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Black Tights On Apollo

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In my Repertory In Review are pictures of Jacques d'Amboise and Peter Martins dancing Apollo wearing black tights instead of the white tights I've always assumed was the standard. It's a jarring image to say the least, especially since both dancers have on the white tunic top. It doesn't look classical or godlike at all only odd and almost pedestrian. Both photos are from the 1960's. In one Martins is dancing with Suzanne Farrell so it would have to have been before she left in 1969.

So does anyone know anything about the black tights? Was this just one of those interesting costume changes that Balanchine would occasionally spring on the audience such as the white mice added to the grey mice in The Nutcracker or the new costume for Baryshnikov's Prodigal Son?

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black tights for apollo were something of a tradition once d'amboise was put into the role.

if mem. serves it might have been baryshnikov's assuming the role that brought white into the picture & started a new 'tradition'.

i think in MB's case white was chosen b/c i helped give him more 'scale' and physical stature, etc. he was shorter than both d'amboise and martins, to be sure. i think villella wore black and so i assume did conrad ludlow.

there's a photo of MB and Robbins at a reh. for Apollo where i think JR and MB were discussing: white or black? and white won. (i think Balanchine wasn't around daily during this time, as when MB was in NYCB, GB was ailing.)

the little mice in NUTCRACKER started out as white mice but i understand the costume overseer, Mme Pourmel was beside herself w/ keeping them clean so it was decided that gray would be easier to maintain, so they changed after one or two seasons to gray.

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If the change occurred when Apollo was restaged concurrent with Baryshnikov's arrival at NYCB, then it would have accompanied the ballet's truncation. Without the birth scene, the storyline of Apollo's evolution to a mature god is deemphasized.

Because he isn't, from the outset, a fully godlike in the original version, the black works just fine. If the attempt to visually aggrandize Baryshnikov prompted the costume change, it still didn't detract from the impression that Apollo was not fully divine at birth.

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I suspect that anyone's idea of the "classic" or "standard" costume for Apollo may depend on the first performance the viewer saw. For me it was black tights on D'Amboise in 1958 or 1959. That and others fixed black tights as my mental image of Apollo. B.H. Haggin's Discovering Balanchine has numerous photos of D'Amboise, Martins, Villella. Martins, if I am not mistaken, is shown in both black and white tights. Perhaps white became more common as years passed, and maybe Baryshnikov benefitted from an impression of added stature. Certainly Martins was tall enough in any costume. To a hypothetical question such as "Who has ever seen Apollo in black (or white) tights?" Balanchine would probably have responded characteristically, "Who has ever seen Apollo?"




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Baryshnikov in "Baryshnikov Dances Balanchine" also wore black tights for the revised version, so his godliness is also inconsistent.

I wonder how much this also has to do with personal preference as well as stipulations from tradition or the coaching staff.


If the change occurred when Apollo was restaged concurrent with Baryshnikov's arrival at NYCB, then it would have accompanied the ballet's truncation. Without the birth scene, the storyline of Apollo's evolution to a mature god is deemphasized.
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The evolution of the Apollo costume seems to follow a slow reaction from the one worn by André Eglevsky, which included a gold lamé chiton thingy, and a gilt laurel wreath on his head. I can't even recall if he wore tights, or just trunks and bare legs.

Ha!--my first Apollo. I seem to recall bare legs with criss-crossed strips on the lower leg. The most memorable part of his peformance was the opening birth scene--where he did multiple slo-o-o-ow pirouettes while he was unwinding his swaddling clothes.

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Here's a photo of Eglevsky, though not in the living color which Mel so beautifully describes:


Nancy Reynolds' Repertory in Review (pp.48-49) has a b-and-w photo (1951) in which you can clearly see the sheen of the material.

The book also has two photos of Lew Cristensen (1937)with a very similar look, including the laurel wreath. The material of what Mel describes as the "chiton thingy" :wink: seems different in Cristensen's version, however.

atm711. Can you tell us more about Eglevsky's Apollo? The fussiness -- I'd actually call it "frumpiness" -- of the costuming in photographs may have done his memory a disservice. What you describe about his actual dancing sounds like something really worth having seen.

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