David Bruce: Critics, Education

Critics

• After Merce Cunningham and his dancers had performed at a matinee in London’s Saville Theatre in 1966, Merce Cunningham dancer Carolyn Brown answered the questions of several students who came backstage. One student asked, “Is he serious? I mean, isn’t he just pulling our leg?” Ms. Brown thought about her answer, then replied, “Do you really believe that a man would spend his whole life working this hard, even going into debt, merely to pull your leg?”

• Louis Horst wrote a review in Dance Observer of a 1957 Paul Taylor Dance Company concert that did not contain even a single conventional dance step, instead featuring such things as a man and a woman sitting motionless beside each other as they listened to a composition by John Cage. At the top of the page containing the review appeared the name and the date of the concert. The rest of the page was blank, except for Mr. Horst’s initials at the bottom of the page.

• On May 1, 1965, Twyla Tharp danced in the first piece of music she had ever choreographed: “Tank Dive.” The next morning she bought the major New York newspapers, eager to find out what the critics had thought of her performance and her choreography. Fortunately, she didn’t find any bad reviews. Unfortunately, she didn’t find any reviews. She said, “I couldn’t believe the critics didn’t realize what we had here was history created last night.”

Death

• Ballet dancers have extremely strong legs. In 1840, Fanny Elssler crossed the Atlantic on the very first steamship for passengers. One day, she discovered a jewel thief in her cabin. She was alone, and she was unarmed, so she used her ballet muscles and kicked the jewel thief — the ballet kick killed him.

• African-American choreographer Alvin Ailey, Jr., created Memoria in memory of his friend Joyce Trisler. When Mr. Ailey died, Gary DeLoatch danced the lead role in Memoria, but this time the lead role was not the part of Joyce Trisler. Instead, the lead role was the part of Mr. Ailey.

Education

• When Choo Chiat Goh, the father of Chan Hon Goh, was a young dancer in London, he had a chance to dance for Anton Dolin’s company, but he turned it down because he wished to study dance in China under Pyotr Gusiev. Later, Mr. Goh opened a dance studio in Vancouver, Canada, where his daughter took classes from him. Hearing that Mr. Dolin was in Vancouver, Mr. Goh invited him to watch a dance class. Mr. Dolin accepted the offer, and after the class he pointed to a student and told Mr. Goh, “That one — she has it. Yes, she is going to be a beautiful dancer.” Mr. Goh was not sure which dancer Mr. Dolin meant. It looked like he was pointing to his daughter, but to make sure, Mr. Goh called Chan Hon over and asked Mr. Dolin, “You are talking about her?” Mr. Dolin replied, “Yes,” and Mr. Goh said, “She is my daughter.” Mr. Dolin’s prophecy was accurate. Chan Hon Goh became a beautiful dancer — and a prima ballerina for the National Ballet of Canada.

• When Ruthanna Boris was a young dancer, she was second to Marie-Jeanne, who danced solos. One day, after complaining to her mother, she (and especially her mother) decided that she should ask choreographer George Balanchine for solos. She did, and she started crying. Mr. Balanchine told her, “Don’t cry, and don’t tell me what your mother wants. And don’t ask me for solos.” Then Mr. Balanchine, who Ms. Boris says spoke in parables, asked her, “Do you know how to make a Caesar salad?” For 30 minutes, he explained how to make a Caesar salad, starting with obtaining fresh ingredients. When he had finished instructing her, he said, “You see how long it takes and how much you have to know and how you have to work to make a Caesar salad?” He then said, “Now go away,” and let her contemplate what the parable had to say about learning to dance.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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