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Quotable Quotes

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I didn't see this as I scanned through the thread and it's one of my favorites:

“The most important thing I have learned over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking one's self seriously. The first is imperative, and the second disastrous.”

Margot Fonteyn

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From YouTube commentary on The Nutcracker ballet:

"By far my favorite part of the entire ballet. I would kill to be a snowflake."

“The beautiful always retains the freshness of novelty, while the astonishing soon grows tiresome”

--August Bournonville

"My first real collaboration with Stravinsky began in 1928 when I worked on Apollon. I consider this the turning point of my life. This score, with its discipline and restraint, with its sustained oneness of tone and feeling, was a great revelation to me. It was then that I began to realize that to create means, first of all, to eliminate. Not a single fragment of any choreographic score should ever be replaceable by any other fragment; each piece must be unique in itself, the 'inevitable' movement. I began to see how I could clarify by limiting and by reducing what seemed previously to have multiple possibilities."

--George Balanchine

Wording as used by Lincoln Kirsten in "Thirty Years":

"I began to see how I could clarify, by limiting, by reducing what seemed to be myriad possibilities to the one possibility that is inevitable."


Final stanzas from Frank O'Hara's "Ode to Tanaquil Le Clercq"

[Dated June 7, 1960 in MS 102, first published posthumously in Paris Review 49, 1970]

you were always changing into something else

and always will be

always plumage, perfection's broken heart, wings

and wide eyes in which everything you do

repeats yourself simultaneously and simply

as a window "gives" on something

it seems sometimes as if you were only breathing

and everything happened around you

because when you disappeared in the wings nothing was there

but the motion of some extraordinary happening I hadn't understood

the superb arc of a question, of a decision about death

because you are beautiful you are hunted

and with the courage of a vase

you refuse to become a deer or a tree

and the world holds its breath

to see if you are there, and safe

are you?


And, a favorite general quote about life -

"Life is life, and fun is fun, but it's all so quiet when the goldfish die."

- Baron Bror Blixen quoting from ancient Coptic

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thanks for those, pherank.

I especially appreciate the ones about clarity and reduction in art.

Same goes for most things in life, of course, but that sort of insight tends to come in the later years.


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I agree with Diane (and with Balanchine of course) ...

... clarify by limiting ...

If only more ballet choreographers in our own age could take the time to think about this, there might be less aimless busy-ness in so much of what they do.

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Rather snarky, but funny...

Regarding the ballet La Chatte from 1927 -

"In her pas de deux, supported by (Serge) Lifar, Balanchine had her (Olga Spessiva) pirouette slowly to the ground, and Massine complained to Diaghilev that he had always wnated to use this movement. 'If it is so easy to steal your thoughts,' Diaghilev said, 'please don't think.'"

--Richard Buckle

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Another humorous one that I remembered...

From Richard Buckle's George Balanchine, Ballet Master, the Chapter Back to Russia:

By the time the company reached Baku, on the Caspian Sea--a city of oil wells and caviar--and the final date of their tour, the dancers were in a state of exhaustion. A huge party was given in the hotel ballroom on the night before they left, and everybody got drunk. Shaun O'Brien put on his new Russian musquash hat and removed his pants. When the party broke up, dancers began to visit one another’s rooms. Shaun called on Betty [Cage] and Natalie [Molostwoff], to find the latter ready for the morning flight, fully dressed and wearing her earrings, but fast asleep on top of her bed. Then Balanchine came in and sat down. He said, “Well, l suppose now the tour is over everybody's little love affairs will be over too. All except mine--I never had any.” Shaun remarked, “You could have, if you wanted to.” “No,” said Balanchine, “nobody loves me.” Then Shaun did something he would never had dared to do if he were sober; he ran to Balanchine sat on the arm of his chair, patted him and exclaimed, “But we all love you!" Balanchine looked him in the eye without expression and said, “Where are your pants?”

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And a couple more humorous quotes from the Richard Buckle book on Balanchine:

Once, when Balanchine was teaching Apollo to Suki Schorer, he explained to her, "It’s like Greek frieze. Go and look at the vases in the Metropolitan.” (Years later she reminded him of this: "You used to tell me to go and look at the Greek vases. What good did it do me?” Balanchine answered, “But you married a Greek, dear”.

Eugene Ormandy, the orchestra’s celebrated conductor, was the first to he consulted about the exact site of the Saratoga Performing Arts Center. In the early spring of 1964, Dick Leach showed him where Geyser Creek had hollowed out a natural amphitheater. At this time of year the waterfall was swollen by melting snow and roared like Niagara. Looking down through the trees, about a thousand of which would have to be felled, Ormandy said, "Dick, the waterfall must go. lt will interfere with the pianissimi in Llélprés-midi d ’un faune. ” Three costly dams were therefore constructed upstream. When the theater was built, it became possible, by flipping a switch, to turn off the waterfall for two hours every night.

Balanchine had his first sight of the theater on May 6. Sitting on the windowsill of the dressing room that had been built for him and Eugene Ormandy to occupy in turn--but Balanchine relinquished it to Robert Irving--he surveyed the scene for a few moments in silence, then asked, "That is the waterfall Ormandy will turn off?” When Leach nodded, Balanchine gave his considered opinion. "Dick, much better, much cheaper--turn off Ormandy.”

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From the world of tweets and @JoyceDiDonato:

Most horrifying thing about being in London: going to the gym and working out next to a ROH ballet dancer. #notpretty

Sorry, Joyce, but is it any worse than, as a permanent amateur dancer, sharing a barre with an ABT soloist?


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Maybe I lasted longer because my dedication went deeper. My dedication, like Balanchine's, goes very, very deep.

--Alexandra Danilova

I offer a little suspense because you never know if I will appear or not. Nor do I.

--Allegra Kent

I’m still a little bit of an original, even if it is not an enormous original. A good friend of mine tells me that there is a monument in Paris that makes him think of me. lt is a small carousel in the Jardin des Tuileries, across from the Palais-Royal. Through that tiny carousel, which is pink with beautiful little horses, like a Philippine shell, you can see at the end of the Champs-Elysées the big Arc de Triomphe. My friend says I am really like that little carousel. One can only be what one can be.

--Violette Verdy

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From Franklin Stevens' "Dance As Life: A Season with American Ballet Theatre":

Lucia [Chase] is one of the foremost living practitioners of the gracious smile, and hers can mean anything from (a) "I understand, dear, don't worry," to (b) "You're fired," or © "I know you spoke to me and I want to be polite, but, actually, I'm thinking about something else altogether," or even (d) "I have no intention of talking about that right now, or even acknowledging that you said it and I heard it."
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From the world of tweets and @JoyceDiDonato:

Most horrifying thing about being in London: going to the gym and working out next to a ROH ballet dancer. #notpretty

Sorry, Joyce, but is it any worse than, as a permanent amateur dancer, sharing a barre with an ABT soloist?


Um, being in London, deciding after many years off to try a little bit of a class with a teacher I don't know in a studio where I've never done class with a group of students I've never met, sitting down on the floor and trying to wake up my legs and lifting my head to see that one of my classmates is Baryshnikov?

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I think this one deserves to go here, even if it not specifically about dance..

"Do not make your goal to be the best. 'Best' is a label. It's something someone else decides for you, 'Better' is more personal. It's a process, and in my opinion, 'better' is something more interesting than 'best.'" ~ Mikhail Baryshnikov

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"La Danse, c'est une question morale."

Taken from Lincoln Kirstein's Beliefs of a Master:


Odd parents, a few very odd, commenced bringing children—mostly girls, too tall, short, or plump—to be auditioned by this young ballet master, who, not yet known to America, had already been interviewed by the dance critic of The New York Times. One woman asked him, after he’d inspected her daughter in practice class, “Will she dance?” What she meant was, “Do you think she is beautiful and talented, as a child, and will she be a star?” A middle-class American mother was seeking a prognosis, as from an allergist about her child’s rash. The putative ballerina clung to Mummy’s skirt, exhibiting filial attachment worthy of Shirley Temple. Balanchine was unassertive, slim, no longer boyish, and, with his grave, alert mannerliness, the more daunting in his authority, instinctive and absolute. He hesitated, perhaps to make sure he would be understood; she repeated her question, “Will my daughter dance?” A Delphic response was the reply she received, sounding more oracular couched in French, although the sound of its meaning was plain enough through its four transparent cognates: “La Danse, Madame, c’est une question morale.”
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