technique but equally amazing in the qualities of exquisite style and poetry that make them more fascinating to watch than Hayden. But I agree that is should be possible for anyone who prefers Hayden to Paul or Farrell to see Hayden.

we can see that we can disagree with professional critics all we want. Just that one performance that I find totally unforgettable makes me totally ignore such phrases as 'lacking a poetic aura' or that 'Hayden is not...a ballerina'. I frankly think neither assessment is further from the truth. If Hayden wasn't a ballerina, then I've never seen one.

The thing about 'poetic aura' is that it's not finite, or anybody's owned property, it's various. Hayden and Farrell and McBride and Fonteyn all had it, as fas as I can see.

#94 canbelto

canbelto

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,931 posts

Posted 25 April 2011 - 03:22 PM

Hi, canbelto. That's certainly how d’Amboise presents the matter and it’s partially true (although I question the “insecure” part). In the case of Balanchine and Farrell the power really only went one way – she had as much power as Balanchine chose to allow her and when the crunch came it was clear where the real clout was. And by the same token Balanchine was not only Farrell’s revered boss, but one who did his best to exploit his own position to keep an unworldly girl virtually under lock and key. By 1969 almost everyone in Farrell’s life – Balanchine, her mother, even company management to some extent – was making every effort to push her into Balanchine’s bed. If I had only d’Amboise’s account to go by, I would know very little of that. (And, as d'Amboise notes with perception, it's what Balanchine wanted. Recall that amazing Bert Stern photo of Farrell standing in front of Balanchine waggling her finger at him, while he kneels worshipfully. Unsurprising that some of that would go to a young woman's head.)


Well here's another thing: perhaps d'Amboise was/is trying to defend someone who isn't here to defend himself anymore? That thought crossed my head -- that Farrell's story over the years has become the accepted story. Maybe d'Amboise felt as if she was not presenting things accurately, and in the process perhaps went too far in the other direction in making her seem manipulative? d'Amboise is also from a different era. Today Balanchine's actions towards Farrell would be considered sexual harassment.

Another thing I felt was d'Amboise's loyalty towards the "first generation" dancers. Melissa Hayden, Tanny LeClercq, and he mentions being friends nowadays with Allegra Kent. I don't think there was any love lost between Farrell and any of these ladies, so d'Amboise might be trying to say, "Hey, remember them!"

You can definitely tell in this memoir who his friends were and who he just tolerated. Diana Adams and Maria Tallchief don't exactly come across very well in the book either. And one can sense that his relationships with the other leading men in the company (Villella, Martins) were not exactly close.

But another striking thing about the book is the unabashedly negative opinion towards Jerome Robbins. Most dancer memoirs acknowledge that he was difficult, but will diplomatically talk about his genius and the fact that he did it for Art. There is not even that pretension for d'Amboise -- he really seems to have despised the man.

#95 Jayne

Jayne

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 904 posts

Posted 25 April 2011 - 03:50 PM

Just after college, I spent a year as an admin assistant to a divorcing man in his early 50's, who was smitten with my predecessor in the position, a ravishing beauty, maybe 24 years old. He had promoted her to middle management -- far beyond what was appropriate for her experience. She wore an imperious attitude towards the rest of us. As you'd expect, the claws came out among the other female employees (who were not ravishingly beautiful, nor praised daily, nor promoted quickly).

The boss and never fully acted on his romantic intentions (although I did have to order flowers sent to her home quite often, she always denied he went beyond that). It finally ended when she got engaged to her old college sweetheart, and shortly afterwards, moved to a new city.

Sound familiar? There's no fool like an old fool.

#96 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 25 April 2011 - 04:31 PM

Garis* says that with Farrell and Mimi Paul who alternated between 1963 and 1968, the impact of the sheer size of their bodies, allowed him to read the roles they did differently, as if they were in large type, than he had with Verdy and Schorer.

This relates to an impression I had at the time. Farrell seemed to grow bigger after the move to the NY State Theater, developing amplitude, stagecraft, and ability to project to the rafters. In contrast, Hayden, who had once dominated the smaller City Center stage in a way that you had to see to believe, actually seemed reduced in in the new venue. I don't know why.

*And agreeing with Patrick about the superiority of Denby's clarity over the fussy Garis,

My impression, too. Denby began as an intellectual and a serious, thoughtful critic, even if he often often had to compress his thoughts into tiny newspaper reviews in the early days. He came across as confident and self-assured from the start. I love the fact that the earliest essay in Looking at the Dance, dating from 1943, bears the ambitious title: "How to Judge a Dancer".

For me, Garis reads more like a contemporary blogger. The "I" is an insistent presence, both as subject-matter and organizing principle. We follow him as he feels his way, exposing to the reader the process by which he tries to overcome his insecurities, struggles to to understand and refine his responses to what he was seeing on stage, and eventually emerges, to his own satisfaction, as a kind of expert on what Balanchine was all about.

Garis is, as you say, a good source of information about the activities of New York City Ballet. But mostly one learns about Garis, for better or worse.

#97 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,965 posts

Posted 25 April 2011 - 05:14 PM

Garis is, as you say, a good source of information about the activities of New York City Ballet. But, mostly, one learns about Garis.


Off topic (and I think we’ve covered this ground before elsewhere) - but speaking for myself I learned a good deal more than that from Garis. I think the book has invaluable insights and his final tribute to the NYCB of the past is most moving. I took the book to be both autobiography and artistic chronicle and enjoyed it as such.

Well here's another thing: perhaps d'Amboise was/is trying to defend someone who isn't here to defend himself anymore? That thought crossed my head -- that Farrell's story over the years has become the accepted story. Maybe d'Amboise felt as if she was not presenting things accurately, and in the process perhaps went too far in the other direction in making her seem manipulative? d'Amboise is also from a different era. Today Balanchine's actions towards Farrell would be considered sexual harassment.


Hmm. Interesting point, but it seems to me that in her own book, Farrell goes out of her way not to present Balanchine’s actions in a negative light. (She goes out of her way not to say anything bad about anybody, somewhat to the detriment of the book IMO.) She does talk about her occasional feelings of desperation, but never presents herself as his victim in any sense, certainly not in terms of sexual harassment. I would say that her book is in many respects a defense of Balanchine on all fronts – it’s their story as she sees it in retrospect, not necessarily as she saw it then. Even without the evidence of d’Amboise’s diaries it’s clear from interviews she gave at the time of her dismissal that she was upset with Balanchine, but there’s nothing of that in her book. No need to defend Balanchine from Farrell when she’s not attacking him.

I think you are right that d’Amboise wanted to draw attention to some of the other muses, particularly Adams who has not really received her due in some ways.

#98 Helene

Helene

    Administrator

  • Administrators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 11,476 posts

Posted 25 April 2011 - 06:01 PM

Hmm. Interesting point, but it seems to me that in her own book, Farrell goes out of her way not to present Balanchine’s actions in a negative light. (She goes out of her way not to say anything bad about anybody, somewhat to the detriment of the book IMO.) She does talk about her occasional feelings of desperation, but never presents herself as his victim in any sense, certainly not in terms of sexual harassment. I would say that her book is in many respects a defense of Balanchine on all fronts – it’s their story as she sees it in retrospect, not necessarily as she saw it then. Even without the evidence of d’Amboise’s diaries it’s clear from interviews she gave at the time of her dismissal that she was upset with Balanchine, but there’s nothing of that in her book.


She's never been apologetic about Balanchine's behavior or her own. Given how destructive the relationship between them was viewed by the people around them who were willing to speak, that must rankle the most. I've always ascribed this to her religious worldview, a refusal to have regrets and accepting things, at least eventually, as experience.

No need to defend Balanchine from Farrell when she’s not attacking him.

Sometimes the most damning evidence comes from those who are trying to protect someone or not show them in a bad light. Behavior shines right through.

#99 kfw

kfw

    Sapphire Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,400 posts

Posted 25 April 2011 - 06:37 PM

I don't think there was any love lost between Farrell and any of these ladies

I've just ordered the D'Amboise memoir tonight, my stack of unread or uncompletely read books being tall already. So perhaps he says something to back this up. But while it's evident from many other sources that Farrell provoked jealousy, I recall nothing that suggests she disliked her rivals.

#100 Quiggin

Quiggin

    Gold Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 852 posts

Posted 25 April 2011 - 07:12 PM

In our ongoing Kremlinology of City Ballet past–

Villella's memoir, which I looked at at the library this afternoon, is an interesting counterpoint to "I Was a Dancer." Both have good sections on Apollo, but Villella's book stays closer to the craft and construction of the dances than backstage stories. He describes Balanchine dancing the part of Apollo for him.

The first gesture of Apollo's variation, arms up and hands horizontal, is really fifth position high. In this one simple gesture of Apollo's Balanchine took fifth postion and extended it. Neoclassicism is exemplified by that single move!


Villella discusses some interesting points of difference between d'Amboise and himself:

Jacques was important to the Balanchine. He was a good dancer, an excellent partner, and he was tall. Once the season was announced, he would decide which roles he wanted to dance and usually got them for himself and Melissa Hayden, his regular partner. I didn't understand this. I thought Balanchine made all the major decisions about casting. I was naive...

Melissa Hayden wasn't in the inner circle. She was Canadian and had begun dancing in her teens, late for a dancer. She was fairly small with broad shoulders. She was not a traditional Balanchine ballerina...She survived through tenacity, passion and determination... I identified with her because I was always ignored by the company insiders... I was disappointed that I couldn't find an ally in the company, saddened that [behind the easy-going facade] Jacques, because he was so ambitious, was forced to act like an insecure, calculating person but that was the way he was... Our friendship cooled... Rumor had it he talked about me to Balanchine and Lincoln ...


And Garis points out that in the early days it was Farrell and Mimi Paul who were up for the same roles since they had similar body types.

#101 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,965 posts

Posted 25 April 2011 - 08:35 PM

I don't think there was any love lost between Farrell and any of these ladies

I've just ordered the D'Amboise memoir tonight, my stack of unread or uncompletely read books being tall already. So perhaps he says something to back this up. But while it's evident from many other sources that Farrell provoked jealousy, I recall nothing that suggests she disliked her rivals.


I don't, either. Kent does say in her book that Farrell was generally silent in the dressing room while they made up before performances, but there's no suggestion that it was personal.

#102 canbelto

canbelto

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,931 posts

Posted 25 April 2011 - 08:55 PM

Well from the "outsider" perspective I feel as if Balanchine was ultimately responsible for creating such an unhealthy climate in the company. He was the boss, and his obsession with Farrell was obviously destructive. Farrell however sees the relationship nowadays as a loving, productive one, and that's undoubtedly true as well. But when I read d'Amboise was writing the book there was a subtle but definite defense of the ballerinas Balanchine neglected once Farrell came into the picture, particularly his friend Melissa Hayden and LeClercq.

I agree that the book could have used an editor to give it less disjointed, jumpy feel. But I also do look how it seems to be written by d'Amboise himself, instead of ghost-written. The voice of d'Amboise is very obvious in this book, and that's something I feel is missing from many ghost-written books.

#103 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,965 posts

Posted 25 April 2011 - 09:03 PM

She's never been apologetic about Balanchine's behavior or her own. Given how destructive the relationship between them was viewed by the people around them who were willing to speak, that must rankle the most. I've always ascribed this to her religious worldview, a refusal to have regrets and accepting things, at least eventually, as experience.


I don't see that either Farrell or Balanchine did anything they had to make any public amends for. In her book she wrote movingly about their last talk on what happened between them in 1969. She said she thought he'd forgiven her for what she'd had to do and forgiven himself for things he couldn't help. Which seems fair enough.

(In addition, lest we forget, there was an artistic dimension to all this; it wasn't a simple matter of an old man's infatuation.)


Thanks for those quotes from Villella's book, Quiggin. That's what I was thinking of earlier when I commented that perhaps Villella had a point (about d'Amboise).

#104 Marga

Marga

    Platinum Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,022 posts

Posted 27 April 2011 - 07:44 PM

.... That's why when she was really dominating the atmosphere at NYCB in the late 60s, it was perfectly natural that she wouldn't exactly be 'loved' by her fellow dancers, there's always a trade-off.....


From "Holding On to the Air":

‎".... At one time I had perhaps ten cats. But she was my best friend [Bottom, her first cat]. We grew up together. She was the one I confided in when I didn't have any friends in the company. Next to God, this cat knew more about me than anybody.



#105 Neryssa

Neryssa

    Senior Member

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPip
  • 162 posts

Posted 28 April 2011 - 10:48 AM


Maybe I should add that there are often other names besides LeClercq's on many of those pages, as well.

Thank you for that. It doesn't surprise me...though I was hoping for a chapter! :beg:


I want a biography of LeClercq too. I thought she was the most sublime, enchanting dancer (not that I ever saw her perform) but I have always been fascinated by her dancing. When I was skimming the book by D'Amboise, I didn't see many references to her in the index.

How to post links properly? She is so beautiful dancing in La Valse: http://danceinteract...r=/genre/ballet


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):