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Everything posted by dirac

  1. It's an old saw that standards of beauty, especially for women, are culturally driven. It is probably true that Thin (or let's say Lean, if that's less pejorative) is Better for things like clarity of line, and so forth. I certainly prefer it. However, I don't feel quite confident enough to assert -- we are all creatures of our time, after all, and influenced by cultural assumptions in many ways of which we are only partially aware -- that this is some kind of eternal, inviolable standard. Around the turn of the century, women were a lot curvier; and they were not supposed to be too thin or too tall. (Pavlova was accused of excessive thinness in her time. I don't think she looks too thin today. To take another example from an earlier generation, Sarah Bernhardt, who also doesn't seem especially scrawny to the modern eye, was constantly lampooned by cartoonists for the same reason.) I should imagine that the dancers of that time, who seem so chunky to us today, looked like the epitome of lissome grace back then. A lot depends on what the eye is accustomed to seeing.
  2. In the current issue of Vanity Fair, the one with Jennifer Aniston on the cover, there is an excerpt from a forthcoming new biography of Robbins by Greg Lawrence (Gelsey Kirkland's husband). The piece focuses on Robbins' testimony as a friendly witness in front of HUAC and his Broadway career afterward.
  3. "The Great American Ballerina"? I don't know how it was while she was dancing, but I would think in retrospect the title, if we have to award it, belongs to Maria Tallchief.
  4. I am inclined to agree with Cliff. It would be nice if the most effective advertising were invariably the most intelligent advertising, but such is not the case. Those of us of a certain age will recall the "Please don't squeeze the Charmin" TV campaign, which involved someone named Mr. Whipple trying to prevent shoppers from lustfully massaging the toilet paper, and drove a sizable number of TV viewers half insane with irritation. Everyone jeered at those ads, and Charmin's sales skyrocketed. In defense of SFB, it must be allowed that parts of the Bible are chock full of good old fashioned sex and violence.... [This message has been edited by dirac (edited February 24, 2001).]
  5. I think Giuliani is just doing the politician thing. It's not a party matter -- it's easy to imagine Schumer, for example, doing the same number. I doubt that NYCB or any other ballet company is in any danger, as they're not going to put on anything for the Mayor to object to. Re "Olympia": I didn't put the same construction on the male divers. The glorification of masculine strength was a cornerstone of Third Reich propaganda -- think of the mass calisthenics showcased in "Triumph of the Will" -- and I can see a straight man shooting the same sequence. But it's not as if Riefenstahl is suggesting that these men are the sum total of their physical attributes; she's saying, Look at what they can do; look how beautiful they are, isn't it awesome, what the human body is capable of. They're not the water bimbos in an Esther Williams opus, grinning vacuously in the chlorine.
  6. I'm not sure that a Ballerina Barbie that was anatomically accurate would sell too well -- can't see much of a market for Flatchested Barbie with Bunions. I remember a few years ago that a couple of Barbies called Trailer Trash Barbie and Hooker Barbie were circulating. Mattel sued, I think.
  7. I never had the good fortune to see Kirkland, but I did read her books, and while I admired her intensity I could see how her partners might have become a wee bit impatient. Dancing on My Grave had one especially striking passage on one ballet, I forget which, where Kirkland had to dance with a scarf. Apparently Kirkland had trouble finding a dramatic justification for the scarf, and expends several paragraphs on how she cast about for possible motivations, consulted with her coach, etc. It did seem like an awful amount of mental anguish to expend upon what would seem to be a pretty run-of-the-mill prop.
  8. I'm wondering if anyone has any general remarks to make about the category of dancer usually characterized as a "dancer-actress" or "actor-dancer." (I often see Nora Kaye, Lynn Seymour, and Melissa Hayden characterized as such, to name three.) I never saw any of the above, and I'd be interested to know: what people think distinguishes the great d/a from merely a good one? I've heard it said that in many such dancers their technical abilities as dancers are less distinguished than their dramatic gift. Is this true? does one quality have to suffer at the expense of the other? I offer a couple of quotes: Gore Vidal on Nora Kaye: "Onstage, Nora was like no one else. As a classical dancer, she was barely in the second rank. As a dancer-actress, there has never been, and perhaps never will be, another like her." Anna Akhmatova on Galina Ulanova: "As a ballerina, she is no one. She is merely a mime of genius."
  9. Well, I can't help hoping that, for the sake of the historical record, she did talk in more detail to someone and perhaps eventually we will know more. There is so much in both the private and professional arenas that only she could tell us. Balanchine made such special roles for her unique qualities, and it would be fascinating to hear more about them. On the personal plane, is striking how uniformly protective of Balanchine's memory the ex-wives and lovers have been. Admirable, of course, but the historian (and gossip) in me can't help wondering how it really was. One doesn't want any Gennifer Flowers revelations, needless to say, but it would have been interesting if one of the exes had produced something like Francoise Gilot's memoir of Picasso.
  10. She was before my time also, but I always loved those wonderfully evocative photographs of her in "La Valse" and "Illuminations" by George Platt Lynes. While respecting her wish for privacy, I regret that she didn't give more interviews; she gave a very illuminating one to Barbara Newman in "Striking a Balance" that left one hungry for more.
  11. Although I haven't seen it yet, I think the Conrad book is more of a pictures-with-text coffee table kind of volume, and so it wouldn't be intruding on Jowitt's territory or vice versa.
  12. Yup, if it's the same Greg Lawrence. This is unfortunate, if the Robbins book is written in the same turgid prose as the Kirkland opuses. As for the gossipy part, if even half of what one hears about Robbins', uh, management style is true, there should be plenty of dish to dish.
  13. There were a few odd things in the article. I don't see anything wrong with airing the fact that Tudor could be nasty in the rehearsal hall. (In biographies of prominent generals, for example, it is customary to note how they conducted themselves in their relations with their subordinates.) Re: the emigrants to America. I found this more troubling (and pardon the length of the following, I don't mean to pontificate, but I have a point, honest). It is true that Auden and Isherwood came under fire for leaving when they did, mainly because they made it clear upon departure that they expected their expatriation to be lengthy if not permanent and that their leaving was directly connected to the coming war. It was quite a scandal and they were pilloried and parodied: readers of Evelyn Waugh will remember Parsnip and Pimpernell. The two men were not lovers at this time but friends, incidentally. Isherwood's reputation in Britain was permanently affected, Auden's less so. Britten and Pears left England a little after A&I in 1939, not for any reasons related to the threat of war but because there was work for Britten in North America and Pears came along for the ride. They went to Canada first and after a brief stay, to Michigan, and only then to New York. Pears initially expected to return to England in a few months; Britten did contemplate staying on indefinitely, but only if war did not come, among other considerations. (B&P also left England as Just Friends, although this was to change in America, and they were not yet linked as artistic allies and collaborators in the public mind as the other two were.) They left for England in 1942 -- they applied for passage much earlier than their actual departure date, but the war made arrangements difficult -- and upon their return both received exemptions from military service as conscientous objectors. As far as I know they didn't receive the public beatings Auden and Isherwood did. Even allowing that space considerations wouldn't permit Brown to go into all this stuff, it's hard to escape the conclusion that these two very different couples in very different circumstances were lumped together along with Tudor and Laing for the frail reason that they were all gay men, perhaps not the wisest line to take. I have nothing but respect for Ismene Brown, and I certainly think it's all right to explore the private lives of artists no longer with us, but she is treading on dangerous ground when she compares Tudor's "monogamy" favorably with Ashton's "promiscuity", strongly implying that sexual relationships that mimic the marital norm are more significant than those that do not. (Also, Ashton hardly qualifies as promiscuous, IMO.) Finally, it's okay to talk about what the two said to and about each other, even if it got a little catty. They were rivals. Rivalries get personal.
  14. I'm not surprised. The Disney people are notorious trademark fascists. I guess they have to be, but still. BalletNut's suggestion made me think of an even more unadaptable Roald Dahl book: "James and the Giant Peach, the Ballet". cargill, I wouldn't be surprised if Matthew Bourne takes on the "Rebel Without a Cause" idea. Already I see Will Kemp sulking fetchingly in a red windbreaker.
  15. I think Sylvie Guillem would make a splendid She. Also, with all due respect to the spectacular charms of Ms. Andress and Ms. Bergman, the definitive cinema She is Helen Gahagan (later Mrs. Melvyn Douglas and political opponent of Richard Nixon), in the version made in 1935, with Randolph Scott and Nigel Bruce in support. And H. Rider Haggard rules.
  16. Cliff, I'm not sure we should even get started on movies. What about "The Poseidon Adventure"? An actual storm at sea wouldn't be reproducible, but maybe we could have buckets of water hurled at the dancers from the wings.
  17. For our most rarefied intellectuals only: "Death Kit: The Ballet."
  18. I was of the same opinion, which doubtless explains why Cameron Mackintosh is worth a fortune and I am, well, not. Actually, Flemming Flindt did adapt Ionesco's "The Lesson". Haven't seen it but I understand it wasn't bad. [This message has been edited by dirac (edited October 13, 2000).]
  19. Wouldn't Agnes de Mille be a little...steely for Aunt Pitty? (Too thin, too.)
  20. I had a similar dream some years ago, Ed, only it involved some poems by T.S. Eliot and large singing cats. Also, I realized I made an unforgivable error in an earlier post. I paired Richard Burton with the wrong blonde. It was Angie Dickinson in Bramble Bush, another turkey, and Martha Hyer in Ice Palace. My apologies to fans of lousy movies everywhere.
  21. Richard Armour has written several little books on American history, literature, etc., that carry on in much the same vein.
  22. Leigh is right. GWTW is a period piece in every sense. If you update it and cut out all the racial stereotyping, not to mention the glorification of the Ku Klux Klan, the decidedly outdated view of the Reconstruction era, etc., etc., then you won't have much of the book left and fans will be unhappy, because it won't be close enough in spirit to the original property. If you don't alter it -- radically -- they'll get picket lines and probably worse (deservedly so, I should note). Like it or not, the story doesn't make much sense without Mitchell's perspective intact. Recall that one of the crucial events in the story is an assault on Scarlett by Uppity Black Men -- the book uses other terms -- and the subsequent bloody retribution exacted by the gallant KKK. I remain fond of the book and the movie, but in later years you see things that I'm ashamed to admit were not immediately apparent to me at thirteen. [This message has been edited by dirac (edited October 11, 2000).]
  23. It was Burton in Ice Palace, co-starring with Angie Dickinson, a pairing that did not set the screen aflame.
  24. In earlier threads we've discussed novels that we would like to see translated to ballet. The "Gone with the Wind" threads have me pondering novels (or films, or whatever) that you think would be LEAST adaptable. Then, adapt it, cast it, do what you will. (Pretend you are a dotty impresario along the lines of Corky St. Clair in the movie" Waiting for Guffman", who adapted the fireman epic "Backdraft" for the stage, with unhappy consequences.) I'll go first. I am thinking about a ballet version of "The Thorn Birds". As some of you may know, most of the novel takes place on an Australian sheep station, but I figure I can get around this by setting most of the outdoor scenes in the barn. There will be an impressive Act One group dance built around the sheep shearing contest, with shirtless corps boys brandishing shears and sheepskins, (although actual animals onstage would probably not be prudent). The central love story concerns a priest stoutly resisting his passion for the belle of the sheep station, Meggie Cleary, so there will be at least one pas de deux in which Father Ralph explains in dance that while he loves Meggie, he loves the Vatican more. In Act Two, we introduce Meggie's ambitious suitor, winner of the contest, with a pas de trois showing Meggie Torn Between Two Lovers. There's also a big fire around this time, which I can't do anything with, but the death of one of Meggie's brothers after a confrontation with a wild boar can be dealt with by means of a character dancer in a boar suit. When Father Ralph departs for Rome, the scene moves to the Vatican, complete with dancing cardinals. It's time for another pas de deux for Meggie and Ralph when they are briefly reunited and their passion is fulfilled. As for the third part of the book, I'm kind of stumped. I think I'll eliminate the next generation a la the 1939 movie version of Wuthering Heights, and end the ballet with Meggie revealing her pregnancy to Father Ralph in the manner of Gelsey Kirkland announcing her expectations to Patrick Bissell at the end of The Tiller in the Fields. Excuse the length of this introduction. Any other suggestions? [This message has been edited by dirac (edited October 10, 2000).]
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