• Alexandra Danilova once requested her partner, Edouard Borovansky, to not clown around in the background while she danced her variation in Le Beau Danube. He replied that he didn’t even notice when he was clowning around because he was so carried away by the role. Therefore, the next time Mr. Borovansky clowned around, Ms. Danilova slapped him. Of course, he asked her why she had slapped him, and she replied, “Oh, did I? I was so carried away by my role, I didn’t even notice it.”
• As a ballerina who danced the part of Odette, the Swan Princess, in Swan Lake, Cynthia Gregory was always careful to never get a tan. In the glare of the blue stage lights, a ballerina with a tan under her white makeup would look purple. In addition, after years of performing, Ms. Gregory learned to place her personal items — hair spray, makeup, comb and brush, etc. — in the same place each time on her makeup table so she could quickly find what she wanted, even when she is in a new theater.
• In George Balanchine’s Prodigal Son, a single stage prop served many uses. It was used to represent a fence with a gate, a banquet table, a rostrum, and a boat, with the Siren’s red cloak serving as a sail. The prop served these uses partly out of necessity. The boat that was to be used in the production was not finished in time, so Mr. Balanchine decided to use the stage prop he already had. This worked out so well that the boat was never used, even when it was finished.
• Anna Pavlova’s dance troupe spent years touring the United States and appeared in many small towns as well as big cities. Of course, many mishaps arose and many problems had to be solved during those tours. Once, the power went off just as their performance was about to start. Stagehands borrowed several cars and parked them where the headlights would cast light on the stage through the theater’s doors and windows. The show went on.
• While touring in South America, the ballet team of Alicia Alonso and Igor Youskevitch was confronted by an abusive audience member in a very crowded stadium. The other audience members solved the problem by grabbing the offensive man, hoisting him high, then passing him above their heads until finally they threw him over a wall and outside the stadium.
• One of the artworks owned by choreographer Léonide Massine was a drawing by Pablo Picasso that showed a satyr raping a nymph. Mr. Massine’s cleaning woman in London looked at the drawing, then told him, “Either that goes, or I do.” Because he needed a cleaning woman, Mr. Massine packed up the drawing and sent it to his home in Italy.
• Ballerina Yvette Chauviré once averted a disaster on stage. While dancing the lead in Giselle, her pearl necklace broke and fell to the floor. Improvising a dance step, Ms. Chauviré swept the necklace to the side of the stage, out of the way of the other dancers, then continued her performance.
• Alicia Markova felt strongly about Giselle and did much to make it a staple of ballet. During a season of the Markova-Dolin Ballet, the other directors out-voted her and said that Giselle would not be performed that season. However, Ms. Markova forced the other directors to change their minds by threatening to jump off her dressing room balcony if Giselle were not put in the season’s schedule.
• Anna Pavlova was famous for her dance interpretation of Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Dying Swan.” After Ms. Pavlova’s death, choreographer Michel Fokine asked ballerina Alicia Markova to revive “The Dying Swan,” but she declined to do so until a note was put in the program saying that the dance was dedicated to the memory of Ms. Pavlova.
• World-renowned choreographer Antony Tudor once attended an all-Tudor program put on by American Ballet Theatre. Afterward, he overheard a member of the audience say, “Three Tudor ballets in one evening! That’s a bit much, isn’t it?” Mr. Tudor said that after hearing this, he “agreed wholeheartedly.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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