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Mourka the dancing cat, pre-Internet trailblazer for today’s ‘cheezburger cats’
10.03.2014
08:36 am

Topics:
Animals
Books
Dance

Tags:
cats
George Balanchine
Mourka


 
As the 1964 book Mourka: Autobiography of a Cat amply demonstrates, cats did not need the Internet to become nationwide sensations; they have been, er, catnip to content providers for decades.
 

 
Mourka was an “alley cat” who belonged to the legendary choreographer George Balanchine. A picture of Balanchine “training” Mourka appeared in LIFE magazine, and the picture proved so popular that a book deal was quickly inked. The author, Tanaquil Le Clerq, was Balanchine’s wife, and the photographer was Martha Swope. This text is from the dust cover of the book:
 

Mourka, an extraordinary alley cat is one of famed choreographer George Balanchine’s prize pupils. He has learned to do entre-chats, pas de chats, and even a grand jeté. When photographer Martha Swope caught Mourka doing one of his spectacular leaps, Life printed the memorable photo and Mourka’s reputation was made instantly for millions of Americans. Here, Miss Swope’s pictures and Miss Le Clerq’s text convey his many exploits and suggest that Mourka may well be the most accomplished feline in the world. [This, of course, was written decades before the advent of Maru.]

Mourka, a native New Yorker, shares a large apartment on the upper West Side with Mr. and Mrs. Balanchine. He spends his summers in Weston, Connecticut, where he indulges in his favorite hobby, bug-watching, and such favorite foods as asparagus, potatoes, peas, and sour cream.

Ballerina Tanaquil Le Clerq, the wife of George Balanchine, was born in Paris and brought to this country at an early age. She won a scholarship to the School of American Ballet at the age of eleven and later danced many leading roles with the New York City Ballet. In 1956, while on a dance tour of Europe, she was stricken with polio which halted her dancing career. Now that Mourka is published, she is at work on her next book, a gourmet cook book to be published by Stein and Day in 1965.

 

Balanchine training Mourka
 
Balanchine put in considerable time “training” Mourka, and on the occasion when Mourka was obliged to present a command performance for the composer Igor Stravinsky, it was the only time that a ballet performance ever gave Balanchine butterflies. According to Balanchine: A Biography by Bernard Taper:
 

While [Balanchine] was away, a friend or Tanaquil’s mother stayed with her, or she often chose to remain alone in the apartment, kept company by Mourka, their white-and-ginger-colored cat, a pampered and much admired creature. Balanchine had trained this cat to perform brilliant jetés and tours en l’air; he used to say that at last he had a body worth choreographing for. He talked of presenting Mourka publicly, in a program titled—in parody of the revolutionary program he had presented as a youth in Russia—“The Evolution of Ballet: From Petipa to Petipaw.” Once, at a party at his apartment during the Christmas season, Stravinsky asked to see Mourka perform. Guests present later said that was the only time they had ever seen Balanchine nervous before a performance.

 

 

 

 

 
via Awful Library Books
 

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Erotic performance from Tanny LeClercq, groundbreaking ballerina later stricken with paralytic polio


Francisco Moncion and Tanaquil Le Clercq from Jerome Robbins’ ballet ‘Afternoon of a Faun’
 
Too often Tanaquil Le Clercq’s contributions to the world of ballet are unfairly attributed to her husband and choreographer George Balanchine, the so-called “father of American ballet.” Balanchine infamously exercised a kind of droit du seigneur with the dancers under his direction, marrying them, divorcing them, cheating on them with their coworkers and even firing them when they rejected his advances. Tanaquil Le Clercq, or “Tanny,” as she was known affectionately, was no different. After admittance to Balanchine’s school of American Ballet at the age of 12, Tanny quickly became one of Blanchine’s favorite dancers,

At the age of 15 Tanny danced alongside Balanchine for a polio benefit show he choreographed—Balanchine played polio itself while Tanny played his victim, ultimately overcoming her illness at the end after children threw dimes at the stage. At 19, when Blanchine’s relationship with his former muse (and first American prima) Maria Tallchief had cooled, he took up with Tanny. When she was 21, they were married, with nearly 25 years between them. During the next few years, Tanny came to represent the ultimate “Balanchine ballerina,” her thin frame and long limbs belying a lean muscularity and a deft nimbleness (you can see some of her explosive footwork here, from the ballet Western Symphony with Jacques d’Amboise). Balanchine had always favored leaner bodies—prior to his influence ballerinas were often built more like gymnasts, more visibly muscular and compact. It was Tanny however, with her ultra-long legs and impossibly narrow sternum that represented the extreme of his vision.

Tragically, at the age of 27, Tanaquil collapsed onstage and was rushed to the hospital. She was diagnosed with polio; she had avoided vaccination, which she worried would leave her sore and unable to dance for a short time. Wracked by superstitious guilt, Balanchine spent years trying to train her body to dance again, but Tanny herself accepted the inevitable earlier than anyone. Eventually they split, and Balanchine went after his new muse, Suzanne Farrell. (She spurned him. He fired her.) Tanny eventually regained the use of her upper body and returned to teach ballet, using her long arms to demonstrate what should be done with legs. (There’s an amazing documentary of her life story you can stream from PBS.)

The performance below, “Afternoon of a Faun,” is not choreographed by George Balanchine, but by his colleague Jerome Robbins, who also vied for Tanny’s affections before her marriage to Balanchine—after her paralysis he wrote her love letters and photographed her extensively. Jerome Robbins never got the high society credit Balanchine did after leaving ballet to choreograph movies like West Side Story, but he’s clearly a genius of the genre. The performance is devastatingly erotic, with pelvic movements not considered “pretty” in classical ballet, and the use of Debussy, an impressionist, rather than a romantic of classical composer lends a dreamy ambiance to the entire affair. It’s filmed beautifully, and as Le Clercg and partner Jacques d’Amboise break the fourth wall to turn from the sparse stage setting to look at the camera, the audience is made to feel almost voyeuristic.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Post-Rave Parking Lot: This 90s answer to ‘Heavy Metal Parking Lot’ is LOL funny
09.26.2014
09:29 am

Topics:
Amusing
Dance
Drugs
Music

Tags:
Raves


 
Here’s a short video documenting the, er, aftermath of a post Fantazia rave event that occurred on December 31, 1993 in Hungerford, Wiltshire. According to Wikipedia, over 16,000 people attended the event.

Much like the 1986 video documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot, you get a brief—and kinda hilarious—glimpse into the lives of some of the folks who were at the Fantazia rave. Trust me on this, the video is all about the girl wearing the black hat and plaid jacket. She never stops. She’s like the Energizer Bunny on the best E ever!

Interviewer: Are you guys going to stop ever or are you going to keep dancing forever?

Girl: I can keep dancing forever, me. Well, at least till I remember where I put my car.

This is well worth the watch for shits and giggles. I just wish it were longer.
 

 
via WFMU on Twitter

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Dance Noir: James Ellroy’s ‘My Dark Places’ inspires modern dance piece
08.21.2014
09:00 am

Topics:
Books
Crime
Dance

Tags:
James Ellroy
Hans Van den Broeck


 
James Ellroy is not the real name of James Ellroy, did you know that? He was born Lee Earle Ellroy, after his father, whom he would come to despise. He changed his name to James Ellroy around the time he published his first novel.

In 1958, a few weeks after Lee’s tenth birthday, the body of Geneva “Jean” Hilliker Ellroy was found in the shrubs outside of Arroyo High School.
 

 
Those of you who have read Ellroy’s My Dark Places know this story. The never-solved killing of his mother has understandably haunted Ellroy his whole life. A year later, when he was eleven, his dad gave him a copy of Jack Webb’s book The Badge, which contained a synopsis of the gruesome 1947 murder of Elizabeth Short, who would forever be known to history as “The Black Dahlia.” Ellroy’s breakthrough novel, as well as the first novel of his “L.A. Quartet,” was called The Black Dahlia. Unsurprisingly, the brutal death of a beautiful young woman in Los Angeles resonated with Ellroy. Ellroy spent most of his early years in erratic fashion, he briefly joined the American Nazi Party (mostly for shock effect), and he also became a petty criminal and burglar; he was arrested several times. After he became a successful writer of brutal noirs set in Los Angeles, he hired a private detective to investigate his mother’s murder, a process that led to the writing of My Dark Places.
 

 
If you think all of this is horrendously unpromising material for a dance piece, then you aren’t Hans Van den Broeck, of the Brussels-based dance group SOIT (Stay Only If Temporary). He has choreographed a dance piece called “The Lee Ellroy Show,” which premiered in Brussels last November and recently was staged for the ImPulsTanz festival in Vienna, Austria. (Van den Broeck appears to have some prior connection to Vienna; a 2010 piece of his is called Café Prückel, a magnificent old Kaffeehaus on Vienna’s Stubenring.)
 

The story is set in the 50’s. Divorced and lonely, James Ellroy’s mother moves to El Monte, part of the endless sprawl of greater Los Angeles. The new suburbia, isolated and eerie. A sordid boiling hot place risen from the dessert, a nowhere, where she was prone to meet other lost souls and eventually did. On a ‘cheap’ saturday night she met her killer, the ‘swarthy man’, a murderer who was never found. She had a night out on her own, a few drinks, a talk, a dance and was discovered in the early morning hours in the bushes of a small dirt-road. An existence halted in the grass, a life that never blossomed.

This sudden, traumatic disappearance condemns James Ellroy to a life-long search for the mother he never really knew, a loving mother. He embarks on a disturbing journey ; from a big mouthed young bully, to a shoplifting teenager, a voyeur and finally nearly losing his mind as a homeless young adolescent. About to tip over the cliff, he devotes himself to writing. It will be his salvation and a sublimation of the trauma, a life-long battle with the omen living inside him.

 

 
As Van den Broeck has said of the piece, “It has such a tragic and obsessive undertone: that man has really been obsessed by that loss throughout his whole life. It led to him becoming a writer, of course, but also, among other things, to a love-hate relationship with women. I trained as a psychologist and that fixation with an unresolved trauma of that kind really fascinated me. But in terms of language and style, too, it is a hugely inspiring book: obsessional in tone, written in a staccato rhythm, and quite ‘in your face’.” Jake Ingram-Dodd and Anuschka Von Oppen are the two dancers who inhabit “The Lee Ellroy Show.” The piece will have performances in Belgium this coming October and next March.
 

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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The happiest man in the entire world
08.04.2014
08:32 am

Topics:
Amusing
Dance

Tags:
happy man


 
You know, I was going to write, “I’ll have whatever he’s having,” but I don’t want to assume that this is some drug-fuelled, MDMA-induced bliss. Why can’t a topless, bearded man in tiny shorts just be happy? Why can’t he just be high on life? By the 0:09 mark, he’s already really cooking. This is the interpretive dance equivalent of a shit-eating grin.

I need to be happy like this. So do you. We all do.

This all took place at Northwest String Summit Festival in North Plains, Oregon.

 
via Arbroath

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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Careful with that Pirouette, Eugene: The Pink Floyd Ballet
06.25.2014
10:06 am

Topics:
Dance
Music

Tags:
Pink Floyd
ballet
Roland Petit


 
The great French choreographer Roland Petit’s “Pink Floyd Ballet” saw the group performing live onstage in 1972 and 1973 with the dancers of Le Ballet de Marseille, Petit’s company. Oddly, the original idea for the ballet was to do a version of Marcel Proust’s Remembrance of Things Past!

Nick Mason: “But nobody read anything. David did worst, he only read the first 18 pages.” [Miles]

Roger Waters: “I read the second volume of Swann’s Way and when I got to the end of it I thought, ‘Fuck this, I’m not reading anymore. I can’t handle it.’ It just went too slowly for me.” [Miles]

Later Petit wanted to do A Thousand and One Arabian Nights.

Nick Mason: “Proust has been knocked on the head.” [Miles]“Originally he was going to do a complete program: a piece by Zinakist, a piece by us, and a new production of Carmen. I think he has now decided to do just two pieces — Zinakist’s and ours — which has meant doubling the length of the thing we are going to do.” [Miles]

Nick Mason [February 1972]: “We haven’t started work on it yet. We’ve had innumerable discussions, a number of lunches, a number of dinners, very high powered meetings; and I think we’ve got the sort of storyline for it. The idea is Roland Petit’s and I think he is settled on the ideas he wants to use for the thing so I think we’re going to get started. Ballet is a little like film actually. The more information you have to start with, the easier it becomes to write. The difficulty about doing albums is that you are so totally open. It’s very difficult to get started.” [Miles]

Roger Water and Nick Mason discussed the experience in retrospect in 1973:

Roger Waters: “The ballet never happened. First of all it was Proust then it was “Aladdin,” then it was something else. We had this great lunch one day [4 December 1970]: me, Nick and Steve [O’Rourke]. We went to have lunch with [Rudolph] Nureyev, Roman Polanski, Roland Petit and some film producer or other. What a laugh! It was to talk about the projected idea of us doing the music, and Roland choreographing it, and Rudy being the star and Roman Polanski directing the film and making this fantastic ballet film. It was all a complete joke because nobody had any idea of what they wanted to do.”

Interviewer: “Didn’t you smell a rat?

Roger: “I smelt a few poofs! Nobody had any idea — it was incredible.”

Nick Mason: “It went on for two years, this idea of doing a ballet, with no one coming up with any ideas. Us not setting aside any time because there was nothing specific, until in a desperate moment Roland devised a ballet to some existing music which I think was a good idea. [Referring to the winter ‘72-‘73 performances] It’s looked upon a bit sourly now.”

Roger Waters [still on about the 4 Dec lunch]: “We sat around this table until someone thumped the table and said, ‘What’s the idea then?’ and everyone just sat there drinking this wine and getting more and more pissed, with more and more poovery going on ‘round the table, until someone suggested Frankenstein and Nureyev started getting a bit worried, didn’t he? They talked about Frankenstein for a bit — I was just sitting there enjoying the meat and the vibes, saying nothing, keeping well schtuck.”

Nick: “Yes, with Roland’s hand upon your knee!”

Roger: “And when Polanski was drunk enough he started to suggest that we make the blue movie to end all blue movies and then it all petered out into cognac and coffee and then we jumped into our cars and split. God knows what happened after we left, Nick.” [Miles]

Dave Gilmour: “In fact we did that ballet for a whole week in France. Roland Petit choreographed to some of our older material . . . but it’s too restricting for us. I mean, I can’t play and count bars at the same time. We had to have someone sitting on stage with us with a piece of paper telling us what bar we were playing…” [Miles]

“The Pink Floyd Ballet” has been performed all over the world since its debut. Aside from the Pink Floyd, Petit also worked with Serge Gainsbourg, Yves Saint-Laurent, David Hockney, Jean Cocteau, Rudolf Nureyev and artist Niki de Saint Phalle. Roland Petit died in 2011 at the age of 87.

Filmed during the dress rehearsals in Marseille on November 21, 1972:

 
November 26th, the final night in Marseille:

 
During rehearsals in Paris, at le Palais des Sports de la Porte de Versailles, on January 12, 1973. Dig how fluent David Gilmour is, seen suavely speaking French here with a reasonably passable accent:

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
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Donning whiteface for Warhol: Dance tribute to ‘Drella’
06.17.2014
08:38 am

Topics:
Art
Dance

Tags:
Andy Warhol
Raja Feather Kelly

Raja Feather Kelly
 
Last December the choreographer and dancer Raja Feather Kelly premiered an audacious and touching new “vogue-ballet” that honored two artists important to his work: pop artist Andy Warhol and choreographer Faye Driscoll. The title incorporated both of them; it was called “Andy Warhol’s DRELLA (I Love You Faye Driscoll).” Here is the tongue-in-cheek description of the show, somewhat in the manner of one of those interminable titles (including liberal capitalization) of a ... seventeenth-century scientific tract:
 

Andy Warhol’s DRELLA (I Love You Faye Driscoll) Is A Movement-Based Drag Performance Essay Inspired By Andy Warhol’s Alter Ego “Drella”—A Contraction Of Dracula And Cinderella, Envisioned By Warhol Superstar Ondine. Beyond The Focus On Warhol’s Legacy, Raja Feather Kelly’s Interest Is In Addressing His Concerns With Identity, Sexuality And Self-Worth. In His Vogue-Ballet, Kelly Creates A Surreal World; A Gender-Bending, Race-Shifting, Multi-Medium “Artsploitation” In Response To Today’s Consumer Culture, And Celebrity Worship. It Is The Latest In The Choreographer’s Warhol-Driven Series Leading To A Final Staging Of The Feath3r Theory Presents: ‘WHO’S AFRAID OF ANDY WARHOL?’

 
Raja Feather Kelly’s dance troupe is called feath3r theory, after a novel he wrote in 2008 while in Sydney, Australia.
 
Drella
 
In the early 1980s, Warhol famously took up the Polaroid camera as his medium of choice, producing memorable images of Debbie Harry, Dennis Hopper, Mick Jagger, Muhammad Ali, Sylvester Stallone, etc. He also turned the Polaroid on himself—but with a difference. Many of Warhol’s Polaroid self-portraits presented himself in drag, as a character named “Drella”—the name is a portmanteau of “Dracula” and “Cinderella,” made most famous by Lou Reed and John Cale in their Songs for Drella.

Among the most obvious descriptors for “Drella” would be “pale”—given the white shirt, white makeup, and platinum blond wig, it was only the bright red lipstick and tartan necktie that saved Warhol/Drella from blending into the white background altogether. So in a brazen move of identification, the African-American Kelly took up the semiotically charged method of blackface—well, “whiteface” in this case—possibly to alienate audiences mildly but, far more important, to forge a deeper connection with the nakedly performative essence of Drella.
 
Warhol/Drella
“Self-Portrait in Drag” (1981)
 
Warhol/Drella
“Self-Portrait in Drag” (1981)
 
Raja Feather Kelly as DrellaRaja Feather Kelly as Drella
 
The word “vogue” is the giveaway here. Kelly’s intentions are so obviously benign, and the outcome so joyous, that nobody could object to it. Kelly’s term for it is “artsploitation.” As he says, “I don’t know art without Andy Warhol. ... I was born into the challenge of Andy Warhol.” If you think there might be a dodge going on here in the use of racially coded/offensive blackface, note that the slogan for the recent performances (June 5/6) at the Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn was “Black by Popular Demand.”

If you’re in New York, keep an eye out for future performances of this exultant and challenging work; Kelly’s already brought it back once, he may do so again.
 
Andy Warhol’s DRELLA (I Love You Faye Driscoll)
 
Here’s a teaser for the performances at the Invisible Dog on June 5 and 6:


 
Here’s Raja Feather Kelly discussing the importance of Warhol on his artistic development:
 

 
via Hyperallergic

Posted by Martin Schneider | Discussion
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Dance routine with drones is beautiful and technically impressive
05.22.2014
08:03 am

Topics:
Dance
Science/Tech

Tags:
dance
drones


 
As the most recent advancement in push-button warfare, it can be difficult to think of drones as anything more than flying child-murdering combat robots. This Tokyo performance by Japanese dance troupe Eleven Play manages to utilize drone technology for art and beauty, while simultaneously depicting all of its potential insidiousness. 

At first the dancers interact cautiously and experimentally with the drones, then the machines become more active and more threatening. With no control over the increasingly volatile technology, the women flee the stage in fear. In the end, the only ones left dancing are the drones themselves. It’s beautiful and dramatic and there’s a trippy light display and flying robots—what more could you want?
 

 
Via psfk

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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‘Der Untermensch’: Choreographing queerness under Nazi rule
05.07.2014
08:09 am

Topics:
Dance
Queer

Tags:
Nazis
Simon Vermeulen


 
When the movie Frances Ha came out, named for its choreographer protagonist, I had hoped for a renewed interest in modern dance—perhaps a small, young fandom would emerge over Martha Graham’s Appalachian Spring, or maybe Twyla Tharp’s The Catherine Wheel, which has the added cool cred of a score by David Byrne. Tragically, most folks are still pretty put off by dance, and I can never find a date to anything at The Joyce. However, the perspicacious readers of Dangerous Minds are always willing to try new things, right, especially when they’re as bold as Der Untermensch (German for “under man”, “sub-man”, or “sub-human”), a short dance film from Quebecois dancer and choreographer Simon Vermeulen. The concept is as daring as they come:

Staged against minimalist backdrops and accompanied by a hypnotic original score, this highly cinematic contemporary dance film abstractly depicts the persecution of homosexuals at the hands of the Third Reich.

That’s right; not only is it modern dance, it’s gay, French-Canadian political modern dance. If you’re intimidated by the medium, allow me to give you my simple dance appreciation advice for the unsure: it’s art made with the body. You have a body, too. Don’t overthink it. There’s no “plot,” and the performance isn’t literal, so Der Untermensch is pretty accessible, and whether you’re a fan or not, the visceral performance and abstraction of theme is absolutely captivating.
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
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Will robots replace Lady Gaga?

 
Last week Dangerous Minds’ Martin Schneider posed the question “Will pole dancing robots put human strippers out of work?” After watching the video of this batshit gyrating animatronic by artist Jordan Wolfson I’m inclined to answer “maybe.” I mean I doubt they’ll be wearing bonkers witch masks, but who knows?

According to the description on YouTube:

“The figure incorporates facial recognition technology, allowing her to focus on, and unnervingly follow visitors at the exhibition.”

The piece is currently being exhibited March 6 – April 19 at David Zwirner Gallery in New York. 

 
Via io9

Posted by Tara McGinley | Discussion
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