Mark Dery

EDWARD GOREY, BALLETOMANE

23 posts in this topic

Hello, all. I've joined Ballet Alert!, with the kind permission of the moderators, to listen in on the richly informative discussions about ballet in general and the NYCB in specific but most immediately to post what's known in the scribbling trade as an Author's Call.

I'm writing a biography of the artist, writer, and legendary balletomane Edward Gorey for Little, Brown. (Details here: http://www.mediabist...iography_b20752)

Although I've read with fascination all of the Gorey-related discussion threads on this board, I did want to invite any members of this community who have a Gorey story to tell---whether you were a member of his intermission circle at the NYCB, a dancer he admired, or just someone who had a passing but memorable encounter with the man---to please consider contacting me via e-mail (markdery AT markdery DOT com) or via this site, if you'd prefer. If you're willing to share them, I'd love to hear your anecdotes and insights.

I've already interviewed former New Yorker dance critic Arlene Croce, choreographer Peter Anastos, and NYCB veterans Edward Villella, Patricia McBride, Daniel Levans, and Michael Vernon. Thus, anyone who decides to share his or her Gorey anecdotes with me will be in good company!

Thanks for taking the time to read this rather lengthy note. (I do hope I haven't violated any rules of etiquette by posting this Author's Call; if so, please let me know and I'll remove it, or post it wherever everyone thinks best.)

Yours sincerely, M. Dery

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Welcome to Ballet Alert! Mr. Dery. I look forward to reading your book when it is done.

For anyone who does not have Private Message (PM) access, if you would like to contact Mr. Dery, please send an email to the "Contact Us" link at the top of the page, and we'll forward your contact details to him.

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Another welcome from me! A number of us who attended the NY City Ballet remember Gorey as a regular feature in the lobby at the NY State Theater.

I just went to a lovely small exhibit of pen drawings, original editions, etc., etc., at the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach. It was the kind of exhibit that encouraged you to look closely, slowly, carefully at the amazing detailing, while also appreciating the whimsical, weirdly imaginative, often obsessive artistic vision that underlies and unifies everything.

As I type this, I can look up at the wall opposite and see a small reproduction of "Edward Gorey and the Floating Cats, " a composite of several Gorey drawings in which the cats actually do appear to be floating in a three-dimensional space. Right in front of me there is small stack of "The Lavender Leotard" books, purchased online from Edward Gorey House. (The museum was sold out.)

I've often wondered where this mysterious imagined world came from, so I am very much looking forward to your book. I hope that some of our members of Ballet Alert who were there at that incredible time in ballet history will contact you to share their memories.

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Many thanks, Helene and Bart for that gracious welcome. Here's hoping members of Ballet Alert! who remember EG through close encounters or friendship do come forward to share their insights and anecdotes with me, as you suggest. I'm happy to conduct interviews by e-mail or phone, whichever people prefer. The Norton show you mention, Bart, was Elegant Enigmas, the large-format, handsomely produced catalog for which I thoroughly recommend (http://www.norton.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=exhibitions.details&content_id=119). The accompanying essays are illuminating, and the images are, of course, extraordinary.

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What an interesting subject to write about. I, too, look forward to reading the final product, I loved the book of photos on his home, The Elephant House, and would love to read about the stories behind the mementos he kept and the people he met!

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Good luck with your project. I, too, look forward to reading your book

One small angle I might suggest is that you look into Mark Morris's ballet "Maelstrom," which he created for SanFrancisco Ballet in 1994, set to Beethoven's "Ghosts" Trio. it's a wonderful ballet, set to music which has several haunting, almost spooky passages, for which Morris had the dancers make suddent drastic changes of posture, almost plunging into the new statuesque positions. Many of us saw imagery in it, and the attack, reminiscent of Gorey's intro cartoon to the PBS "Mystery" series.

Union rules prevent SFB from showing video clips of any significant length -- but they must have archival copies that a biographer could view -- and perhaps for New Yorkers, there's maybe a copy at MM HQ inBrooklyn.

If you live in NYC, you might be able to see

it is a wonderful, WONDERFUL ballet, one of his best, long over due for revival; indeed, it should be I think much more widely known; The [arguably] Goreyesque moments are only a small part of it -- but they're memorable to me, and crucial to its overall atmosphere.

the MMDC website has this photo available: http://markmorrisdancegroup.org/resources/photo_gallery/63 -- I do not knw if it would be helpful; other images which you'd have to view the video to see are more "Goreyesque."

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Welcome, Mark Dery. Can't wait to read your book when it comes out. I don't have a 'Gorey story' to relate, but I remember reading somewhere (Terry Teachout's book on Balanchine, I think) that Edward Gorey never missed a performance of NYCB. You may wish to contact Mr Teachout, if you haven't already done so. Happy writing....

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Thanks, Albany Girl. Teachout is right: Gorey's balletomania was legendary, the stuff of true obsession. In 30 years of going to the ballet, he claimed not to have missed a single performance. Shortly after Mr. B died in 1983, Gorey---in what one critic wittily called "an act of aestheticism worthy of Oscar Wilde"---moved to the Cape, where he had always summered, for good. Without Balanchine, Gorey reasoned, New York's meager charms (he'd never really liked the place) had little hold on him.

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What an interesting subject to write about. I, too, look forward to reading the final product, I loved the book of photos on his home, The Elephant House, and would love to read about the stories behind the mementos he kept and the people he met!

Kind of you to say, thanks. Yes, the McDermott book is superb: the photos are moody studies of Gorey's house, shot within a week or so of his death, and the accompanying text (by the photographer, who had acted in Gorey's plays---"entertainments," he called them) is thoughtful, at times sharply insightful.

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Good luck with your project. I, too, look forward to reading your book

One small angle I might suggest is that you look into Mark Morris's ballet "Maelstrom," which he created for SanFrancisco Ballet in 1994, set to Beethoven's "Ghosts" Trio. it's a wonderful ballet, set to music which has several haunting, almost spooky passages, for which Morris had the dancers make suddent drastic changes of posture, almost plunging into the new statuesque positions. Many of us saw imagery in it, and the attack, reminiscent of Gorey's intro cartoon to the PBS "Mystery" series.

Union rules prevent SFB from showing video clips of any significant length -- but they must have archival copies that a biographer could view -- and perhaps for New Yorkers, there's maybe a copy at MM HQ inBrooklyn.

If you live in NYC, you might be able to see

it is a wonderful, WONDERFUL ballet, one of his best, long over due for revival; indeed, it should be I think much more widely known; The [arguably] Goreyesque moments are only a small part of it -- but they're memorable to me, and crucial to its overall atmosphere.

the MMDC website has this photo available: http://markmorrisdan...hoto_gallery/63 -- I do not knw if it would be helpful; other images which you'd have to view the video to see are more "Goreyesque."

Marvelous; many thanks for that. I'll run it to ground. In an odd coincidence, I wrote about Morris's "Hard Nut" (his screwloose, New Wave take on The Nutcracker), for ELLE magazine, of all places, back in---what? The '90s? If memory serves, the set design was by the determinedly grotesque graphic-novel artist Charles Burns.

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Thanks, Albany Girl. Teachout is right: Gorey's balletomania was legendary, the stuff of true obsession. In 30 years of going to the ballet, he claimed not to have missed a single performance. Shortly after Mr. B died in 1983, Gorey---in what one critic wittily called "an act of aestheticism worthy of Oscar Wilde"---moved to the Cape, where he had always summered, for good. Without Balanchine, Gorey reasoned, New York's meager charms (he'd never really liked the place) had little hold on him.

So interesting, Mark Dery. Well, if NYCB suddenly closed shop, I'd be devastated forever, but the Big Apple does hold a number of not-so-meager charms for me, nonetheless. One the loss of NYCB note, we here in upstate NY, regrettably, may be experiencing a reduction and perhaps an eventual loss of NYCB at Saratoga Performing Art Center after a 47 year summer residency.... I fervently hope not and hope they can straighten out those financial impediments they have experienced.

Back to Mr Gorey, I just love his work Being a balletomane myself, as well as a lover of cats (my husband and I own 5smilie_mondieu.gif - all supremely content and complacent), Herr Blutig is indeed a man after my own heart! I attended a matinee performance of NYCB yesterday, which was lovely (I'll post about that at a later time this week), wherein I acquired from the Met Opera shop a silver Gorey ballerina pin - she's lovely! Have a nice day.

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How awful about the loss of NYCB at Saratoga!

Good evening, Mr. Dery. Well, it's not a loss yet. SPAC says NYCB will be back next summer for one week and pledges to resume the two-week schedule in 2014, but I don't know. It surely doesn't look rosy. I've seen that company at SPAC for 33 of it's 47-year residency and I've noticed the crowds getting thinner. It's such a shame. There are people who live up here and have never gone to a performance! I routinely sing the Ballet's praises and encourage people to go to a performance. Opening night was really bittersweet because the news had already been announced a day or so before and Peter Martins opened the season with a few words and he seemed really sad. Such is the state of art now.

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Just for fun: I recently discovered two photographs of Gorey I thought would be of interest to devotees of the NYCB, or Gorey, or both (and how can anyone here not be both? ;>).

One is purportedly a Dance magazine snap of Gorey in the State theater http://25.media.tumb...kwdwto1_400.jpg; the other, from The World of Lincoln Kirstein, captures Gorey at a rehearsal http://books.google....anchine&f=false.

If anyone has any inside information on either, I'm all ears.

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Thank you, Mr. Dery. I have a question for you. Do you know who Mr Gorey's favorite ballerinas were back then when he was attending NYCB on a (very) regular basis?

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AlbanyGirl:

See posts #61-#63 in "Remembering Patricia McBride." If you want to delve deeper, see Gorey's remarks on the subject in the ballet-related interviews, especially Tobi Tobias's for Dance magazine (I believe it's Dance) in Ascending Peculiarity, a collection of interviews with Gorey.

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Wouldn't it have been an extraordinary privilege to be sitting in one of those chairs with Balanchine, Danilova, and all those others? It's interesting how much Leo Lerman and Gorey look alike, superficially, in this photo. I wonder how many "Gorey sightings" around Lincoln Center might actually have been "Lerman sightings."

For those who don't have access to Ascending Peculiarity: Edward Gorey on Edward Gorey, here the the answer to AlbanyGirl's question as regards to "favorite ballerina." The year is 1974.

... currently, Patty McBride is surely the greatest dancer in the world. Of course, my favorite dancer of all times is Diana Adams. ... If I had to name the single greatest performance I ever saw, I'd say sit was Diana rehearsing Swan Lake. She had no make-up on and a ratty old whtatever dancers rehearse in, and she was chewing gum, and she walked through half of it, but it suddenly had all the qualities ...She was the kind of person who could extend herself on stage; her dancing made evereyone else's look great..

Allegra Kent's Sugar Plum Fairy moved Gorey to tears on at least one occasion.

She has this incredible kind of fragility and an uncanny ability to make the choreography meaningful. But she doesn't always work the way she should, I am afraid.

Gorey loved Farrell ... at first ...

And then she developed that repertoire of mannerisms. Of course, technically she could do anything, but she was often extraordinarily opaque about getting the meaning of the choreograph across. Too bad she's off in Bejart, doing her penches into eternity. You know, I've always believed that the dancers who came off luckiest with Balanchine were the ones he was not totally obsessed with.

A lot of people agreed with him on all these points.

Gorey claims to have watched the Balanchine Swan Lake (Act II and IV) over a hundred times. I can believe it. Swan Lake was performed very, very frequently.. My second-favorite cartoon in The Lavender Leotard shows two children looking at those long lists convering an entire NYCB season. "There are twenty-seven Swan Lakes this season, but only twenty-one Firebirds." Very true, for certain years.

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Thanks so much for posting, Bart; wonderful stuff. And your comments frame Gorey's in an illuminating way.

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I haven't been on in several days - Thank you, Mark, for pointing me in the direction of Gorey's interviews.

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And thank you, Bart, for your comments. I think Diana Adams had the most beautiful legs - that photo of her in arabesque (or was it attitude) where Stravinsky said her legs looked like the Soligen scissors ad or something like that (my library is way upstairs and my cat Ollie is sitting on my lap, otherwise I'd go upstairs and check my source, which I believe is Taper's bio of Mr B.) I saw alot of Patricia McBride at SPAC and she was just wonderful. She was my first Titania. I never saw Allegra dance (too young),but I think her vulnerability is always apparent in her dancing when I look at video clips and photos).

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Mr. Dery, thank you for the link to the biography of Mr. Kirstein and the fabulous photos. I noticed what I think is an error in Duberman's text. On page 611 or 612 there is a description of the wonderful celebration for Mr. Kirstein's 80th birthday. Duberman states that it opened with the orchestra playing "Swan Lake. My memory is that they opened with the Overture from "Sleeping Beauty, which was Peter Martins' way of telling us all that the Company was going to produce that ballet.

Any one else remember???

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