Dance History

#tbt: What Erik Bruhn Believed Audiences Deserved From Artists

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."

Breaking Stereotypes
Lindsay Martell at a class performance. Courtesy Martell.

More than once, when I'm sporting my faded, well-loved ballet hoodie, some slight variation of this conversation ensues:

"Is your daughter the dancer?"

"Actually," I say, "I am."

"Wow!" they enthuse. "Who do you dance with? Or have you retired...?"

"I don't dance with a company. I'm not a professional. I just take classes."

Insert mic drop/record scratch/quizzical looks.

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Teaċ Daṁsa in Michael Keegan-Dolan's Loch na hEala. Photo by Marie-Laure Briane, courtesy Walker Art Center

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