• When Antony Tudor first came to the United States, he arrived on Columbus Day. All the banks were closed and no bonds had been posted, so he was forced to remain on Ellis Island that night. Fortunately, he enjoyed the company he found there.
• As Josephine Baker was leaving a nightclub in Zagreb, Yugoslavia, a student stabbed himself out of love for her. Later, she remarked, “What I like about Europe is the excitement. Something new happens every day.”
• When Rudolf Nureyev owned the island of Li Galli, a boat filled with tourists would occasionally sail around the island. Mr. Nureyev often lay in bed, listening as the boat’s tour guide recited his accomplishments.
• In 1946, when Nora Kaye and Muriel Bentley were dancing in England shortly after World War II, they were only partially prepared for wartime austerity. For example, realizing that the food options might be limited at the Savoy where they were staying, they asked the waiter what they could have for breakfast. The waiter replied that they could have anything they wanted, so they ordered eggs. However, as the waiter was leaving, he asked, “May I have the eggs now, please?” Another problem they ran into was wearing a wardrobe that was sumptuous in England at that time. They wore high heels, nylons, silk dresses, and fur jackets, and they were frequently propositioned because other people assumed that anyone with such fine clothing in a society with clothing rationing had to belong to a profession that welcomes propositions.
• During World War II, ballet dancer Valentina Pereyaslavec suffered enormous privations, including being incarcerated in a camp for Ukrainian displaced persons. When she finally made her way to the United States, she had $11, a coffee pot, a winter coat (made from a blanket originally belonging to the German army), and two left shoes — the only shoes that were available to her.
• War is hell, including hell on male ballet dancers. For one thing, male dancers, like other males, often have to go off to fight the war. For another, food is often scarce during war. When British dance critic Arnold L. Haskell saw some American dancers during World War II, he noticed immediately that they were well nourished, in contrast to the British male dancers.
• When he was young and inexperienced, Hector Gray worked as a dancer for producer Walter Johnson. This was exhausting work, as no union existed to limit the number of rehearsal hours. At a rehearsal one day, Mr. Gray was so exhausted that he walked off the stage rather than dancing off as he should have. Mr. Johnson severely criticized him for it, and Mr. Gray replied, “Do better.” Mr. Johnson then answered, “I shall.” A few minutes later, the music of Mr. Gray’s favorite dance started playing, and a just-promoted former member of the chorus stepped out and started dancing. Mr. Gray was fired.
• Master choreographer George Balanchine worked much with ballerina Suzanne Farrell. Another ballerina, Maria Tallchief, understood why when she gave a dance class that Ms. Farrell attended. Ms. Farrell was a little unsteady while holding her leg out to the side, so Ms. Tallchief corrected her, saying that she could steady herself by raising her leg higher. Ms. Farrell immediately raised her leg — almost above her head. Ms. Tallchief was astonished: “Oh, my goodness …. Now I see. This is the material George wants to work with.”
• When Misha Baryshnikov defected from the USSR in 1974, Rudolf Nureyev, who had defected earlier, took him to dinner. Mr. Baryshnikov was 10 years younger than Mr. Nureyev, who pointed to him and said, “Now I will have to work 10 times as hard to keep up with new competition.” Mr. Nureyev was asked, “How can you work harder? No one works harder than you!” He narrowed his eyes and said, “Watch me!”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
The Funniest People in Dance — Buy