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BALLETS: USA Robbins's AFTERNOON OF A FAUN1961 publicity photo with Kay Mazzo and John Jones


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#1 rg

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 11:10 AM

scan of a publicity photo of Robbins's FAUN from '61 - which was the final tour of Ballets: USA (see much data in Deborah Jowitt's JEROME ROBBINS; HIS LIFE, HIS THEATER, HIS DANCE) when then-NYCB-apprentice Kay Mazzo was 15 years old and dancing the ballet opposite John Jones.
colleague David Vaughan has written me to note that Jones is among the small number of dancers to have danced both Nijinsky's and Robbins's versions of FAUN(E); DV elaborted that Jones danced Nijinsky's version in a staging by Antony Tudor, which he did in Philadelphia when he was also creating his OFFENBACH IN THE UNDERWORLD.

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#2 mira

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 12:11 PM

This photo is wonderful - thanks for sharing it. I've never seen a photo of Kay so young - how lovely!

#3 bart

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Posted 25 July 2011 - 02:45 PM

An inspiring bit of ballet history. :clapping: Thanks, rg. Makes me think, inevitably, of Arthur Mitchell and those early days when ballet masters were just beginning to think of casting dancers without regard to "race." Mitchell got to dance the Faun a few years later at NYCB. Could Mazzo have been one of his partners then?

There's another photo of Jones and Mazzo (by Martha Swope) on p. 273 of Marsha Siegel's The Shapes of Chanage: Images of American Dance. It's included in the Google Books edition:

http://books.google......faun"&f=false

A brief Googling turned up the following reference to another African American dancer who danced Faun even earlier: Louis Johnson. From "Andros on Ballet"

Louis Johnson was one of the few African Americans to squeeze through the barricade, dancing in Jerome Robbins' "Ballade" with the New York City Ballet.

[ ... ]
Jerome Robbins used Louis Johnson in the premiere of "Ballade." Robbins also used Louis to create the role in "Afternoon of a Faun," but because Louis was black he was not allowed to dance the role. In 1953 George Balanchine didn't think New York City Ballet was ready for a racially mixed pas de deux.

http://michaelminn.n.../johnson_louis/

Jerome Robbins, quoted in Reynolds, Repertory in Review. After telling the story about watching a very young Edward Villella stretching his body during a class, Robbins says:

And I thought how animalistic it was ... he didn't know what he was doing, and that sort of stuck in my head. At another time I walked into a rehearsal studio where Louis Johnson was practicing the Swan Lake adagio with a student girl, and they were watching themselves in a mirror, and I was struck by the way they were watching that couple over there doing a love dance and totally unaware of the proximity and possible sexuality of their physical encounters. And that was curious to me. The combination of all those things ..... sort of stuck in my head. And then I started.

(Johnson was at NYCB in 1952 as a guest, dancing for the premiere of Robbins' Ballade.)

A few years later, Mitchell danced an equally sensual pas de deux with Diana Adams in a different ballet: Agon. I can still recall the exhilaration at the City Center during the curtain calls -- for the artistry but also for the casting. Is it possible to imagine that Balanchine was making some kind of amends for his earlier resistance to casting a mixed-race couple in a sensual pas de deux? And was Robbins doing something similar when he cast Jones and Mazzo in Faun?

Surely this story represents one of the great turning points in American dance.

#4 tomstone

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Posted 26 July 2011 - 08:14 AM

I'm surprised no one has mentioned the even more striking pairing of Johnny Jones with Wilma Curley and her sensuous long blond hair...

#5 rg

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Posted 27 July 2011 - 08:44 AM

i suppose, tomstone, that no one has mentioned the pairing you note because no one has the rich and 'direct' store info. that you apparently have about Ballets: USA, but now that you've noted it here, it's good to learn.
f.y.i. the scanned photo of Mazzo and Jones is from my collection and is posted as such, that is, as a random picture. had i one of Curley and/or any other Ballets: USA dancers that i thought of interest to Ballet Alert! members, i'd have posted it, gladly.
if you have links to data related to the somewhat short-lived co. overseen by Robbins, i suspect any number of members of this board would be 'all eyes.'

#6 atm711

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Posted 27 July 2011 - 11:48 AM

I would love to see ANY photos of Wilma Curley :)

#7 tomstone

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Posted 27 July 2011 - 03:00 PM

Just a quick note for now. I was the assistant stage manager for the company's European tour in 1959 aand its PSM in 1961. Unfortunately, I lost all my journals and photos in a basement flood where I had them stored. The first rehearsal I saw of "Faun" was with Jay Norman and Wilma. Later (don't remember when, perhaps the '61 tour, Johnny and Wilma began doing it, and Kay and Johnny. I'm not clear if Johnny and Wilma did it in the US, but I have a vague memory about it being an "issue". Since I later spent 22 years living in Greece, I lost touch with almost everyone. Perhaps someone out there can augment my story -- and come up with a photo!

#8 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 27 July 2011 - 06:11 PM

I did a little "Googling" and came up with some sad news about Ms. Curley (that some of you may know):

Wilma Curley, 62, Ballet and Broadway Dancer, By JENNIFER DUNNING (Published: October 23, 1999)
Wilma Curley, a ballet and Broadway dancer who became noted for restaging works by Jerome Robbins, died on Oct. 16 at St. Luke's Hospital in Manhattan. She was 62 and lived in Manhattan.

The cause was liver failure, said the dancer Christian Holder, a friend.


Here is a link to the obit in the Times.

#9 kfw

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Posted 28 July 2011 - 03:35 AM

I've never heard of Wilma Curley, but Google Images has. Here she is with Jay Norman in Afternoon of a Faun. And if Google is correct, here she is in The Concert. Closing the pop-up image for Faun and clicking on the image again makes it larger.

#10 bart

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Posted 28 July 2011 - 05:28 AM

Curley's name was new to me, too. It shouldn't be. According to the Times obituary, she danced at NYCB from 1944 to 1957. She is not included in Repertory in Review's list of dancers who performed in Faun for NYCB during this period, when the role tended to go to principals or upwardly-mobile soloists. Maybe Robbins' choice of Curly for the Ballets USA performances was a way of making up for not having been given a chance to dance it at NYCB.

I was struck by the statement that she was :

.... one of Robbins' favorite dancers.

and that she

... helped the choreographer with revivals of his dances and later became known herself for restaging his ballets for companies that included American Ballet Theater, City Ballet and the Joffrey Ballet. Ms. Curley was best known for her stylish, vibrant stagings of ''New York Export: Op. Jazz.''

Concerning Opus Jazz, Deborah Jowitt's biography of Robbins includes the following:

"Passage for Two" was originally performed by a black man and a white woman ([John] Jones and Wilma Curley), and that casting subtly emphasized the discomforts and tensions that would plague an interracial relationship in the fifties. The two size each other up an edge into a pas de deux in which sensuality and wariness merge. When, kneeling, he slides his face up her body, she arches in response. But they rarely look at each other, and sometimes it seems as if they're trying -- and failing -- to fit their bodies together. Toward the end, she wraps one leg backward around him and grabs her foot, ensnaring him; the snare alters as he lifts her to his shoulder, but he remains within it until she reclines precariously (no hands) at a slant on his back. The exit in opposite directions. p. 302

"They rarely look at each other." "They exit in opposite directions." With a lot of sensual choreography in between. Reminds me of Afternoon of a Faun.

#11 tomstone

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Posted 28 July 2011 - 07:25 AM

Sad news about Wilma. She was such a life force! I was also going to mention the pairing of her and Johnny Jones in "Opus Jazz," but I wasn't sure if I was remembering correctly, because I think she was also paired with Jay Norman in that same duet. Also, I'm not sure which pairing was used when he did it at the White House for JFK in '62. I have to get out my books!

#12 atm711

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Posted 28 July 2011 - 01:00 PM

Bart, I doubt Wilma was in NYCB in 1944---she was probably only 4 or 5 years old then. I wrote about Wilma on my blog, and I think it will explain why she did so well with Robbins.

#13 rg

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Posted 28 July 2011 - 03:29 PM

when i saw the '44 ref. i just assumed it was a slip in keyboarding - for '54 - Bart knows NYCB wasn't started until '48, i'm sure.
now is see the typo was first made in the NYT; i suppose there may have been a correction eventually.

#14 bart

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Posted 29 July 2011 - 11:03 AM

rg, you're right. I just rechecked the Times piece. I does say 1944. (You mean you CAN'T believe everything you read in the Times??) I didn't really question it except for the passing thought that it seemed strange for a corps member to have such a long run with NYCB, with so little mention in the historical sources for the early period. Glad for the correction. Thanks atm711.

I suspect that this was a typo for 1954. The Repertory Index for NYCB includes three premieres for which Curley is listed: Robbins's The Concert (1956) and NY Export: Opus Jazz (1958); and Todd Bolender's Souvenirs (1955).

Here's a link to atm711's blog post on Curley.:
http://balletalert.i...8-wilma-curley/

And a quote from member glebb, on an earlier thread about the filming of NY Export: Opus Jazz.

... I fell madly in love with this ballet in the 70s watching the Joffrey. I even got to learn it but knew I would never be right for it. What an honor to work with Wilma Curly!



#15 rg

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Posted 10 August 2011 - 08:49 AM

scans of program pages noting a stop on a 1958 BALLETS: U.S.A. tour to St. Louis in October.
no illustrations other than the intriguing one of Sharaff's design for a musician from Robbins' "3 X 3" which was first shown in September, in New York City, before being taken on this U.S. tour.

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