• Early in her career, dancer Ann Miller performed live on vaudeville bills featuring the Three Stooges. One day, the stage manager forgot to put down a rubber mat that protected the stage when the Three Stooges engaged in a pie-throwing sketch. When Ms. Miller came on the stage to dance, she slipped and fell into the orchestra pit. The Three Stooges thought this was funny, but Ms. Miller was upset and left the stage briefly before returning to dance. Afterward, the Three Stooges sent her flowers and congratulated her for acting so professionally by performing after the mishap.
• While filming Follow the Fleet in 1936, Fred Astaire suffered a mishap while dancing with Ginger Rogers. She was wearing a beaded gown, and the right sleeve hit Mr. Astaire’s head, dazing him. However, he continued dancing. Although they made 30 takes of the dance, the best take was the one in which Mr. Astaire carried on despite being dazed.
• Ivan Nagy once danced with Margot Fonteyn in Puerto Rico. They were scheduled to dance at a university, but because of a strike they were forced to dance on an emergency stage at a Holiday Inn with low ceilings. At one point, Mr. Nagy was supposed to pick up Ms. Fonteyn and run with her. He began running, but suddenly she was no longer in his hands. Looking back, he saw her hanging from a chandelier.
• Ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev could be cocky. In 1963, after a late performance, he was walking in Toronto, Canada, when he began to dance up the centerline of a street. A police officer arrested him, and Mr. Nureyev said, “You can’t arrest me. I’m Rudolf Nureyev.” The police officer replied, “Yeah, and I’m Fred Astaire — but you are under arrest.” Mr. Nureyev was taken away in handcuffs.
• For a while, Oscar-winning actress Goldie Hawn was a chorus girl. While dancing in the chorus of the musical Kiss Me, Kate, she witnessed an actor who played a strongman run into a problem. He couldn’t find his costume — a loincloth — so he ended up appearing on stage while wearing a woman’s leotard. Ms. Hawn says, “I laughed so hard I peed down my leg.”
• Nora Kaye was a very energetic ballerina. Once, while dancing in Valerie Bettis’ Streetcar Named Desire, she accidentally knocked out her partner, Igor Youskevitch, forcing her to finish the rape scene by herself.
• Edward Renton once conducted a dance with such a slow tempo that dancer Robert Helpmann, who tried mightily to jump to the music, complained, “Have you never heard of gravity?”
• A society woman once made the mistake of announcing that Anna Pavlova would dance at one of her affairs. Afterward, she asked Ms. Pavlova how much she would charge for a dance, and she was shocked when Ms. Pavlova said the price would be £500. The society woman asked, “Surely £500 is a very great deal of money for a performance which will last only five or six minutes?” Ms. Pavlova stood firm, and since the society woman had already announced that Ms. Pavlova would dance, she was forced to agree to Ms. Pavlova’s price. However, Ms. Pavlova thought for a moment about the kind of guests who would likely be present at the society woman’s party, then she said, “If you do not insist upon my sitting with your friends at supper, I will reduce my fee to £300.”
• Léonide Massine choreographed “The Dying Swan” for Anna Pavlova, and the only two people he taught it to were Ms. Pavlova and his wife. However, when his student Patricia Bowman expressed an interest in learning to dance “The Dying Swan,” he asked his wife for permission to teach it to her. She agreed — provided that Ms. Bowman paid $300 for the privilege. After Ms. Bowman had paid the fee and had learned the dance, Mr. Massine said she might forget some of the steps, so he handed her a book that had photographs of “The Dying Swan” and descriptions of all its steps — Ms. Bowman could have learned the dance merely from reading the book! In addition, Mr. Massine charged her $5 for the book!
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
The Funniest People in Dance — Buy