David Bruce: The Funniest People in Dance — Rehearsals, Religion, Respect, Retirement, Sabotage


• Anna Pavlova took dance rehearsals seriously. Early in her career, she arrived at the Mariinsky Theatre, but discovered that she had forgotten her practice clothes. No problem. She wrapped two towels around her body and practiced — despite the sniggering of the stagehands in the theater.


• After Rumi, the founder of the Whirling Dervishes, died, zealots went to the ruler and asked him to suppress Rumi’s innovations of sacred dance and sacred music. The ruler, being a wise man, asked a learned man, the Mufti of Qonya, Sheik Sadru-’d-Din, if he should listen to the zealots. The Mufti told him, “Do nothing of the kind. Listen not to such biased suggestions. There is an apostolical saying to this effect: ‘A laudable innovation, introduced by a perfect follower of the prophets, is of the same nature with the customary practices of the prophets themselves.’” The ruler took the Mufti’s advice and did not suppress the Whirling Dervishes’ sacred dance and sacred music.

• Dance is sometimes liturgical. At a Catholic Church, a young female dancer rhythmically moved down the aisle, then laid a lily at the bishop’s feet. The bishop joked to the pastor, “If she asks for your head on a platter, she can have it.”


• Even at very young ages, ballet dancers can command attention. While Antoinette Sibley was still at the British junior ballet school — the White Lodge — the ballet students were excited over a program listing all the dancers, even the minor ones, of a performance of The Sleeping Beauty. The excitement was not over the dancers performing Aurora or the Prince but over a dancer with a minor role — “Antoinette Sibley is a Lilac Fairy attendant!”

• Soviets respect ballet. To correctly film a scene in Romeo and Juliet, ballerina Galina Ulanova had to run 70 or 80 yards several times. At first, a group of watching sailors applauded each time she made the run, then they began to worry that she might exhaust herself. One sailor told choreographer Leonid Lavrovsky, “If you kill her, we’ll kill you.”

• When Eleanora Hughes was dancing in Paris, a Spanish marquis fell in love with her and threatened to jump out of a window unless she returned his love. She told him, “All right, dear, go ahead and jump. But since the room is only two stories above the ground, I’m not the least impressed by your bravery.”


• Modern dance pioneer Martha Graham danced until she was 75, and she took her retirement from dance hard, although she continued to teach and to choreograph. One day, Tim Wengerd, a dancer in her company, saw that she had been crying, and she explained that she had been dreaming that she was dancing — something she was now incapable of doing in real life.

• As the great dancer Rudolf Nureyev edged closer to his 50th birthday, critics began to say that it was time for him to retire. However, Mr. Nureyev declined to stop dancing. Instead, he said, “Inside, I am only twenty-three, an eternal youth. Dancing, for me, is forever.”


• During her performance in the ballet Firebird in New York, Irina Baronova leaped onto the stage, only to have her shoulder straps break and the top of her costume fall down. Her dance partner, Paul Petroff, reached under her arm and held up her costume while she finished the dance. Later, they examined her costume and discovered that it had been sabotaged — a razor blade had been used to almost sever the shoulder straps.

• After ballerina Marie Taglioni made her triumphant debut at the Paris Opéra, several ballet dancers became so jealous that before her next performance, they sprinkled bits of soap on the stage in the hope that she would slip on them.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Music Recommendation: Librarians with Hickeys — “Be My Plus One”


Music: “Be My Plus One”


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