September 30, 2009

Loving Parker (and Musicals)


Thank you for David Parker’s thoughtful, funny, and heartfelt piece about movie musicals (“My Secret Passion,” July). Like Parker, I was mesmerized by the fanciful gems of MGM’s golden era. The first time my grandmother plopped me down to watch Gigi, I fought her as a 12-year-old should. But once Leslie Caron bounded onto the screen as the precocious French ingénue, huge hats and gilded costumes whirling around her, I had to have more. I gobbled up all I could, from Singin’ in the Rain to The Bandwagon to An American in Paris, and Hello, Dolly!


The grace and sophistication of the performers as they skimmed the floor inspired my dream of being not just a dancer, but a lady, too. And Audrey Hepburn’s jubilant, pigeon-toed escapade in Funny Girl sparked a desire to assert myself as an individual. Meanwhile, the sincerity of the stories stood in stark contrast to the snarky tales I saw in the contemporary mass media. Naive? Perhaps. Hopeful? Absolutely. And really, there’s no wrong time for optimism.


Parker’s love for these qualities, respect for the legacy of the movies, and ability to integrate it all into his work in an alluring modern way is a testament to the material’s power. And no one can rain on that parade.


Lauren Kay

New York, NY



Student of a wise teacher


As a former student and George Mason University dance graduate, I was touched by Kate Mattingly’s interview with Susan Shields (“Teacher’s Wisdom,” Aug.). It is a beautiful piece, reflecting the magnetism of Ms. Shields’ personality and the astuteness of her teaching philosophy. As she said, “A good teacher knows when to let a student go.” I’m sure all of us, from Manhattan to Paris, will always return to the inner poet she inspires within her students. After just learning the sad news of Merce Cunningham passing, reading this article and seeing the photo of Susan and my former classmate Billy Smith lifted my heart, so thank you.


Kathleen Larrick
National Dance Association

Reston, VA



Praise for Pierre


Pierre-François Vilanoba’s article (“Why I Dance,” Aug.), which traces his growth from dancing for fun as a young student to dancing as a means of expression as a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet, is written with great feeling. The series has been an interesting addition to Dance Magazine–it can be amusing, inspirational, informative. It also introduces me to dancers that I have no opportunity to see here in these mountains.


Henley Haslam

Asheville, NC



Photo: David Parker in
Nut/Cracked. Nicholas Burnham, Courtesy Dance Theater Workshop.