• Learning to dance ballet with a partner can be difficult. When Chan Hon Goh, later a prima ballerina with the National Ballet of Canada, was learning to dance with Che Chun, she was terrified at first when he lifted her because she was afraid that he would drop her. Eventually, she learned to trust him, and she treasured a swan-shaped mirror he gave her before their first show together. The card that came with the gift said, “May this be a grand jeté to a brilliant career.” (It was a grand jeté to a brilliant career — and more. Later, they married.)
• Early in his career, ballet master George Balanchine made enough money in Copenhagen to buy an American car, which he took to London, then drove onto a ferry and crossed the English channel to France. Unfortunately, once in France, he discovered that he didn’t have enough money to pay the import fee, so he handed the car keys to a stranger, then continued on his way, using public transportation.
• Alicia Alonso was born in Cuba, but her grandfather was from Spain. When she was seven years old, Alicia and her family visited Spain. Her grandfather asked them for a present — to bring him back a piece of Spain. Therefore, Alicia and her sister learned some Spanish folk dances that they performed for him when they returned to Cuba.
• When she was a young girl, Moira Shearer once darned a pair of ballet shoes while riding in a bus to her ballet lesson. An old man sat next to her and told her of his interest in ballet. He then stood up, handed her a silver thimble, said, “Keep this for luck, my dear,” and disappeared.
• Modern dance pioneer May O’Donnell and her husband, composer Ray Green, acquired five old, dilapidated townhouses in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Mr. Green devoted time and effort to restoring the townhouses, which Ms. O’Donnell described as looking “as if they were in a Charles Addams cartoon. They were dirty, cobwebbed, dingy, and dank.” After restoring the houses, they lived in one, sold two, and gave two away. Ms. O’Donnell explains why they gave two houses away: “… it involved … helping others find a home. We both had an idea of sharing beyond our own lives. The neighborhood was dreadful, full of drug dealers and dangerous people, but somehow we who lived on this street got together and made it a decent place to live.”
• Many dancers show consideration in helping other dancers. When Maria Tallchief gave her first performance in 1951 as Queen of the Swans in George Balanchine’s production of Swan Lake, things did not go well and she was dissatisfied with her performance. At 1 a.m., she received a comforting telephone call from retired ballerina Felia Doubrovska, who told her, “I just want you to know, Maria, maybe you’re not too happy tonight. But it was nerves.”
Husbands and Wives
• When the young ballerina Maria Tallchief was married to choreographer George Balanchine, they hosted a dinner for composer Igor Stravinsky. Mr. Balanchine liked to cook, but he couldn’t physically be at home to prepare the food, so he left instructions for Ms. Tallchief, telling her when to start cooking the potatoes, etc. Unfortunately, Ms. Tallchief was so nervous that she dropped the potatoes on the floor, where they rolled everywhere, and when Mr. Stravinsky arrived, she was picking up the potatoes, washing them off, and putting them in a pot. A very embarrassed Ms. Tallchief explained what had happened, and a very polite Mr. Stravinsky said, “The potatoes will taste better.”
• People tend to think that celebrities live glamorous lives, but that’s not always true — at least not every moment of their lives. When George Balanchine, one of America’s greatest choreographers, was married to Maria Tallchief, one of America’s greatest ballerinas, the apartment they lived in was on the fifth floor, and they had to walk up five flights of stairs to get to it. In addition, they had to do their own housework. Mr. Balanchine disliked having to walk on newspapers after Ms. Tallchief had scrubbed the floor.
• Dance director Busby Berkeley once liked a woman so much that he walked 10 miles every night to woo her. After doing this for 67 consecutive nights, he gave it up — she had married someone else.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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