The cover star of the November 1953 issue of Dance Magazine was José Greco, the dancer and choreographer who popularized Spanish dance in 1950s and '60s America. The Italian-born, Brooklyn-raised dance star took his first classes at age 10 and made his professional debut at 19. Less than a year later he was asked by La Argentinita to join her company.
2018 has seen an endless parade of celebrations in anticipation of Jerome Robbins' centennial—and now the day has finally arrived. In honor of what would have been his 100th birthday, we dove into our photo archives and selected a few favorite shots of the choreographer whose career defined (and redefined) American dance.
In the October 1983 issue of Dance Magazine, we explored the work of then-breakout contemporary artist Molissa Fenley. Having spent the late '70s sending shockwaves through the New York City arts community with her experimental works, she was tapped by Brooklyn Academy of Music to create a new commission for its first-ever Next Wave Festival. She told us, "I don't know if New York was ready for me, but the audiences were ready for some change, for some energy, and for some dancing!" Her voracious yet analytical fusion of cultures, traditions and movement caught the eye of our editors then, and still captivates today. Now 63, Fenley continues to create and perform with the same explosive energy that marked her early career.
Molissa Fenley (left) was commissioned by Brooklyn Academy of Music for its first-ever Next Wave Festival in 1983. Photo by Chris Callis, Courtesy DM Archives
The news of Paul Taylor's death two weeks ago at the age of 88 has sparked innumerable tributes to the choreographer. We were inspired to delve into Dance Magazine's extensive photo archives to see what images of the late modern dance titan were hiding there. We present a baker's dozen of our favorites from over the years.
In the September 1968 issue of Dance Magazine, we caught up with Erik Bruhn as he reflected on his first year as artistic director of the Royal Swedish Ballet. Throughout his career as a dancer, choreographer and director, Bruhn came to be heralded as one of the most poetic, expressive artists of his time. Rather than exchange performing for directing when he joined the Royal Swedish Ballet, Bruhn decided he had enough virtuosity for both. Whether it was himself or his dancers onstage, he demanded the same artistry. He told us, "I've said to my dancers that you have a theatre, a floor, an audience, a life-long job, and a pension, too. But you have a responsibility, too, towards that floor, that space, that audience. You have a responsibility to fill it not just with adequate dancing, but with the very fiber of your lives."
A person's walk is like a fingerprint, according to four Paul Taylor dancers who are stepping on without their beloved choreographer. Taylor died August 29, passing the legacy of Paul Taylor American Modern Dance to Michael Novak, the second artistic director in the company's history.
"Human movement never lies," says Novak, who sometimes slipped into present tense when describing his mentor. "For auditions, Paul makes dancers walk across the floor in rhythm. The first time I auditioned, I didn't get the job. I was terrified, but now that I'm on the other side of the audition process, 'the walk' is telling."
"When you're doing the walk, it's nerve-racking and hard to know the value," explains Eran Bugge, who recently celebrated her 13th anniversary with the company. "Now I know that it's totally revealing. You can see a person's control to be human and dancerly at the same time. Sometimes you can see weird coordinations, but Paul liked that."
In the August 1963 issue of Dance Magazine, we caught up with Bronislava Nijinska, then 72. After leaving the Mariinsky in 1911 to follow her younger brother, Vaslav Nijinsky, to Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, Nijinska carved out a stellar performing career for herself. While Nijinsky often worked out his now-legendary dances, including his Afternoon of a Faun, on her, Nijinska ultimately proved to be the more prolific choreographer—and an equally gifted one, at that. When we spoke to her, she was as energetic as ever, getting up to demonstrate bits of choreography when she felt her words fell short. She told us, "You listen to music through your ears—yes? I listen to music through my eyes. I want my ballets to be music through the eyes, so if you would close your ears you could still hear the music—you could see the music. A paradox! But a paradox close to the center of my idea of ballet."
At the Dance on Camera Kickoff Gala on July 16, Dance Films Association honored two beloved dance artists from different generations: Jacques d'Amboise and Trey McIntyre.
After a composite of d'Amboise's charismatic dancing was shown, Jacques regaled us with stories. He didn't talk about dancing for Mr. B, he didn't talk about his dazzling turns in the movie Carousel, or how dashing he looked in the emerald green shirt in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. He talked about Tanaquil Le Clercq in Jerome Robbins' Afternoon of a Faun (1953)—a tiny clip of it was in the montage that DFA showed in tribute to him. Apparently both Jacques and Tanny thought the other had gotten permission from Robbins to make a film about Afternoon of a Faun in Toronto, but they hadn't. Jerry was furious when he found out about it. And then…Tanny came down with polio. And Robbins was soooo happy to have a bit of her gorgeousness on film. When Jacques gives her that slow kiss, which she accepts with a glowing stillness, a moment froze in time.
Every year since 1985, the President of the United States has recognized our country's greatest artists with the National Medal of Arts. Many dancers and choreographers—from Martha Graham to Tommy Tune to Edward Villella—have received the award.
But President Trump has yet to award any artists (the deadline for the 2016 medals was last February, and historically the ceremony has been held later the same year). Though the White House says it will "likely" issue awards later in 2018, this is the longest gap between ceremonies since the founding of the award—and it speaks to the current administration's general disinterest in the arts.
Since taking office a year and a half ago, President Trump has held no dance performances at the White House, and aside from the military band, no performances whatsoever. He has frequently disparaged artists, from Meryl Streep to the cast of Hamilton. The fate of the National Endowment for the Arts has also come into question. If the President does indeed continue with the award, we wonder how his attitude toward artists will affect who is chosen—and whether artists will even accept the honor. (Carmen de Lavallade and several other Kennedy Center honorees skipped the White House reception last year to boycott the President.)
None of this will stop us from continuing to celebrate worthy dance artists—or from remembering the many dancers and choreographers who've been honored by past Presidents:
The July 1983 issue of Dance Magazine was dedicated to George Balanchine, who had passed away in April of that year. Our pages were filled with tributes to the choreographer who irrevocably altered the course of American ballet. Dancers from Tamara Toumanova to Alexandra Danilova to Mikhail Baryshnikov contributed reflections, though perhaps critic Edwin Denby summed it up best:
"Dancing is such a momentary impression. Balanchine always said that his ballets are like butterflies: They live for a season. He didn't much like reviving works because he didn't seem to remember them, being much more interested in new things. I have no idea what will become of Balanchine's 'butterflies' now...Tastes change, styles change, techniques change...But we know one very important thing about Balanchine: He changed the way we look at dance."
In the June 1963 issue of Dance Magazine, we profiled a young Royal Ballet dancer named Lynn Seymour. At 14, she was invited to move to London to study at the Royal Ballet School. The Vancouver native told us she arrived "terribly excited and more than a little scared. I just sunk my teeth in and started to work." It paid off.
There's got to be something about May 18—maybe the Ballet Gods celebrate some forgotten holiday that causes them to be particularly generous. Because how else do you explain that no less than three international ballet stars all share a birthday on, you guessed it, May 18?
Maybe today should be a ballet holiday in their honor, but, regardless, we're celebrating with clips from some of their signature roles:
In the May 1998 issue of Dance Magazine, we spoke to Kazuo Ohno on the occasion of a memorial performance for his mentor, butoh creator Tatsumi Hijikata. On performing with his son for the memorial, Ohno said, "Yoshito and me, we are two, but we are one. Love, but something different, too. Love is pain. 'I love' is like 'I have pain.' " This perspective is characteristic of butoh, a highly dramatic Japanese dance-theater form that visually tends toward darkness and decay. In 1988, Ohno was already in his 80s; he would continue to perform even after his 100th birthday. He died in 2010 at the age of 103.
A watershed moment. That's how choreographer Lar Lubovitch recently described his now-classic A Brahms Symphony. Now, a group of 16 George Mason University dance majors are having their own watershed moment with that jubilant work: They will dance it at the venerable Joyce Theater in New York City, where they will close the 50th anniversary season of the Lar Lubovitch Dance Company on April 22. It's such a big deal the college president, Angel Cabrera, likened it to when the basketball team made it to the NCAA Final Four.
Malcolm John McCormick, a multidimensional artist of exceptional cultural and intellectual breadth, passed away on December 29th following complications due to a stroke. Born on October 30th, 1927 in Gouverneur, upstate New York, McCormick was a noted dancer, award-winning and influential costume designer, author, academic, researcher and authority on dance and theater. He was 90 years old.
After graduating from Canton High School in 1945, McCormick headed for New York City to pursue studies in art. He there discovered his true vocation, dance. "I had only one friend in NYC," he wrote, "and while sketching her in classes at Carnegie Hall I realized that it was the only thing I wanted to do for the rest of my life…dance, that is."
McCormick studied with Zachary Solov, Nanette Charisse and Antony Tudor. His most influential instructors were Margaret Craske, who coached him in Cecchetti technique, and Mia Slavenska, one of the 20th century's most brilliant dancers, and a formidable technician. As a soloist with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet (1951-59), he partnered among others Slavenska and guest artist Mary Ellen Moylan, George Balanchine's "first" ballerina. Like many dancers of his day, McCormick also appeared in musicals, summer stock, on TV, in spectaculars and performed across the USA as well as in Paris and other European venues.
In a dance career spanning three decades (1940s-1960s), McCormick was a contemporary and friend to a variety of luminaries and notables in the dance world. He maintained a lifelong personal and professional friendship with Slavenska, and in later years worked closely with her on codifying and recording her training method. When she passed away in 2002, he accompanied her ashes to Croatia, her homeland, and attended the weeklong celebration honoring her career in Zagreb. He was a historical consultant and interviewee for Emmy award-winning film Mia: A Dancer's Journey co-produced by Slavenska's daughter Maria Ramas. "Loved her for teach[ing me] so much about dance," he wrote.
An award-winning costume designer, McCormick created designs for productions at the Metropolitan Opera. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Limón Dance Company, Murray Louis Dance Company, Pennsylvania Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Lincoln Center Repertory Company as well as many individual performers were among his commissions. He gifted his designs to novice troupes such as Pilobolus. When his costumes for Mary Stuart at the LCRC won him the Billboard Critics Award, the citation read "… for the most beautiful costumes of [that] Broadway season." The Chujoy/Manchester Dance Encyclopedia credits him with having "… a considerable influence on modern dance, scenically and in costuming." The National Museum of Dance, Saratoga Springs, held a major retrospective exhibition of his dance costume designs (May-November 2017), selected from an archive of 250 drawings donated to the institution by the artist. He was a member of the United Scenic Artists Union.
McCormick was also a noted dance historian. In 2003, Yale University Press published "No Fixed Points: Dance in the Twentieth Century." The magisterial 900 page-plus tome was co-authored with Nancy Reynolds, renowned writer, critic and director of research at the George Balanchine Foundation. It chronicled one hundred years of developments in ballet, modern and experimental dance for stage and screen in Europe and North America, while setting dance in broader cultural and historical contexts. The book, researched over twenty years, was the subject of laudatory reviews in the general media and the dance press, both in the USA, including in the New York Times Book Review, and in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany and Russia. Of her co-author, Reynolds states: "I have the highest regard for Malcolm McCormick as a scholar and thinker…During our lengthy collaboration…I found Malcolm to be an outstanding researcher and synthesizer of material, and his conceptual thinking was often excitingly 'outside the box.' He also had a grasp of social, cultural and philosophical issues as they could be brought to bear on the world of dance." Reynolds commissioned several articles from McCormick for the International Encyclopedia of Dance.
After obtaining an M.A. in 1968 from the Dance Department at the University of California, Los Angeles, McCormick joined the faculty, where he taught costume design and construction, and designed for performance and degree productions at the department. He was a guest lecturer at California Institute of the Arts as well as other universities for many years.
McCormick retired in 1979, and settled in his birthplace of Gouverneur, then in nearby Canton, NY.
The March 1958 issue of Dance Magazine included coverage of the previous year's Dance Magazine Awards, one of which went to Dame Alicia Markova.
Markova danced the title role in the first British production of Giselle. Photo by Walter E. Owens, Courtesy DM Archives
After 50 years, George Balanchine's New York City Ballet male dancers—Jacques d'Amboise, Edward Villella and Arthur Mitchell—were reunited. The one-night-only event at the National Dance Institute in New York City (founded by d'Amboise in 1976) provided a rare glimpse of what it was like to work with Mr. B. during ballet's golden years at NYCB.
The three men, all in their early 80s, discussed everything from their ballet beginnings: Villella being dragged with his sister to class, to dancing with "Balanchine's gals" (as d'Amboise referred to them), several of whom were in attendance, including Patricia McBride and Suki Schorer. Sprinkled throughout the discussion was video footage of the three men performing memorable roles choreographed by Balanchine. Current NYCB members Joaquin de Luz, Sterling Hyltin, Adrian Danchig-Waring, Teresa Reichlen, Daniel Ulbricht and Ask La Cour Rasmussen also performed live excerpts from Prodigal Son, Agon, Apollo and Tarantella.
In the February 1973 issue of Dance Magazine, one year before he received a Dance Magazine Award, we had a lengthy conversation with Maurice Béjart about his process.
Maya Plisetskaya and Béjart, Bolshoi Theatre, 1978. Photo courtesy DM Archives
We can all relate to the feeling: You go see a new dance work that you absolutely love, and when you get home, you have no choice but to create a bronze sculpture depicting the performance.
Okay, maybe not. But in 1912, that's exactly what Auguste Rodin did after seeing the premiere of Vaslav Nijinsky's Afternoon of a Faun.
And for a short time, the iconic sculptor's depiction of Nijinsky, as well as his cast plaster for the piece, are on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City as part of a Rodin exhibition.