August 2016 | Dance History Quiz

DHQ_T
Fun facts for teachers and students

1 Which counterculture event brought together postmodern dance master Anna Halprin, the Grateful Dead, and 10,000  hippies?


a. Woodstock Music & Art Fair, 1969
b. The Trips Festival, 1966
c. Rainbow Gathering of the Tribes, 1972
d. Earthrise, 1968

Answer
b. The Trips Festival, 1966

In the Marin [CA] Independent Journal Paul Liberatore says Halprin and her troupe performed at the multimedia Trips Festival, “which kicked off San Francisco’s psychedelic era, opening the floodgates for the hippie migration to the Haight Ashbury and setting the stage for 1967’s Summer of Love and all the rock shows and mass gatherings to follow.” It was the last and largest of the so-called Acid Tests, LSD parties chronicled in Tom Wolfe’s best-seller The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.

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2 Which statement about actress/dancer Cyd Charisse is not true?


a. She could tap dance.
b. She recovered from polio.
c. She was born Tula Ellice Finklea.
d. She appeared in the music video for Janet Jackson’s “Alright.”

Answer
a. She could tap dance.

In What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing, author Brian Seibert states that while most of Fred Astaire’s film partners couldn’t tap much, Cyd Charisse “didn’t even pretend.” Born Tula Ellice Finklea in Amarillo, Texas, Charisse started dance lessons to build up her strength after a bout with polio. She went on to perform with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo before her successful Hollywood career in movies such as Silk Stockings and Singin’ in the Rain. Lesser known is her cameo in Jackson’s “Alright” video, a “golden-age-of-Hollywood” tribute that also featured the Nicholas Brothers and Cab Calloway.

3 One of Antony Tudor’s best-known works is Jardin aux Lilas (Lilac Garden), originally performed by Ballet Rambert. On the ballet’s opening night in 1936, what did Tudor do to help set the mood?



a. He arranged for female audience members to receive fresh lilac sprigs.
b. He sprayed the auditorium with lilac perfume.
c. He sprinkled flower petals on the stage.
d. He filled the female dancers’ dressing rooms with lilacs.

Answer
b. He sprayed the auditorium with lilac perfume.

Zoë Anderson reports in The Independent that Tudor’s 1936 drama of repressed love was helped by not only the perfume but also the intimacy of the tiny Mercury Theatre in London’s Notting Hill: with a stage no more than 18 feet square, there was “hardly space to swing a cat, let alone a ballerina,” she says. The 150-seat Mercury appears in the film The Red Shoes when Vicky Page (Moira Shearer) dances as Odette in Swan Lake.

4 The world of professional ballet is often stressful. Which stress-busting items are American Ballet Theatre dancers allowed to bring with them to the studio every day?



a. Adult coloring books
b. A personal masseuse
c. Pillows and blankets for mid-afternoon naps
d. Their dogs

Answer
d. Their dogs

Dog photographer Elias Friedman found a treasure trove of adorable subjects last year when he took his camera into ABT’s New York City studios. Freidman—also known as “The Dogist”—snapped shots of the company dancers’ furry friends as they sat patiently beneath barres or snuggled in dance bags. Susie Taylor, ABT manager of press and online media, told Mashable that ABT has allowed dogs in class since the 1980s. “The dancers love having the dogs around. It’s a great stress reliever, especially since the ballet can be such an exhausting work environment. Plus it really adds to the family-like atmosphere here.”

About 18 dogs and two cats belonging to company members are regulars at the ABT studios, along with an additional seven to 10 dogs that belong to staffers.

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5 If it’s 1929 and you are an adagio dancer in vaudeville, which type of dance are you doing?



a. An early type of lyrical dancing based on the balances, arabesques, and pirouettes associated with adagio study in classical ballet
b. A series of partner lifts and throws, incorporating acrobatic movements and circus arts, designed to shock and awe the audience
c. A slow, sensuous ballroom dance generally presented by married couples because of the close proximity of the dancers’ bodies
d. Any dance done to music written in an adagio tempo

Answer
b. A series of partner lifts and throws, incorporating acrobatic movements and circus arts, designed to shock and awe the audience

The New York Public Library archives describes “adagio” as “acrobatic balance with counterbalance,” which is a dry description of the crazy, circus-based and acrobatic adagio dance, when one flexible and scantily-clad woman was lifted, thrown, dipped, and spun at a dizzying pace by one or more strong-armed male partners. The often jaw-dropping, gasp-inducing dance style was lifted to a more respectable level by practitioners Richard Stuart, who had trained in ballet, and Alberto Gallo, who dressed himself and his partner in evening wear and camouflaged the acrobatic elements under a cloak of refinement and culture.

Some remnants of the mostly forgotten style can be seen today in the athletic overhead lifts employed in competitive pairs figure skating.

6 Swedish choreographer Mats Ek has captivated the dance world for decades, turning out both contemporary works and remakes of classical ballets rich in modern expressionism and theatricality. This year, as he turned 70, he shocked the dance world when he made which announcement?



a. He plans to retire his entire repertoire of works.
b. He is taking over as artistic director of a small ballet company in Siberia.
c. He will return to a professional performing career.
d. He will never teach or coach again.

Answer
a. He plans to retire his entire repertoire of works.

The son of famous choreographer Birgit Cullberg, Mats Ek danced with his mother’s company (Cullberg Ballet) before embarking on a career as a choreographer and an artistic director. Ek infused modern and classical dance with theatrical overtones in startling remakes of works such as Giselle and Swan Lake, delving deep into the psychological truths that lie beneath the story line, and in his expressionistic works such as A Sort Of for Nederlands Dans Theater and Appartement for Paris Opera Ballet.

Ek shocked the dance world this past January when he said he was withdrawing the rights to perform his works from companies across the world, stating that he didn’t want anyone other than himself setting his works. Ek’s decision adds a new twist to the long-standing dilemma of how best to keep modern dance works alive after the original choreographer is gone. “Let them go,” he seems to be saying. “I consider it part of the game in dance that you write on water, and things vanish,” he said in the Financial Times.

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7 Many of the United States’ strong regional ballet companies were founded by women: Boston Ballet by E. Virginia Williams, Atlanta Ballet by Dorothy Alexander, Kansas City Ballet by Tatiana Dokoudovska, Houston Ballet by Nina Popova. The highly esteemed Pennsylvania Ballet was founded by Barbara Weisberger, whose early dance training was marked by which unique distinction?



a. She went on pointe at age 5.
b. She studied folk dancing with Bronislava Nijinska.
c. She was the first child at George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet.
d. She was the first American to portray Clara in The Nutcracker.

Answer
c. She was the first child at George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet.

The Pennsylvania Ballet, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013–2014, owes much of its success to Barbara Weisberger, the visionary leader, inspiring teacher, and founding artistic director who led the company from 1962 to 1982. According to a tribute on the company’s website, in April 1934, only three months after the opening of the George Balanchine/Lincoln Kirstein School of American Ballet, an 8-year-old Barbara auditioned and was invited to join the class of dancers who would become Balanchine’s first American company, the American Ballet. Weisberger recalls being the only child in that class and perhaps the only child at the school until the next fall, when children’s classes began.

Years later, when Weisberger admitted her dreams of a ballet company in Philadelphia, Balanchine reportedly said to her: “Well, Barbara, my smart ballerina, you must do it.”

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8 In the mid–20th century, which female choreographer was often referred to in the tap dance community as “the woman who killed tap”?



a. Lucia Chase
b. Ruby Keeler
c. Mitzi Gaynor
d. Agnes de Mille

Answer
d. Agnes de Mille

In his book What the Eye Hears: A History of Tap Dancing, Brian Seibert explains that the death of Bill “Bojanges” Robinson in 1949 seemed to signal a sea change for tap dance, which had been riding a wave of popularity since the 1920s. But as Seibert explains, many factors caused tap to decline in popularity and jobs for tap dancers to disappear: the advent of television (which led to the demise of the nightclub scene), the birth of rock and roll, and Broadway’s embrace of the “dream ballet” popularized by Agnes “the woman who killed tap” de Mille. Seibert said many great tappers “got work as janitors or hotel clerks, or they drank,” and tap remained a forgotten art form until the ’70s when female tappers such as Brenda Bufalino and Jane Goldberg “pulled these discouraged men out of their living rooms and organized festivals where tap could once again be performed and taught.”

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