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New Book about an NYCB corps member-- and Jerome RobbinsThe Cage by Barbara Bocher


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#16 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 02:40 PM

Well, from everything I know about Balanchine his sense of propriety was overwhelming and one of the things that he allowed Robbins to do was to pick the dancers Robbins wanted, and to give Robbins free rein in terms of rehearsal space and time.

Some dancers claimed to like Robbins' extremely, uh, demanding approach to creating works. They said it brought out the best in them. Others obviously couldn't take it, and there's a story of a cast hating him so much they let him fall into the orchestra pit once by accident without warning him he was about to fall over.

That story is about a Bway show in rehearsal, and I believe it was "Fiddler on The Roof," which was years and years after his start with NYCB. I've heard it many times, including from people who were there.

#17 kbarber

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Posted 03 January 2013 - 03:59 PM


Well, from everything I know about Balanchine his sense of propriety was overwhelming and one of the things that he allowed Robbins to do was to pick the dancers Robbins wanted, and to give Robbins free rein in terms of rehearsal space and time.

Some dancers claimed to like Robbins' extremely, uh, demanding approach to creating works. They said it brought out the best in them. Others obviously couldn't take it, and there's a story of a cast hating him so much they let him fall into the orchestra pit once by accident without warning him he was about to fall over.

That story is about a Bway show in rehearsal, and I believe it was "Fiddler on The Roof," which was years and years after his start with NYCB. I've heard it many times, including from people who were there.


It was "Billion Dollar Baby" in 1945.

#18 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 05:24 AM



Well, from everything I know about Balanchine his sense of propriety was overwhelming and one of the things that he allowed Robbins to do was to pick the dancers Robbins wanted, and to give Robbins free rein in terms of rehearsal space and time.

Some dancers claimed to like Robbins' extremely, uh, demanding approach to creating works. They said it brought out the best in them. Others obviously couldn't take it, and there's a story of a cast hating him so much they let him fall into the orchestra pit once by accident without warning him he was about to fall over.

That story is about a Bway show in rehearsal, and I believe it was "Fiddler on The Roof," which was years and years after his start with NYCB. I've heard it many times, including from people who were there.


It was "Billion Dollar Baby" in 1945.


I emailed the daughter of the stage manager who was there at the time and she said "It was West Side Story."

#19 kbarber

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 05:32 AM

I emailed the daughter of the stage manager who was there at the time and she said "It was West Side Story."


The Billion Dollar Baby info is in Amanda Vaill's recent bio of Robbins., p. 124
"the story of his fall became a legend that would follow him for the rest of his career, attached to whatever show (or ballet) the teller had some connection with"

#20 ViolinConcerto

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 05:37 AM

The Billion Dollar Baby info is in Amanda Vaill's recent bio of Robbins., p. 124
"the story of his fall became a legend that would follow him for the rest of his career, attached to whatever show (or ballet) the teller had some connection with"


Just goes to show how much animosity people carried with them about his treatment... Amanda Vail is to be trusted!

#21 atm711

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 08:18 AM

I remember that period so well--she left ballet in 1954 and I left in 1951---for the same reason--marriage. when I read the excerpts of the book on Amazon I couldn't wait to get my copy. She writes of people I knew at the time, particularly Brendan Fitzgerald (born O'Flanagan). She describes him so well--it is the Brendan I knew. I am only a quarter through the book and it keeps calling me to read on....I have recently been engrossed with the new biography of JPKennedy but I have put it aside.....I wishj I could contact her....

#22 Neryssa

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 12:45 PM

atm711: Bocher lives in Santa Barbara, doesn't she? I think you could find her address from the NYC Ballet Alumni office - if she has been updating her address with them. I love reading about this period of the New York City Ballet. Bocher finally reveals how she escaped from the locked bathroom during that infamous performance of Symphony in C during one of the NYC Ballet tours in Europe.

#23 Helene

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 01:02 PM

For those with Kindles (any generation) and amazon Prime memberships, you can "borrow" the book on your Kindle for free from the Kindle Lending library. (From your Kindle, go to "Kindle Store" from the main menu, and under "Browse," select "See all categories." From the new menu, slect "Kindle Owners' Lending Library.")

If you search on "The Cage," you'll get several hundred options. A search on "dancing for jerome robbins" should bring you right to the book.

#24 dirac

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 03:14 PM

I remember that period so well--she left ballet in 1954 and I left in 1951---for the same reason--marriage. when I read the excerpts of the book on Amazon I couldn't wait to get my copy. She writes of people I knew at the time, particularly Brendan Fitzgerald (born O'Flanagan). She describes him so well--it is the Brendan I knew. I am only a quarter through the book and it keeps calling me to read on....I have recently been engrossed with the new biography of JPKennedy but I have put it aside.....I wishj I could contact her....


Thanks, atm711, this is good to know. (I'm reading the new bio as well - haven't gotten to the book under discussion yet.)

#25 Helene

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Posted 04 January 2013 - 03:34 PM

If anyone has a way to contact Ms. Bocher but doesn't want to publish the info widely and doesn't have PM access, if you email us at the "Contact Us" link at the top of the page, we'd be happy to forward your contact info to atm711. (Only three of us have access to the mail received at "Contact Us.")

#26 Neryssa

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Posted 07 January 2013 - 11:46 AM

FYI: One can easily find Barbara Bocher's work address in the epilogue of her book.

#27 dirac

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Posted 26 January 2013 - 04:47 PM

I think it is a pathetic and archaic notion to think that a choreographer or artist in general must be a screaming maniac in order to choreograph, paint or compose. Robbins abused his authority; it is as simple as that. It should not have mattered that Bocher was young, sheltered or not able to tough it out. I think it's sad that many people still think Robbins' behavior was acceptable or justifiable in the name of his art.


Nowadays "are you tough enough to take it" wouldn't be an issue because it would be harder for Robbins to get away with the worst of his abuses. I tend to dislike the use of such terms as "toughing it out" in this context because it implies that dancers or other subordinates unwilling to take abuse or coming forward to complain about it are lacking in intestinal fortitude.

In the PBS documentary you didn't find most of the interviewees, whether from Broadway or ballet, saying his behavior was all right or an artist's prerogative. I think the summary from many was that "he was awful but he was worth it."

#28 Helene

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Posted 06 May 2014 - 03:21 PM

I just got to this and consumed it over two days.  The writing style was a bit overblown, but I found it energetic and engrossing, and the people she writes about spring to life vividly.   What was impressive is that in a career that lasted from when she was 14 to 18, she was immensely curious and took advantage of all of the culture around her when the company was on tour, whether she was followed by a chaperone or was out on her own navigating Italy without speaking the language.  She was no bun head. 
 
I wonder what would have happened had she taken the opportunity to dance at La Scala instead of returning to NYC.  That seemed to be the experience that changed her views about Balanchine's choreography and the way dancers were treated.
 
In addition to the abuse she suffered by Robbins, she also describes how he intimidated her into spending many hours after hours in the studio, including teaching him the monster choreography that Balanchine did for "Firebird," which she writes Robbins took and used in one of his Broadway shows.  (She thought she was working with him on something for the company.)




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