follow us in feedly
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 | Leave a comment
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 | Leave a comment
‘Such Sweet Thunder’: Duke Ellington does Shakespeare
04.29.2014
03:14 pm

Topics:
Music

Tags:
ballet
Duke Ellington
Shakespeare


 
The great Duke Ellington, a giant even among the most gigantic giants of 20th century music—I mean seriously, who deserves to be included in his rarified company? Lennon and McCartney? Stravinsky? Miles? Louis Armstrong?—was born on this day in 1899. The man was a force of nature, gaining recognition for jazz as an important American art form, financially keeping an orchestra together for decades (that wasn’t easy!) and composing, playing and conducting some of the greatest music ever made.

Every few years I go on a Duke Ellington kick. I tend to like the recordings from the mid-fifties onward mostly because they sound better. One absolute gem in Ellington’s later years catalog is Such Sweet Thunder, a longform twelve part suite that he and Billy Strayhorn wrote in 1957 based on the work of William Shakespeare. The name comes from a line of Puck’s in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: “I never heard so musical a discord, such sweet thunder.” Ellington said of the work, that it was his “attempt to parallel the vignettes of some of the Shakespearean characters in miniature—sometimes to the point of caricature.” Such Sweet Thunder premiered at the “Music for Moderns” concert at New York’s Town Hall in April of 1957, but without the suite’s final number, which had not even been written yet.

Such Sweet Thunder was an early stereo recording, but due to problems with the production, was only issued in mono when it came out in 1957. It wasn’t until Sony started to look into their vaults during the 1999 Ellington Centennial that a stereo Such Sweet Thunder was issued.

Below, the CBS radio premiere of Such Sweet Thunder with introductions from Ellington, at the Ravinia Festival in Illinois, July 1, 1957:

 
“Such Sweet Thunder” and “Sonnet to Hank Cinq,” live in Switzerland, 1959:

 
A wild avant garde ballet choreographed by Maurice Béjart to Ellington and Strayhorn’s score, directed in 1960 by Joachim-Ernst Berendt for Belgian and German TV:

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
The Triadic Ballet: Eccentric Bauhaus ballet brilliance or is it Germanic Maude Lebowski art shit?


 
To the layman, the legacy of the Bauhaus movement is often unfairly reduced to über-gloomy goth rockers and boxy modern architecture, but my formative years were influenced by a succession of eccentric ballet teachers, so to me, Bauhaus will always mean Oskar Schlemmer’s 1922 opus, “Das Triadisches Ballett” (The Triadic Ballet)—perhaps the least “human” dance performance ever concieved.

Schlemmer was a painter, sculptor, designer and choreographer—that kind of factotum being par for the course in the Bauhaus ethos. When hired to teach at the Bauhaus school, Schlemmer combined his work in both sculpture and theater to create the internationally acclaimed extravaganza which toured from 1922 until 1929, when Schlemmer left an increasingly volatile Germany.

When I showed this video to an ex-boyfriend, he described it succinctly as “some really goddamn German Maude Lebowski art shit,” and that’s not a bad way to put it. The sets are minimalist, emphasizing perspective and clean lines. The choreography is limited by the bulky, sculptural, geometric costumes, the movement stiflingly deliberate, incredibly mechanical and mathy, with a rare hints of any fluid dance. The whole thing is daringly weird and strangely mesmerizing.

Below are a few pictures of original Bauhaus ballet performers, and the 1970 German film production of “Das Triadisches Ballett.” New music was composed for this short, and the orchestral sounds contrast nicely with such an inorganic spectacle.
 
Bauhaus ballet
Performers from an early run of Das Triadische Ballet, 1924
 
Bauhaus
Rehearsal, 1928
 
Bauhaus
Stelzenläufer, 1927
 
Bauhaus
Costume for the Neue Sachlichkeit Party, 1926
 
Bowie and Bauhaus
Triadic Ballet costume and David Bowie’s Kansai Yamamoto-designed Ziggy Stardust jumpsuit, for comparison
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Get some culture, you bourgeois ingrates! (With some revolutionary Chinese communist ballet, 1971)

Red Detachment of Women
 
Efforts to create a new, post-capitalist artistic culture are fraught with peril. First of all, the tendency to dismiss pre-socialist traditions (artistic or otherwise) as “bourgeois” inevitably leads to a backlash. The impulse to preserve the past and retain one’s history will always prevail (science fiction Christmas cards in state atheist Soviet Russia immediately come to mind). Secondly, the artistic genres of “communist” states can sway overwhelmingly nationalistic, often at the expense of the art itself; propaganda can be art, but when you live in a totalitarian state, stuff can get stale real quick (then again, certain American gaffs remind me totalitarianism isn’t a prerequisite for banal propaganda). And then there’s that rare example of artistic achievement that falls victim to both of the aforementioned pitfalls—fails at relinquishing ties to capitalist culture and politically problematic in its nationalism—but still reaches the height of brilliance and beauty.

Enter Maoist ballet. As an avid ballet fan and former dancer, I’m slightly offended at the notion that I must reassure readers, “this is no ordinary ballet,” but it is an exceptional interpretation, and those who might otherwise be averse to ballet can take heart that this the style is uniquely dynamic and athletic. China’s Cultural Revolution dictated that the bourgeois culture of capitalism just be replaced with a new proletarian culture- hence the radical choreography and patriotic imagery. Of course, it’s still recognizable as ballet, and while a few Chinese instruments pepper the score, it’s primarily performed by a European-style orchestra.

Below is my favorite, “The Red Detachment of Women,” one of the so-called “Eight Model Operas,” (which were actually five operas, two ballets, and a symphony) all designed and organized by Mao’s wife, Jiang Qing, intended as the ambitious forefront of China’s new revolutionary culture. Though I tend to watch it in pieces, isolating different acts and numbers for their stand-alone value, the libretto is epic and elaborate. The ballet is actually based on a famous novel that pulled true stories from the all-women Special Company of the 2nd Independent Division of Chinese Red Army, who had over 100 members. When Nixon visited China in 1972 to repair diplomatic relations, this is the ballet they took him to see—there’s no way that wasn’t a backhanded gesture.

In many ways, “The Red Detachment of Women” was a total failure. Even if we ignore the fact that the terrible politics of Communist China were being extolled en pointe, it’s intellectually difficult to argue that anything engineered by Mao’s wife could even be populist. And of course it’s a failure as all cultural revolutions are a failure; art doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and no amount of communist shellac could purge the fingerprints of the Western progenitors of ballet. Still, the beauty and the innovation of the project are undeniable, and while “The Red Detachment of Women” wasn’t the dawn of a proletarian artistic movement, it was most certainly, well… revolutionary.
 

 

Posted by Amber Frost | Leave a comment
Lindsay Kemp’s ‘Flowers’: A legendary dance production inspired by Jean Genet’s novel

Lindsay_Kemp_Flowers
 
Jean Genet wrote Our Lady of the Flowers while in prison in 1942. It was published anonymously the following year, and sold around 30 copies. It wasn’t until after the Allied Forces liberated France in 1944 that the bulk of the copies were bound and sold.

Due to its sexual content Our Lady of the Flowers was sold as high class erotica, but Genet never intended it as such. It would take until the book had been revised and reprinted by Gallimard in 1951 that Our Lady of the Flowers received the critical accolades it richly deserved - even if Jean-Paul Sartre described it as “the epic of masturbation.”

It was an over-the-wall conversation with a neighbor that led Lindsay Kemp to create and produce his now legendary dance production of Flowers in 1974. As Lindsay recounted to Dangerous Minds last year:

‘I’d just rented a little cottage, a country retreat, in Hungerford in Berkshire, and my next door neighbor - it was one Sunday morning and we were listening to Round the Horne, we all did on those Sunday mornings - and my neighbor across the fence leaned over and said.

“Oh hi, I think this book might interest you.”

And it was Genet’s Our Lady of the Flowers. And I began to read it, and as soon as I began to read it I could already see it on the stage, and I could see myself as Divine, the central character. And two weeks later, we opened it.

Only someone of Kemp’s incredible talents and vision could have produced Flowers, and the production put Kemp and his dance company literally “on the map.” Since then, Kemp and Co. have performed Flowers all across the world to incredible acclaim.

In 1982, a video was made of the Lindsay Kemp Dance Company performing Flowers at the Teatro Parioli, Roma. It is rarely been seen since, and the video is a incredible treat for anyone interested in dance, performance and theater.
 

 
Previously on Dangerous Minds

Lindsay Kemp is on the ‘phone: Scenes from his life from Genet to Bowie

 

Lindsay Kemp: Seldom seen interview about his production of ‘Salome’ from 1977

 

David Bowie and Lindsay Kemp’s rarely seen production ‘Pierrot in Turquoise’ from 1968


 
With thanks to Lindsay Kemp’s Last Dance
 

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
Gorgeous deep-sea octopus ballet
05.16.2011
11:27 am

Topics:
Animals
Environment

Tags:
ballet
white octopus


 
Here’s a soothing white octopus ballet set to Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” performed by Bryan Verhoye. Simply beautiful. 

 
(via Unique Daily)

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment