Vaslav Nijinsky

N. Rimsky-Korsakov, “Vaslav Nijinsky in the Ballet Scheherazade”, 1910, Private Collection

Born Waclaw Niżyński on March 12, 1889, in Kiev to Polish parents, both touring dancers, Vaslav Nijinsky was a ballet dancer and choreographer, considered the greatest male dancer of the early 1900s. Praised for his virtuosity and intensity of the characters he portrayed, Nijinsky possessed the ability to dance ‘en pointe’, on his toes with feet fully extended, a rarity among male dancers at the time. 

In 1909, Nijinsky joined the Ballets Russes, a new ballet company started by ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev, who concentrated on promoting Russian arts abroad, particularly in Paris. Diaghilev became deeply involved in directing and managing Nijinsky’s career, eventually becoming Nijinsky’s lover for a time. Despite complications in both reworking existing ballets and financial issues, the 1909 Paris season of colorful Russian operas and ballets was a success, with Nijinsky displaying his unique talents and the performances setting new trends in dance, music and fashion.

Breaking against tradition, Nijinsky began choreographing in 1912 original ballets with new trends in music and dance, sometimes causing riotous reactions at the Théâtre de Champs-Élysées. His “Afternoon of the Faun”, set to music by Debussy, is onsidered one of the first modern ballets; though, the ballet’s sexually suggestive final scene caused controversy among its Parisian viewers. His ballet “Rite of Spring”, set to music by Stravinsky, which exceeded the limits of traditional ballet, music scores, and propriety, resulted in violence among the audience at the premier.

In September of 1913, while on tour with the Ballets Russes in South America, Nijinsky married Hungarian aristocrat and actress Romola de Pulszky, despite warnings to both parties by friends. They toured together with the troupe for the season, living in seperate rooms. Nijinsky realized he had made a mistake with the marriage; but the marriage was never legally ended. After the tour was ended, Nijinsky and troupe traveled back to Paris.

Relations, both work and personal, between Diaghilev and Nijinsky had been deteriorating for some time. Upon his return from the South American tour, Nijinsky was notified by an assistant to Diaghilev that he would no longer be employed by the Ballets Russes and also learned that none of his original ballets would be performed by the group. This was particularly devastating as the Ballets Russes was the pre-eminent ballet company and the only innovative modern-thinking one. An attempt was made by Nijinsky to form his own dance company, but he did not succeed.

Classified a Russian citizen and no longer with a military exemption from service, Nijinsky was interned in Budapest during World War I, under house arrest until his release was arranged in 1916. The complex arrangements for this included the agreement that Nijinsky would dance and choreograph for the North and South America tour of the Ballets Russes. The tour proved very stressful to Nijinsky, already in an unsteady position, resulting in anxiety and bouts of rage and frustration. His last performance was in Montevideo, Uruguay, for the Red Cross on September 30, 1917 at age twenty-eight. It was at this time that signs of Nijinsky’s existing schizophrenia became apparent to members of the company. 

In 1919 in Zurich, Nijinsky was diagnosed with schizophrenia and committed to Burghölzli, the leading psychiatric hospital in Switzerland. For the next 30 years, Nijinsky was in and out of hospitals and asylums, maintaining long periods of silence during his years of illness. From 1947 Nijinsky lived in Surrey, England, with his wife Romola who tended to his care. He died from kidney failure at a London clinic on April 8, 1950, and was buried in London, his body later being moved in 1953 to Montmartre Cemetery in Paris.

Nijinsky wrote his “Diary”, reflecting the decline of his household into chaos, during the six weeks in 1919 he spent in Switzerland before being committed to the asylum to Zurich. Discovering years later the three notebooks of the diary plus another with letters to a variety of people, his wife Romola published a bowdlerized version of the diary in 1936, translated into English by Jennifer Mattingly. She deleted about forty per cent of the diary, especially references to bodily functions, sex, and homosexuality, recasting Nijinsky as an “involuntary homosexual.” Romola also removed some of his more unflattering references to her and others close to their household. The first unexpurgated edition of “The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky” was published in 1995, edited by New Yorker dance critic Joan Acocella and translated by Kyril Fitz Lyon. 

Nijinsky is immortalized in numerous still photographs, many of them by British portrait photogaper E. O. Hoppe, who photographed the Ballets Russes seasons in London extensively between 1909 and 1921. No film exists of Nijinsky dancing; Diaghilev never allowed the Ballets Russes to be filmed because he felt that the quality of film at the time could never capture the artistry of his dancers.

Barbara Morgan, “Martha Graham”

Barbara Morgan, “Martha Graham”, Performance “Letter to the World”, 1940

“Letter to the World” is an American modern dance piece created by Martha Graham in 1940 exploring the life and work of the poet Emily Dickinson, one of Graham’s favorite poets. It is an introspective work that, in Graham’s words, investigates Dickinson’s inner landscape. The main narrative rotates around the struggle of the One Who Dances and the Ancestress, who embodies the poet’s Puritan tradition and death, creating a combination of dances and spoken lines.

Reblogged with many thanks to a great site: doctordee. tumblr..com

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A Year: Day to Day Men: 29th of November,  Solar Year 2018

Trade

November 29, 1895 was the birthdate of choreographer Busby Berkeley.

Born William Berkeley Enos in California, Busby Burkeley, enlisted for service in the military during World War I. He oversaw military drills for both the American and French forces, an experience which would give him inspiration in later years. Taking advantage of his mother’s theatrical connections, Burkeley became an entertainment officer, directing and producing plays for the American troops in postwar Germany.

Taking the name of Busby Berkeley, he turned to the stage after the war, finding his forte was directing musicals. In 1927, Berkeley choreographed the Rogers and Hart musical “A Connecticut Yankee”, which was a tremendous success, making him one of Broadway’s most-coveted choreographers. Following that success, he choreographed, directed, and produced the 1929 musical “The Street Singer”.

Success brought Busby Berkeley to the attention of Hollywood. Samuel Goldwyn had him work on comedian Eddie Cantor’s film “Whoopee”, previously a production on Broadway by Flo Ziegfeld. Berkeley choreographed and directed the dance numbers in the film. He late worked on the Bert Lahr musical “Flying High” and the 1932 “Night World” with its night club scenes.

Busby Berkeley decided to move to the Warner Brothers Studio; this is where his most famous work was done. In 1933, he staged the dances for three musicals now regarded as classics: “Gold Diggers of 1933”, “42nd Street”, and “Footlight Parade”. All three films were backstage stories, concerned with the production of a Broadway show. The musical numbers Berkeley created were a opulent fantasy universe, using camera angles and movements that produced views unable to be seen by a sitting audience. Placing his camera directly above the action, he often showed his ensemble of performers moving in precise geometric formations.

In 1935, Warner Brothers made Busby Berkeley a full-fledged director, He produced one of his best works, “Gold Diggers of 1935”, an account of the events at a summer resort showcasing the musical number “Lullaby of Broadway” sung by Wini Shaw. This song won an Academy Award in 1936 and Berkeley was nominated for an Oscar for best dance director. He won his second Oscar for his work of choreography in “Gold diggers of 1937”.

Beginning in the 1960s, Berkeley’s films enjoyed a nostalgic revival, with both critics and film lovers showing renewed interest in his work. He himself returned briefly to Broadway in 1970 to supervise a production of “No No Nanette” with Ruby Keelre, the star of his three great 1933 films.

Paul Kolnik’s Photo of Chase Finlay

Paul Kolnik, “Chase Finlay as Apollo”, 2011, The George Balanchine Trust Studio

Dancer Chase Finlay played the title role in Balanchine’s 1928 ballet “Apollo”.   It was the third performance at the New York City Ballet on the night of May 5th of 2011, proceded by the Balanchine-Stravinsky 1960 “Monumentum Pro Gesualdo”  and the 1963 “Movements for Piano and Orchestra”.

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A Year: Day to Day Men: 28th of August, Solar Year 2018

Smokin’ Guns

August 28, 1925 was the birthdate of American dancer, singer, and actor Donald O’Connor.

Donald O’Connor was born in Chicago to parents Effie Irene Crane and John Edward O’Connor, both vaudeville entertainers. He began performing in movies in 1937 at the age of eleven, making his uncredited debut in the Columbia Pictures’ film “It Can’t Last Forever”.  O’Conner, then twelve, signed a contract at Paramount Studio and appeared in two films in 1938: “Men with Wings” playing a younger version of Fred Mac Murray’s character, and in “Sing You Sinners” appearing as Bing Crosby’s character’s younger brother.

Donald O’Connor appeared in eight more films between the years 1938 and 1939. He appeared as Huckleberry Finn in the 1938 “Tom Sawyer, Detective” and in the 1939 “Boy Trouble” playing an orphan boy with ill with scarlet fever. O’ Connor received fourth billing in “Million Dollar Legs” with Betty Grable and played Gary Cooper as a young boy in the 1939 “Beau Geste”. In 1940, having outgrown child roles, O’Connor returned to the vaudeville stage.

On his eighteenth birthday in August 1943, O’Connor was drafted into the army. Before he reported for induction in February 1944, Universal Studio, with whom he had signed in 1941, already had seven O’Connor films completed. With a backlog of these features, deferred openings at the theaters kept O’Connor’s screen presence uninterrupted during the two years he was overseas.

In 1949, he played the lead role in the film “Francis”, the story of a soldier befriended by a talking mule. The film was a huge success. As a consequence, his musical career was constantly interrupted by production of one “Francis” film per year until 1955. O’Connor received an offer to play Cosmo the piano player in the 1952 “Singin’ in the Rain” at MGM. This earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actor in a Comedy or Musical. The film featured his widely known rendition of “Make ‘Em Laugh” and the notable scene during a dance number when he runs up a wall and does a flip.

The most distinctive characteristic of O’Connor’s dancing style was its athleticism, for which he had few rivals. Yet it was his boyish charm that audiences found most engaging, and which remained an appealing aspect of his personality throughout his career. In his early Universal films, O’Connor closely mimicked the smart alec, fast-talking personality of Mickey Rooney of rival MGM Studio. For “Singin’ in the Rain” however, MGM cultivated a much more sympathetic sidekick persona, and that remained O’Connor’s signature image.

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A Year: Day to Day Men: 15th of July, Solar Year 2018

Summer Heat

July 16, 1911 was the birthdate of actress, dancer and singer Ginger Rogers.

Ginger Rogers had two films in the 1933 that have now become classics. The public was enamored by her in the song and dance “Gold Diggers of 1933”, She did not have top billing but the public remembered her beauty and voice. One song she popularized in the film was the now famous “We’re in the Money”. Rogers played the character of Ann Lowell in “42nd Street”, a musical film with big stage choreography by Busby Berkeley. The film became one of the most profitable ones of the year and received two Academy Award nominations.

Ginger Roger’s real stardom occurred when she was teamed up with actor and dancer Fred Astaire becoming one of the best cinematic couples ever to hit the silver screen. They first appeared in the 1933 “Flying Down to Rio”, a film with marvelous dance numbers, including a breathtaking dance number on the exterior of a formation of airplanes flying over the audience.

Rogers and Astaire did two films in 1935. The first was “Roberta”, an RKO production costarring Irene Dunne and Randolph Scott. The second film of that year was probably the best remembered of her films, “Top Hat”, a screwball musical comedy with a music score by Irving Berlin and the famous dance scene with Rogers wearing a white ostrich-feather dress.

Ginger Rogers made several dramatic pictures; but it was the 1940 “Kitty Foyle” that won her an Academy Award for portrayal in the title role of Kitty Foyle, a working girl facing life-changing decisions. Rogers followed this film with a comedy in 1941 “Tom, Dick, and Harry”. playing a woman who has to decide which of three men she wants to marry. Through the rest of the 1940s and early 1950s she continued to make movies but none of them near the caliber of those before World War II.

After “Oh Men, Oh Women” with David Niven in 1957, Ginger Rogers didn’t appear on the silver screen for seven years. In 1965, she had appeared for the last time in the film “Harlow”, a Paramount production about the life of Jean Harlow. Afterward, she appeared on Broadway and other stage plays traveling in Europe, the U.S. and Canada. After 1984, she retired and wrote an autobiography in 1991 entitled, “Ginger, My Story” recounting her more than sixty films including those with Fred Astaire. On April 25, 1995, Ginger Rogers died of natural causes in Rancho Mirage, California. She was 83.

Sergei Polunin Dancing to Luciano Pavarotti’s Singing “Caruso”

Sergei Polunin Dancing to Luciano Pavarotti’s Singing “Caruso”

Sergei Vladimirovich Polunin is a Ukranian-born ballet dancer, actor and model. He started out in gymnastics before switching to ballet at the age of eight and attended the Kiev State Choreographic Institute. He joined the British Royal Ballet School a the age of thirteen in 2003. He was awarded, among other awards, the Prix de Lausanne and the Youth America Grand Prix in 2006. In 2007 Polunin was named the Young British Dancer of the Year. At the age of 20 in 2010, he became the Royal Ballet’s youngest ever principal dancer.

Polunin is now pursuing a freelance career as a principal dancer, performing at various theaters such as the Bolshoi Theater, La Scala Theater, Teatro San Carlo, and the Royal Ballet. He is a permanent guest artist for the Bayerisches Staatsballet in Munich, Germany.

At the Edge

Photographer Unknown, (At the Edge: The Dancers)

“At the edge you will always remember me, at the edge you will last be remembered, where sanity and insanity come together, for the time, then separates. Like leaves on October trees, that color the world, but for a moment, then leave. At the edge, where life losses its edginess, and thoughts we will become one, someday. At the edge the sun drops, the ring falls, and senses of raindrops climb upwards to the gray sky.”

-Anthony Liccione

Los Vivancos : Extreme Flamenco Fusion

Los Vivancos : Extreme Flamenco Fusion

After receiving a long and complete artistic formation in dance, music and martial arts, and after collaborating with foremost national and international dance companies, Elias, Judah, Josua, Cristo, Israel, Aaron and Josue came together in 2007 to create what has been considered to be the musical scenic phenomena of this decade; Los Vivancos.With their first creation “7BROTHERS” produced, directed, choreographed by them and with their own musical compositions, the Vivancos brothers have appeared in more than 35 countries performing for over one million spectators worldwide.

Los Vivancos have also been invited to important international events by renowned figures and artists like Antonio Banderas or Princess Stephanie of Monaco, French singer and songwriter Mylene Farmer for whom they choreographed in her concert “Avant Que L’Ombre” performing in front of over 18.000 persons at the Bercy Stadium in Paris, or Dortmund’s Symphonic Orchestra with which they performed at the Konthertus Haus in Germany.

Great show, great dance, and hot guys also. Definitely go see them if they are in your city. Un show que se embed sí en su memoria.

Sankai Juku Dance Troupe

Sankai Juku

Sankai Juku (山海塾?) is an internationally known butoh dance troupe. Co-founded by Amagatsu Ushio in 1975, they are touring worldwide, performing and teaching. As of 2010, Sankai Juku had performed in 43 countries and visited more than 700 cities. Amagatsu Ushio maintains that “butoh is a dialogue with the gravity,” while other dance forms tend to revel in escape from gravity. He sees his dance, in contrast, is based on “sympathizing or synchronizing” with gravity.

The all-male company’s work is performed by as few as six dancers eschewing the movements typical of modern or other dance forms. The performances are characterized by slow, mesmerizing passages, often using repetition and incorporating the whole body, sometimes focusing only on the feet or fingers. Sometimes minuscule movement or no movement is discernible and one is presented a meditative vision of statuesque postures or groupings.

Occasionally recognizable emotive postures and gestures are used, notably contorted body shapes and facial expressions conveying ecstasy and perhaps more often, pain and silent “shrieks.” Frequently, ritualized formal patterns are employed, smoothly evolving or abruptly fractured into quick, sharp, seemingly disjointed sequences whose symbolism or “meanings” are obscure.

If you hear Sankai Juku is performing in your area, buy tickets and go see them perform. It is an event that will become etched into your mind.