• Peter Martins was a protege of choreographer George Balanchine. One day, Mr. Martins was making a new work on Suzanne Farrell and a male partner, and he kept saying to the male partner, “I don’t want to see you,” which meant that he wanted the male partner to contribute to a unified performance and not be a distraction. Ms. Farrell burst out laughing, then explained that Mr. Martins was saying exactly the same thing that Mr. Balanchine used to say. “I know, I know, I can hear him now,” Mr. Martins said. “He was so right.”
• In Coppélia, Franz sleeps for much of the second half of the ballet before waking up and performing some strenuous leaping over furniture while being chased. This sudden action after a long rest can lead to strained muscles, so dancer Erik Bruhn used to cover himself with an electric blanket on stage to keep his muscles warm and ready for action. By the way, ballerinas lead an exhausting life. Karen Kain once fell asleep in front of 3,000 people at the Metropolitan Opera House while lying on the stage in the role of Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty.
• After ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov defected from the Soviet Union in 1974, he looked around the West for a dance partner, finally settling on Gelsey Kirkland because she was the right size to make a good partner for him. When Ms. Kirkland received a telephone call asking if she would dance with him, she screamed at the top of her voice, “WHAT DO YOU MEAN, WOULDI DANCE WITH HIM? OF COURSE I WILL!”
• In the party scene of the Nutcrackerballet, the performers on stage appear to be talking together. Sometimes this is not acting — the music by Tchaikovsky is so loud that often the performers feel free to talk. During one series of performances in which ballerina Alice Patelson danced, the production manager had to warn the performers to be quiet during the party scene because their conversations were becoming too loud.
• While Alexandra Danilova was dancing with the Ballet Russe, she was practicing pirouettes with the support of Freddie Franklin when someone startled her. Her arm flew back, hit Mr. Franklin in the mouth, and knocked out one of his teeth. His dentist didn’t believe it when Mr. Franklin told him what had happened: “But she’s so lovely, so romantic, so ethereal. How could she do such a thing?”
• Dance teacher Nicolas Legat drew well — especially caricatures. Once he learned that Doris Sonne, one of his dance pupils, would be unable to attend his class, so he sent her a caricature of himself crying huge tears into a cup. By the way, Mr. Legat was very strong. His dance studio had a pine floor, and he used to throw pennies so forcefully that they would become embedded in the floor.
• Black ballet dancer Arthur Mitchell danced for the New York City Ballet, then started the Dance Theatre of Harlem. He proved that blacks can dance classical ballet, then stated that he didn’t want a dance company of blacks only. He once said, “Now I want a company with two of every race in the world and put them on stage and have them all dancing — a kind of Noah’s ark!”
• American ballet master George Balanchine occasionally left talented and gifted dancers on their own. Once, Karin von Aroldingen told him, “You never cared about me.” Mr. Balanchine replied, “No, dear — I knew you could do it on your own.”
• During World War I, many Americans opposed the playing of German music on patriotic grounds. However, many musicians, including Spanish cellist Pablo Casals, regarded this attitude as nonsense, so Mr. Casals started the Beethoven Association in New York with other musicians who supported the playing of works by Ludwig van Beethoven and other great German composers. By the way, when Mr. Casals was 96 years old, he suffered a second serious heart attack. This made him angry, and he vowed, “D*mn it! I will not die!” However, on 22 October 1973, despite the fierceness of his anger, he did die.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
THE COOLEST PEOPLE IN THE ARTS