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Jinx Falkenburg


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Mindy Aloff's letter this week for DanceViewTimes is, in part, an appreciation of the late Jinx Falkenburg. I was unfamiliar with her career as a dancer :blushing:

I found one of the things Aloff wrote particularly interesting:

Still, it was one of the great bodies of the 20th century, photographed tens of thousands of times; and the playfulness, the fire, the joy in being alive that animated it belonged to a generation that included Maria Tallchief, Janet Reed, Lena Horne, Alicia Alonso, Rita Hayworth, Jeni LeGon, and a host of other stage and screen goddesses, as well as to my mother, who, like Jinx, never studied dance but loved it anyway—a generation that, when it stepped out, often went dancing. It was in their blood to make their own fun, with their swinging skirts and shapely gams and unself-consciously immediate relationship to rhythm and song. Their bodies eventually betrayed them, yet they never lost that cocktail of realism and humor that W.W.II served them when they came of age. They are the girls encapsulated in Fancy Free, Diversion of Angels, Gaîté Parisienne, La Valse. Young dancers who impersonate them today have to be coached to produce the spontaneity they dispensed with such seeming effortlessness and élan.

She does seem to personify her generation. Looking at the photos, especially the one where Falkenburg stands next to a wounded soldier (there's a third photo on the DVT home page, for those interested), does make her seem prototypical of her generation. She made gazillions of movies, none of which I've seen (or remember). Does anyone else remember her? Or have comments about the dancers of her generation?

[The full article can be found at: Letter from New York ]

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I remember Jinx Falkenburg from her talk radio days with her husband Tex McCrary. I never thought of her as a dancer, professionallyor otherwise. Ms. Aloff thinks she had a perfect body for Ballet. Given the time frame (40's and 50's) I think her "5'9" lanky body" would have been a hindrance for a ballet career. Today, yes--but not then. I think I read somewhere that one of the reasons Audrey Hepburn did not pursue a career in ballet was her height.

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I thought five foot nine would be too tall, too -- I suppose Aloff meant her proportions. She doesn't look 5 foot nine in the photos that accompany the article; it would make the soldier standing next to her about 6 foot 5 (which is quite possible, of course).

I didn't know about her as a dancer either, atm. When I did a google search on her name, several pages identified her as "an exotic dancer." But she did dance in films -- at least once with Gene Kelly.

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Aloff says that Falkenberg's figure was ideal for dancing – I don't think she meant to suggest that Jinx would have been a successful ballet dancer in that time and place. (Certainly not with those substantial Forties gazongas.) I think she's pointing to the much closer connection between vernacular dance and ballet that was present then and doesn't exist now.

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That's how I took it, too, dirac. To take off on your comment about vernacular dance -- with which I agree -- it's interesting that the vernacular in music AND dance split off from the "serious" brrand of same post-World War II. Perhaps it's one of the resaons for the lack of vitality in classical ballet today? During the Ballet Russe period choreographers used social dancing, popular dancing, but in narrative ways, distinct from classical dancing. But when ballet became more and more abstract it became (with exceptions, always, of course) either of the classroom or Not of the Classroom.

Although maybe it would have been difficult to work in the Twist and the Watusi into ballets. When vernacular dancing became line dancing and turned away from touching, that divorced it from stage dancing.

I liked what Aloff wrote about the type of Girl that Falkenberg represented, though. Those girls are what made up the corps in earliy ABT and NYCB performances.

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  "...popular dancing, but in narrative ways, distinct from classical dancing.  But when ballet became more and more abstract it became (with exceptions, always, of course) either of the classroom or Not of the Classroom.

Although maybe it would have been difficult to work in the Twist and the Watusi into ballets. When vernacular dancing became line dancing and turned away from touching, that divorced it from stage dancing."

And after that anatomical side trip, back to the regularly scheduled programming?

I think Alexandra is dead on about the changes in social dance being reflected in theatrical dance. Although I can think of examples of 60's-on social dance in ballet, they haven't been especially successful. For the most part, they exist as stand-alone dances, while works that draw from earlier social dance styles seem to incorporate aspects of that dancing into the classical tradition.

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Certainly today's dancers and choreographers DANCE, so they know the current styles. But thinking of past uses -- think of Robbins in "Fancy Free," Ashton, to take one example, of using Charleston and the Cha Cha in his ballroom pas de quatre for Swan Lake -- they took popular material and grafted it on to a classical base; it looked like dancing by ballet dancers. Older forms, as you say -- the good old waltz -- get kneaded into classical dancing very easily.

I think the parallel situation in music -- where contemporary serious music doesn't usually refer to popular dance forms, and beyond that, often doesn't have "feet" -- that's one of the causes of the current bifurcation of the repertory: dances that use pop music material as pop music material, without comment or distance or objectivity; and the ballets using existing, older, classical music, which is often rather sterile.

Remember the clip from the Balanchine biography where Balanchine, urged on by moppets "Fred" and "Ginger" and their "Dad", has to make a series of Yankee Doodle classical variations in different rhythms? Maybe that would be a good exercise for young choreographers.

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Let's not forget that little gem from 1975, "Le Tombeau de Couperin," which is, when you get down to it, just a suite of folk and social forms woven into a ballet. It incorporates, among other things, minuet, Greek folk dance, square dance, and jitterbug.

People seem to interpret Balanchine's oft-quoted remark that his ballets are "about dancing" to mean, in the most superficial way, to men "what you see is what you get." I think he means that his works, as a whole, can be taken as commentaries on aspects of the genre. "Tombeau" crystallized that insight for me.

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