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Mel Johnson

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Everything posted by Mel Johnson

  1. Balanchine never staged a "Diana and Actaeon". I believe that the version that Villella did was his own, dating from the time when he headed a splinter performing group made up of City Ballet dancers. (what, about 1968-9?) It was freely lifted from the version seen on Bolshoi Highlights programs.
  2. As a depiction of the ballet world, it's better than The Black Swan, but errs in the other direction. Made in the 50s, there wasn't much more they could do with a story like that, what with the Motion Picture Production Code (the legendary "Hays Office") in place, so they more or less scrapped Andersen's real life, not that it was scandalous, and put in place a rewrite of The Tales of Hoffman. Still the ballet scenes are good to have for documentary purposes.
  3. And to add to the complexity, consider that there are HOUSE crews, and COMPANY crews. The house crews come with the performing venues, and the company with the agencies performing in the said houses. Sorting out which from which against a donation or a ticket purchase is a real mind-bender. Could there be Zero Mostel and Gene Wilder about here somewhere? (...Prisoners of love,♪ Prisoners of love♫....)
  4. No joke involved; polacca is Italian for polonaise (Fr).
  5. Consider the exit for the Harlequin variation -- a headfirst dive into the #2 wing stage left. Then try to imagine somebody like Andre Eglevsky doing that.
  6. Sure, consider the time frame - WWII had just ended, and soldiers and sailors were awaiting discharge "on points", which points were derived largely from combat service. Most male dancers who had been drafted or who had enlisted were not assigned to combat duty and had to wait well into 1947-8 before their numbers came up.
  7. You know, I never stopped to consider this aspect of ballet. I just did a cursory look over prints of Spanish or Italian schools of fencing, and don't see any barres in the academy classrooms, so maybe not there. By the time Vestris was teaching, they were de rigeur, so maybe Noverre or Blasis started it?
  8. "By their works shall you know them." I haven't seen any writing on the matter myself, but I have to conclude that just from Balanchine's output during the time. Add it to his sudden motivation actively and vigorously to pursue American citizenship which culminated with his taking the oath of naturalization in 1958. NYCB publicity made much of this pairing at the time. The period "Jones Beach" (with Jerome Robbins) - "Stars and Stripes" (1950-1958) was viewed as Balanchine's celebration of his new citizenship. along with the wearing of Western-style fashion, including string ties, silver concho belt buckles, and shooting-style shoulder treatments on his sport jackets. At least his Stetson hat period didn't last very long. Balanchine had been in the US since 1933, so after contributions to opera and ballet stages, Broadway, and even Hollywood, what was the big rush to citizenship in the 50s? One answer was to satisfy residual suspicions that show people were "soft on Communism". Even Balanchine's friend and co-ballet master at NYCB, Robbins, had been tarred with the HUAC brush. To guard against xenophobia was secondary, but also very necessary, to courting friends at lending and granting institutions; although Henry Ford Sr. was gone, his suspicions were not forgotten in the business and financial quarter. But all that I saw and heard of Balanchine during the 60s, and study thereafter, I have to conclude that he was nothing if not a truly patriotic American, only with a nearly unique backstory.
  9. Balanchine went through an "Americana" period in his life, mostly during the 1950s, when McCarthyism made it difficult to be from Russia in America. "Square Dance" and "Stars and Stripes" come from this period, too. A partial metaphoric explanation for "Western Symphony" is that the legendary ballet characters of Europe (Prince Siegfried, Princess Aurora, et al.) were drawn from stories which made them royalty or at least nobility. American legend presents cowboys and dance-hall girls in the same sort of light. The ballet, although plotless, exploits this parallel.
  10. According to the program, this wasn't "La Cachucha" from "Le Diable Boiteux", but the "Cachucha-Galopp" by Johann Strauss, Sr. It's famous from Gerald Arpino's "Kettentanz". The original Cachucha is in 3/4. The Strauss rendition of it is, of course for a Galop, in 2/4. The original Cachucha melody is is quoted by, of all people, Louis Moreau Gottschalk in at least one of his Spanish characteristic pieces. There's a funny caricature of Fanny Elssler's brother Johann, who was a singer and conductor, but who always lamented his lack of celebrity when compared to his sisters! The artist recommends he trade a little more heavily on the family name, and shows him, burly and bearded, onstage in the Cachucha costume. He looks like Bluto in a dress!
  11. I find the title making an odd harmony with the Eugene Loring/William Saroyan ballet-play from the first night of Ballet Theatre, "The Great American Goof". Surely, that couldn't be intentional on Macaulay's part? Or could it?
  12. Actually, Kirkland politely loathed Farrell. Kent was her model.
  13. How often they changed shows was more the operation of the film distributors. After WWII, many studios merged, or even folded, especially after TV began taking hold. The management of the house maintained a "quality control" to make sure that the movies they booked were "family fare". They used to rely a lot on the Catholic Film Board in their decisions. During the 70s, they embarked on a policy of G-rated films only, at a time when that content was in decline. Another funny thing about the Hall - the corps de ballet's choreographer/director for awhile was Marc Platt, at the same time he was house choreographer for the Metropolitan Opera. If you went to the Music Hall, you could see the same dances, set to other music, that you would see at the Met, attached to an opera.
  14. I knew several dancers who danced with the "Radio City Corps de Ballet", and while their schedules were rigorous, they hadn't been changing shows every week since before the Korean War. In college, I had a couple of professors who had been singers with the house "chorus", which usually only got called in for the Christmas and Easter shows. They did five shows a day, all on the time-honored "Roxy" Rothafel plan, which meant an orchestral overture by the house orchestra, a featured vocalist, a turn by the house's "Mighty Wurlitzer" organ to give the orchestra time to get into the pit, a standup comic sometimes was inserted here to make an even bigger time cushion, then the ballet, and the featured musical number, ending with the Rockettes' kick line. Then the featured film. In some seasons, the number of performances went to as many as eight a day. Some audience members remember that day as the great period of the hall, but most didn't realize that the performers were being paid, in the 1960s, the exact same scale that they had been in 1933, when the stage shows opened. A strike in 1967 led by Penny Singleton, who left retirement to become a union organizer for AGVA, the Variety Artists' union, got pay reflecting the prevailing wage for that kind of labor, but it drove production costs so high that the ballet company was disbanded. Too bad in one way, but certainly better than allowing a slave labor wage to prevail in the modern world.
  15. You don't count Footloose? Actually, only half , for I'm prepared to debate the dance virtues of that film.
  16. But that last example is what occasions some bad criticism. A critic may write, "X seems to be carrying too much weight for this role right now", "Y is out-of-shape in this appearance" and get some flak for feedback, but Macaulay, it seemed, was casting about for a bon mot, crossed a serious line, and made himself into a mauvais sujet. See, nothing sounds worse than a joke that goes wrong!
  17. Yep. The kids were got up in fanciful parrot duds with little beaks and tails. They must have been from New Zealand, as their behavior was rather like that of lap dogs than parrots, like the (flightless) New Zealand kakapo.
  18. Not really, unless Ratmansky's women are about 9 years old. The 1954 version of that dance has a Turkish/Persian/Arabian gentleman lounging about with his hookah, his coffee set and his parrots.
  19. Also notice, among the Candy Canes, Zina Bethune, who went on to an acting career, notably The Nurses, a vehicle for her during the medical-theme show boom of the 1960s (cf. Dr. Kildare, Ben Casey, et al.).
  20. Looks good, seems to work properly so far. I'd prefer the original Croce title with the exclamation point after "Alert". Now what happens to the former "Ballet Alert!" site? It contains a lot of useful information.
  21. Don't know. I never saw Youskevitch dance. I did, however, see Ted Kivitt (rather a slow version) in the part, and also Peter Fonseca (speedy!) and also Baryshnikov - really the best tempo - and they all did very similar rond de jambe - piqué arabesque things, but all subtly different.
  22. That would be me. In many ways, Dewdrop was an ideal part for her. Most durable memory is the diagonal of double ronds de jambe sautés that she did in the minor period of the waltz. She also had a lot of sweep and a highly flexible torso, which she exercised to good effect in exiting. My friends and I called the big windmilling arms and deep carriage of the body "The Ficker".
  23. No false memory; Darci did Dewdrop in the 80s.
  24. Fun thing about that little (seven minutes long) work. For years, it was attributed to F.J. Haydn, then to his brother Michael. Then, musicologists laid it at the door of Leopold Mozart. Now, scholarship seems to have come to the idea that Leopold may have quoted it in one of his anthologies of party music, but that the composer was either Stefan Paluselli or Edward Angerer. They were both priests working in the Austrian Tyrol, to wit, Berchtesgaden, which had a long-time history of making toy musical instruments.
  25. True, but amazon.com helps support this site with its "finders fee" for sites publishing its banner. We use that to pay for site operations without having to resort to membership fees. Remember that when doing your Christmas shopping!
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