David Bruce: Create, Then Take a Break — Choreographers, Clothing


• When Anton Dolin’s first choreographed his “Doll Ballet,” lots of people came to him, requesting something special, such as a solo for a friend. He listened to them—as he says, “like a fool”—with the result that the ballet was very bad, and he had to re-choreograph it, with no special bits, but instead with all the dancers used en masse. By the way, in 1917, when he was a young man (and still dancing under his real name: Patrick Kay), Mr. Dolin appeared in Fédora, where he had a small but important role as a Russian page. Sir Squire Bancroft asked him at a rehearsal whether he spoke French. Mr. Dolin replied that he did not; nevertheless, Sir Squire Bancroft asked him to speak the word “madame” as the French do. Mr. Dolin made the attempt, then Sir Squire Bancroft told him, “My lad, you’d better say it in English. Don’t try to speak like a Frenchman.”

• Choreographer George Balanchine always wanted the members of his New York City Ballet to behave with consideration in whatever place they visited. Once he became very annoyed in West Berlin when some members of his company boarded a bus after carrying out from a restaurant some china cups filled with coffee. By the way, Mr. Balanchine once choreographed a ballet with the title “Pamtgg,” which stood for the advertising slogan “Pan Am makes the going great.” Unfortunately, the ballet was a flop.

• When choreographer Leonide Massine owned the island of Li Galli, occasionally tourists would try to land on his island. When that happened, Mr. Massine would take a bullhorn and shout at them: “Get off my property.” Later, when Rudolf Nureyev owned the island, he would do the same thing.


• Stella Ehrhart, age eight in 2012 and then a third-grader at Dundee Elementary School in Omaha, Nebraska, wore costumes to school, beginning when she was in the second grade. That school year, she wore a different costume each school day, but in the third grade she repeated some costumes.

She and her mother kept a list of Stella’s costumes. On her first day of the second grade, she wore ordinary clothing, but on the second day of school, she dressed as author Laura Ingalls Wilde. The costumes usually featured a notable woman from her book 100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century, which is heavily illustrated with photographs. The costumes were not necessarily elaborate. She has been singer Billie Holiday (a black dress and a red tissue-paper flower) and actress Grace Kelly (pink satin lace) and Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi (a hat that her aunt bought for her in Vietnam). She has also worn costumes such as one for singer Joan Baez (a military-green fitted half-blazer, a patterned blouse, black slacks, and cowboy boots).

Classmate Abby Adams identified her favorite of Stella’s costumes: “Ummm, Laura Ingalls Wilder. She wore, like, these shoes that were black and white. She wore, like, this dress with leggings. It’s kind of cool. I might do it next year.” Best friend Virginia Holtzclaw said, “My favorite costume was last year—she dressed as me.” Jack Jenowe said, “One time she dressed as our principal. It’s cool.”

Stella’s father is actor-director-teacher Kevin Ehrhart, who played the Cat in the Hat during a Rose Theater production of Seussical the Musical—Stella played a baby kangaroo. Her mother is actor-director Stephanie Anderson. Her mother liked it when Stella wore a costume for artist “Georgia O’Keeffe. That was one of my favorites.” Stella once pointed to a picture of Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and asked, “Mom, was I her on Friday?” Her mother replied, “No. You were Queen Elizabeth.”

• Marie Camargo (1710-1770) was an innovator in ballet. Before Ms. Camargo, ballerinas danced in ankle-length skirts. Ms. Camargo caused a scandal by dancing in skirts that showed part of her calf; however, this allowed her to create ballet moves that featured the ballerinas’ feet—she was the likely inventor of the entrechat-quatre, a move in which the ballerina jumps and crosses her feet four times while in the air. Later, Marie Sallé (1707-1756) further improved the ballerina’s clothing by dancing in a petticoat and a simple dress—although she still wore a corset. Today, classical ballerinas dance in tights and a short skirt known as a tutu. By the way, Ms. Camargo knew how to seize opportunity. A mere member of a dance ensemble, she wished to be a star. At a concert, a male dancer named Dumoulin failed to respond to his cue, so Ms. Camargo left the ensemble, went to the front of the stage, and improvised a solo that was enthusiastically applauded. Also by the way, on 14 February 1734, Ms. Sallé produced and starred in Pygmalion, which she also choreographed. Pygmalion was the first ballet to be fully choreographed by a woman.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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