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Is the Tudor Repertory Dead?

Is the Tudor Repertory Dead?   13 members have voted

  1. 1. Is the Tudor Repertory Dead?

    • Yes, it is dead as a doornail.
      0
    • No, but it is on life support.
      5
    • No, it is just experiencing a temporary lull.
      8

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41 posts in this topic

That reminds me of another Kirkland/Tudor anecdote I heard long ago and I wonder if anybody can confirm it. Tudor choreographed the solo at the very end of Turning Point (under the closing credits) specifically for Kirkland. When he learned she had dropped out of the film and would be replaced by Leslie Browne, he insisted that his name be taken off the credits. (I've also wondered if he wanted the choreography dropped, too, but wasn't allowed to under his contract with the filmmakers.)

I do want to make a correction just passed along in a private message. Ashton choreographed the final solo for Browne and he is named in the credits. It was a very long time ago, but I have this memory of a choreographer balking when Kirkland was replaced (which was about August 1976). Perhaps Tudor dropped out entirely and Ashton replaced him? That final solo was the only newly choreographed work in the entire movie. (Even the contemporary piece at the "Gala" for Browne's character was actually an excerpt from an old Ailey piece, as I remember, but in any event, it was something previously choreographed.)

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Tudor, though, was affiliated with a different kind of company that dropped the ball on his legacy and the majority of whose rep is full-length classics of varying worth.

This, to me, is the root problem. ABT should be the "keeper of the flame" and likes to maintain that it is. But, as Helene rightly notes, the kind of company it is (multi-act story ballets) and the kind of venues it plays (largely opera houses) aren't a good fit for large swaths of the Tudor repertory. So, even if Kevin McKenzie (and Mikhail Baryshnikov before him) were more committed to Tudor than I believe they truly are and were, there are only so many opportunities for ABT to display their Tudor heritage to full advantage. The City Center season would be perfect but that is now less than a week in length; hardly sufficient to keep numerous Tudor works in rotation.

And speaking of Tudor works, I've given up all hope of ever seeing his complete Romeo and Juliet again. It's been 35 years since ABT last performed it with no of glimpse of a revival on the horizon. Thanks a lot Mr. McKenzie and Mr. Baryshnikov! (And, please, don't tell me about the cost of reviving it. If ABT could find the money for The Pied Piper and The Picture of Dorian Gray and the George Harrison tribute and the McKenzie/Kirkland Sleeping Beauty and the here-today, gone-tomorrow Wheeldons, Millipieds, etc., they could have found the money to revive Tudor's Romeo and Juliet.)

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Jerome Robbins wasn't always sweetness and light or picnic in the studio, either.

Exactly. I don't think the real problem is that Tudor was a monster in the studio. So were Robbins and Martha Graham, and there are plenty of people who suffered abuse at their hands but are still willing to keep their works alive (successfully in the case of Robbins and not so successfully in the case of Graham.)

To me, the real problem (in addition to the current mismatch between ABT as it exists now and the Tudor repertory) is time. It takes time for a dancer to fully absorb a Tudor role and most companies just aren't that interested in devoting the necessary time for this. (One reads stories of Tudor coaching Nora Kaye for months and months before a debut or spending an entire rehearsal session focusing on one specific thing. He got the effects he wanted but how many companies can sustain that kind of time commitment when it comes to coaching?)

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Jerome Robbins wasn't always sweetness and light or picnic in the studio, either.

True but he was part of NYCB - A different animal. Balanchine was there and wanted Robbins there. The ballets became part of the rep, identity and history of the company. ABT has a different idea of their identity and history.

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Leslie Browne's gala piece was the "Vortex" solo from "The River,"

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I would venture to say that Kaye or Wilson would have been infinitely preferable in every way for any staging of his ballets. (sadly, of course, they are gone...)

Just for the sake of asking, what are your thoughts on John Gardner and Amanda McKerrow?

Here is a link to an interview with them while they were staging Lilac Garden in OkC.

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Gardner and McKerrow danced the PDD from "Leaves" on a VHS tape "ABT Now" that started with the big group number from the last act of "Sleeping Beauty" and an intro by Makarova. It had the various performances, with interviews of dancers in between.

From the interview with McKerrow, it sounded like Tudor coached them both in the roles -- confirmed by the interview in the link you provided, Levi -- and she sounded like she had a great deal of respect for him. My first thought about the seeming dearth of Tudor stagers was "What about McKerrow?" and it's good to know she and Gardner are working for the Trust.

Many thanks for the link!

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Yes, thank you, levi, for that very interesting link. You make me want to have another look at the ABT video of Mckerrow and Gardner in the pdd Helene mentions.

I was especially impressed by a couple of points that relate to Tudor's thoughts about dancing his choreography, and his method of handling dancers to push them to where he wanted to be.

-- McKerrow: when very new to ABT, he called her out of the corps during a work session and made her repeat a difficult step many times. Finally she broke: "this is too difficult." At that point he felt she had "gotten" something and allowed her to go to the back of the room to practice. The lesson she derived: Tudor didn't want you to try to "smooth over" a step that seemed difficult or awkward, but to work through it and (not sure if this is what she actually meant) make it your own.

-- Gardner:

He discovered things in your work that you were just pretending and not being really present in the work.
At that point, Tudor "pushed through your point of resistance."

Interesting. Tudor (as other ABT dancers warned the young McKerrow) was clearly a difficult man for many people to work with. There were those dancers who either just survived, or learned the knack, or were temperamentally suited to learn in this way. These are the dancers Tudor seemed to have appreciated and wanted to work with.

A thought: One of the virtues of projects like Oklahoma City's is that it gets people thinking about Tudor. Some of us have mentioned what we see as a slackening in recent performances (as compared to Tudor's own glory days). This is not necessarily a bad thing. The whole process may help us to refocus on what Tudor in performance was like in the glory days and to find ways -- and people -- to push us back in that direction.

Sincere thanks to McKerrow and Gardner (both looking and sounding very fine indeed). And good luck to all at Oklahoma City Ballet.

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I have seen the following Anthony Tudor ballets and have been an admirer of the best of his creations over the last forty years and have particularly been moved by performances of the following works:-

Dark Elegies,

Echoing of Trumpets

Knight Errant

Lilac Garden

Pillar of Fire

Shadow Play

The Leaves are Falling

Tudor's dance works, seem to undoubtedly find more more appeal with the introspective members of an audience especially when it is a dance audience brought up on academic classical ballet.

Anthony Tudor (born William Cook)in his ballets often reflects the emptiness that the “Economic Depression” following World War One which had left upon many of his generation, which he in turn, employed in his psychological ballets that pre-empted his social detachment from a number of areas of life.

Born 1909 into a fairly humble working class background, his father was a butcher and he found himself in 1924 working in Smithfield meat market as clerk amongst the daily sight of bloody carcasses of thousands of dead animals. He would in later life became a Buddhist as Ms Judith Mackrell recalls(see below).

There were dark phases of his childhood in London which were coloured by the economic depression that immediately followed the end of the 1914-18 war. Seeing men who had returned from the “War” who were depressed by unemployment and humiliated by the Poor Law which Tudor in the East End of London would certainly have witnessed.

He would have also known of or witnessed the hunger marches from Scotland and the North in the early 1920's as the global economy began to decline and inflation was rampant and the economy was depressed by 25% between 1918 and 1921 and did not recover until the end of the Great Depression in 1930.

It appears that Tudor grew up as a rather isolated person perhaps due perhaps to his latent (or otherwise) homosexuality in that rough, tough, milieu that he inhabited.

Having tyically left school aged 15 he must have found interests beyond his home background as at 19, he saw Anna Pavlova(or was it Lifar in “Apollon Musagete) dance and decided that this was the career he really wanted.

He maintained his employment from early morning to early afternoon in the raucus and noisy atmosphere of Smithfield Market and went to study with Marie Rambert in her evening classes following an interview with Cyril Beaumont who had recommended her.

He found himself with two lives as far apart as one could imagine. Tudor's keen observation of human nature and his somewhat isolated approach to life, made him an observer of types which he would later integrate into his choreography.

I saw him in London and Edinburgh Theatres on a number of ocassions and both he and Hugh Laing seemed to glide in another worldly atmosphere detached from those around them.

I noticed that often when Tudor was acosted, there was rarely a glimmer of a smile as he spoke.

On reflection it seems to me that it was in his detachment that his keen observation had been developed.

His ongoing interest and then devotion to Buddhism seemed to perfectly suit the somewhat distant disciplined aesthetic person he appeared to have become.

This distancing could become intimidating as a number of dancers have recorded.

I am sure that a number of his ballets will continue to be performed and admired for a long time yet.

Judith Mackrell, wrote the following about Anthony Tudor in 2004.

http://www.guardian....rghfestival2004

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A ray of light: PNB dancer Margaret Mullin -- a phenomenally talented young dancer -- is choreographing a work for the upcoming "All Premiere" program, and this is what she said in the PNB blog (scroll to "All Premiere Insights: Margaret Mullin, Lost in Light choreographer"):

Are there choreographers you particularly respect or find inspiring?

I've really been feeling that this work is an homage to Antony Tudor, so that's been my focus. He's such an emotional choreographer; his work has such sensitivity to it, without always needing or using a strong narrative. I did my first Tudor ballet when I was still in high school. It's the most graceful I've ever felt as a dancer. I sometimes feel that Tudor's choreographic language has been lost in recent years and for me this is one opportunity to bring it back. His aesthetic holds a large dose of humanity, which is tremendously important to me as a choreographer, and is a reminder of how glorious it can be to be a ballet dancer. I hope my work will allow the dancers in my own ballet to feel their most beautiful, as Mr. Tudor's work did for me. ...

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A ray of light: PNB dancer Margaret Mullin -- a phenomenally talented young dancer -- is choreographing a work for the upcoming "All Premiere" program, and this is what she said in the PNB blog (scroll to "All Premiere Insights: Margaret Mullin, Lost in Light choreographer"):

Well this is really cheerful information! I wonder what Tudor she's performed.

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It is indeed "cheerful information"! It would be such a loss if the Tudor legacy disappeared. He is more subtle than most choreographers, and that is a challenge for the dancers and the viewers alike (and for the companies that present his work), but so worth it when they meet that challenge.

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I think you need to bring a certain amount of life experience to appreciate some of the Tudor repertoire. Years ago, after I had recently lost someone in a community disaster, I saw a performance of Dark Elegies that brought me to tears. There was also what I saw as a shamelessly vulgar hard sell performance of DQ pdd. with long balances ignoring the music etc.

The next morning in the dressingroom for a mixed professional class, I overheard a teenage dancer raving to her friend about the fabulous performance by ----- in DQ. "and they did this boring ballet in ugly costumes by Antony Tudor."

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One hopes it is not dead! I have seen a brief video clip of Echoing of Trumpets, showing a truly unique and sophisticated artist. Very rare.

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Thanks for your post, Daniel -- and for reviving this thread. I liked "Echoing of Trumpets" very much, though I can't remember which company I saw dance it.

Yes, a truly unique and sophisticated artist.

Edited by Alexandra
To correct a possible inaccuracy

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