Frederic Franklin in Valerie Bettis' A Streetcar Named Desire (1952). Photo courtesy DM Archives
In the June 1974 issue of Dance Magazine, our cover subject was the endlessly charming Frederic Franklin, then 60 years old. After declaring at the age of 4 that he was "going to be in the theater," the Liverpool-born dancer spent a lifetime doing exactly that.
Thirty years ago, U.S. Joint Resolution 131, introduced by congressman John Conyers (D-MI) and Senator Alphonse D'Amato (R-NY), and signed into law by President G. W. Bush declared:
"Whereas the multifaceted art form of tap dancing is a manifestation of the cultural heritage of our Nation...
Whereas tap dancing is a joyful and powerful aesthetic force providing a source of enjoyment and an outlet for creativity and self-expression...
Whereas it is in the best interest of the people of our Nation to preserve, promote, and celebrate this uniquely American art form...
Whereas May 25, as the anniversary of the birth of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson is an appropriate day on which to refocus the attention of the Nation on American tap dancing: Now therefore, be it resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress that May 25, 1989, be designated "National Tap Dance Day."
Still of Fonteyn from the 1972 film I Am a Dancer. Photo courtesy DM Archives
On May 18, 1919, Margot "Peggy" Hookham was born. She would grow up to become Dame Margot Fonteyn, England's first homegrown prima ballerina. She joined the Sadler's Wells School in 1934 and was performing principal roles with the precursor to The Royal Ballet the next year. Fonteyn was a company-defining figure, dancing Aurora for the re-opening of the Royal Opera House after World War II, creating numerous roles with Sir Frederick Ashton and forging a legendary partnership with Rudolf Nureyev.
Merce Cunningham in his Changeling (1957). Photo courtesy DM Archives
Today—April 16, 2019—marks what would have been Merce Cunningham's 100th birthday. As dancers from Los Angeles to New York City to London gear up for Night of 100 Solos (the marathon performance event being livestreamed today), and as companies and presenters worldwide continue to celebrate the Cunningham Centennial through their programming, we searched through the Dance Magazine Archives to unearth our favorite images of the groundbreaking dancemaker.
When George Balanchine's full-length Don Quixote premiered in 1965, critics and audiences alike viewed the ballet as a failure. Elaborate scenery and costumes framed mawkish mime passages, like one in which the ballerina washed the Don's feet and dried them with her hair. Its revival in 2005 by Suzanne Farrell, the ballerina on whom it was made and to whom Balanchine left the work, did little to alter its reputation.
Yet at New York City Center's Balanchine festival last fall, some regretted its absence.
"I'd want to see Balanchine's Don Quixote," says Apollinaire Scherr, dance critic for the Financial Times. "It was a labor of love on his part, and a love letter as well. And you want to know what that looks like in his work."
Even great choreographers make mistakes. Sometimes they fail on a grand scale, like Don Quixote; other times it may be a minor misstep. Experiment and risk help choreographers grow, but what happens when a choreographer of stature misfires? Should the work remain in the repertory? And what about a work that fails on some levels but not others?
A page from the December 1944 issue of Dance Magazine
Sometimes we find absolute gems in the DM Archives. And sometimes we find things that are so bizarre we couldn't have made them up if we tried. Take, for example, the opening lines of an article that appeared in the December 1944 issue of Dance Magazine:
A.I.M in Andrea Miller's state. Photo by Steven Schreiber, Courtesy Google Arts & Culture
Raise your hand if you've ever gotten sucked down an informational rabbit hole on the internet. (Come on, we know it's not just us.) Now, allow us to direct you to this new project from Google Arts & Culture. To celebrate Black History Month, they've put together a newly curated collection of images, videos and stories that spotlights black history and culture in America specifically through the lens of dance—and it's pretty much our new favorite way to pass the time online.
Bob Fosse rehearses a group of dancers for Sweet Charity's psychedelic "Rhythm of Life" sequence. Photo by Universal Pictures, Courtesy DM Archives
In the February 1969 issue of Dance Magazine, we talked to Bob Fosse about taking Sweet Charity from stage to screen. Though he already had a string of Tony Awards for Best Choreography and had spent plenty of time on film sets as a choreographer, this adaptation marked his first time sitting in the director's chair for a motion picture.
"When I started out, I wanted to be a Fred Astaire," he told us, "and after that a Jerome Robbins. But then I realized there was always somebody a dancer or choreographer had to take orders from. So I decided I wanted to become a director, namely a George Abbott. But as I got older I dropped the hero-worship thing. I didn't want to emulate anyone. Just wanted to do the things I was capable of doing—and have some fun doing them. By this time I'm glad I didn't turn out to be an Astaire, a Robbins or an Abbott." He would go on to become an Academy Award–winning director, indelibly changing musical theater in the process.
Wendy Whelan spoke with Balanchine legends Allegra Kent, Kay Mazzo, Gloria Govrin and Merrill Ashley. Eduardo Patino.NYC, Courtesy NDI
George Balanchine famously wrote, that ballet "is a woman." Four of his most celebrated women—Allegra Kent, Gloria Govrin, Kay Mazzo and Merrill Ashley—appeared onstage at Jacques d'Amboise's National Dance Institute Monday evening to celebrate his legacy. The sold-out program, called "Balanchine's Ballerinas," included performances of excerpts from ballets closely associated with these women and a discussion, moderated by former New York City Ballet principal Wendy Whelan. Here are some highlights of the conversation, filled with affection, warmth and fond memories.
The Mariinsky Ballet in Balanchine's "Rubies," photo courtesy Mariinsky Ballet
I've just read Emma Sandall's piece on hyperextension and the 180-degree position. It's intelligent, interesting, well-written. But there are a few mistakes and some misleading remarks. I can't resist writing the following.
1. If Guillem says Fonteyn said would have lifted her leg higher if she could, then that's what Guillem says.
But she's wrong. Keith Money's book "Margot Assoluta" (published in 2000) includes a photo of Fonteyn in rehearsal doing a seconde almost to shoulder-height: she told Money "I can get the leg that high—but it ruins the line." Fonteyn wanted level hips, something crucial to many ideas of placement but not discussed by Sandall.
In the 1987 television program The Ballerinas, Carla Fracci, here with Peter Ustinov, embodied nearly a dozen ballet icons, from Marie Taglioni to Tamara Karsavina. Photo courtesy DM Archives
The cover star of the January 1974 issue of Dance Magazine was beloved Italian ballerina Carla Fracci. She was adored by ballet fans in the U.S. for her guest appearances with American Ballet Theatre, and a bona fide celebrity in her hometown of Milan. But she nevertheless made time for her director husband and their young son, who often accompanied her on tour. "I don't like to be only ballerina," she told us. "I say: the dance—all right. I like it. I like my work, and I do the best that I can. But it is not 'all' for me...Most dancers are closed, in a way, because it takes so much to dance, the physique is under so much stress, that often they are too tired, even to read, or to go to the theaters, the museums, to hear music, to be with people. But you can't be a dancer without these things...You can't just close your eyes and go to the barre. You get lost in this obsession with the barre and toe shoes. Your life can be destroyed that way."
José Greco's first exposure to Spanish dance was as a child, while visiting his mother's family in Seville, Spain. Photo courtesy DM Archives
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.
Jerome Robbins would have been 100 years old on October 11, 2018. Photo by Frederic Ohringer, Courtesy DM Archives
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.
Molissa Fenley (left) and her dancers in 1985. Photo by Chris Callis, Courtesy DM Archives
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
Paul Taylor flying high in 1957. Photo by Radford Bascome, 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.
Erik Bruhn and Natalia Makarova after the 1975 premiere of John Neumeier's Epilogue at American Ballet Theatre. Photo by J. L. Vartoogian, Courtesy DM Archives
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."
Taylor with PTAMD dancers Annmaria Mazzini and Michael Trusnovec. Photo by Richard Calmes
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."
Bronislava Nijinska, at 80, staging her Les Noces. Photo by Serge Lido, Courtesy DM Archives
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."
Photo by Jeff Eason, courtesy of Dance Films Association
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.