December 2015 | Dance History Quiz

dance-hqFun facts for teachers and students.

1 What is/are The One Hundreds?

a. A senior tap group that performs at professional rugby games
b. A modern dance company in Pierre, South Dakota, named for the nearby hundredth meridian west
c. A dance by Twyla Tharp
d. A competition in which dances cannot last more than 100 seconds

c. A dance by Twyla Tharp

The One Hundreds is a piece choreographed by Tharp in 1970, and danced in silence. It comprises 100 phrases of 11 counts each, performed by two dancers, side by side. After this, five dancers each perform 20 of these phrases without pauses, so that all 100 are covered in a fifth of the time. Then 100 “civilians,” typically non-dancers, do one phrase each, simultaneously, which takes 11 seconds. This piece incorporates movement gleaned from vernacular dance styles, and is an example of Tharp’s engagement in formal exploration. The One Hundreds was recently performed at New York’s River to River festival on June 20, 2015 by seven trained dancers and 100 people who signed up online and rehearsed for three hours on the day of the show.

2 Who was Master Juba?

a. A 19th-century performer of what would become tap, regarded as one of the best dancers of his time
b. A notoriously tough judge on the ballroom dance circuit
c. A professor of dance pedagogy at London’s Middlesex University
d. A 1960s cartoon character who resembled Wile E. Coyote, wore a tuxedo, and sang and danced

a. A 19th-century performer of what would become tap

William Henry Lane (circa 1825–circa 1852) was a prominent practitioner of the popular vernacular dance style of the era. He lived in the Five Points district, an area of New York City that housed many freed slaves and poor Irish immigrants, as well as saloons, brothels, and dance halls. He was believed to have learned to dance from an African American jig-and-reel dancer named “Uncle” Jim Lowe, and began performing the style of dance that evolved from the melding of dances with roots in Africa melded with European dance styles like the Irish jig—and which eventually became tap. Lane performed in the neighborhood dance halls and in touring minstrel shows.

The name “Master Juba” was derived from juba, a step-dance that came out of the African dance called gioube, and which took root in the places Africans settled, from the West Indies to Cuba to the United States. Lane’s mastery and advancement of the style allowed him to become the first black performer to get top billing in an otherwise all-white 1845 minstrel show.

He won all but one of the dance competitions he and famed white dancer John Diamond staged beginning in 1840. By all accounts his dancing was lightening fast, rhythmically complex and accurate, and innovative, with steps audiences had never seen before.

In 1842 Charles Dickens saw Juba in competition and wrote about a “lively young negro, who is the wit of the assembly, and the greatest dancer known.” Dickens described Juba in his American Notes: “Single shuffle, double shuffle, cut and cross-cut; snapping his fingers, rolling his eyes, turning in his knees, presenting the backs of his legs in front, spinning about on his toes and heels like nothing but the man’s fingers on the tambourine; dancing with two left legs, two right legs, two wooden legs, two wire legs, two spring legs—all sorts of legs and no legs—what is this to him?” Those who saw him perform, wrote Dickens, “saw this phenomenon, ‘Juba,’ imitate all the dancers of the day and their special steps. Then Bob Ellingham, the interlocutor and master of ceremonies, would say, ‘Now, Master Juba, show your own jig.’ Whereupon he would go through all his own steps and specialties, with never a resemblance in any of them to those he had just imitated.”

Touring Europe, Juba performed for heads of state and to great acclaim, but his demanding schedule and poor diet were thought to have contributed to his early death at the age of 27.

For more information:
100 Dance Treasures: Master Juba, Dance Heritage COalition

3 What part did Bennington College play in dance history?

a. Bennington Ballet, famous for Maple Syrup Serenade and Moose Mazurka, was founded there.
b. It was home to Bennington School of the Dance, an acclaimed summer modern dance program/festival that ran from 1934 to 1942 and whose core faculty included Martha Graham and Hanya Holm.
c. It hosted the first college ski–ballet competition.
d. Alumni include many notable dancers, choreographers, and dance educators.

b. It was home to Bennington School of the Dance and d. Alumni include many notable dancers, choreographers, and dance educators

Founded in 1934 by Martha Hill and Mary Josephine Shelly, Bennington School of the Dance was instrumental in the development of modern dance in America and around the world. The summer program, which ran for nine years, trained dancers and dance educators. “The Big Four” of modern dance, Graham, Holm, Humphrey, and Weidman comprised its core faculty and brought their companies to the bucolic campus in rural Vermont to teach, choreograph, and perform. The program was a model, now replicated worldwide, in which dance artists are supported by fellowships, residencies, and commissions as they experiment and develop their work.

Students also choreographed while studying and working with one of the four masters. Works by future greats like Merce Cunningham, José Limón, and Anna Sokolow came out of the Bennington summer sessions.

Other faculty included prominent New York Times dance critic John Martin and renowned dance educator Bessie Schönberg. The directors also, perhaps in the spirit of inclusion and cooperation embodied by the New Deal, invited those outside the modern dance field to present performances and lectures. Lincoln Kirstein’s Ballet Caravan debuted at Bennington, with ballets by Eugene Loring and Lew Christensen.

The Bennington School of the Dance can be credited in large part for conferring legitimacy on American dance as an art form and as an academic pursuit. To this day, the word Bennington conjures an ideal of innovation, experimentation, cooperation, and commitment to the study and development of dance.

Bennington students who have gone on to achieve notable successes in dance include, among others, Sara Rudner (MFA ’99), who danced with Twyla Tharp Dance for TK years, and is now director of dance at Sarah Lawrence College; Myrna Packer (’74) co-artistic director of Bridgman/Packer Dance; Carla Maxwell (’67) former artistic director of José Limón Dance Company; and Liz Lerman (’69) founder and director of Liz Lerman Dance Exchange and 2002 recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Award.

For more information:

4 Which popular television show periodically featured performances by esteemed ballet dancers?

a. The Ed Sullivan Show
b. The Tonight Show
c. Soul Train
d. Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

a. The Ed Sullivan Show

On the air from 1948 to 1971, The Ed Sullivan Show showcased performances by stars and up-and-coming artists from the worlds of ballet, theater, opera, popular music, and other arts genres. Something of a kingmaker, Sullivan introduced many artists to the American public, and cemented the popularity of others.

The roster of ballet dancers and companies that appeared on the show includes Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev, Robert Joffrey Ballet (one of the iterations of the company), Antoinette Sibley, Anthony Dowell, Jacques D’Amboise, Natalia Makarova, Moiseyev Ballet, and Maya Plisetskaya.

For more information:

5 How and when was ballet introduced in Russia?

a. In the 16th century, when Ivan the Terrible commanded slaves to perform dances to commemorate land annexations.
b. In 1738, when French dancer and teacher Jean Batiste Landé opened a ballet school in St. Petersburg; its students performed in the royal palaces in St. Petersburg and Moscow.
c. Peter the Great was envious of the seemingly absolute power with which Louis XIV ruled France. Seeking to emulate him, the tsar hired one of France’s great dancing masters and took lessons secretly. Although he was unable to master the form or even remember three consecutive steps, ballet soon took root in Russia.
d. Marie Taglioni’s 1837 performance in La Sylphide in St. Petersburg created a sensation. Tsar Nicholas II, who had never seen ballet, spent vast sums to establish Russia’s first ballet school, company, and dedicated theater.

b. In 1738, when French dancer and teacher Jean Batiste Landé opened a ballet school in St. Petersburg; its students performed in the royal palaces in St. Petersburg and Moscow.

Some believe Tsar Alexis (1629–1676) introduced theater and ballet to the royal court, under the influence of his modern-minded second wife Natalia (mother of Peter the Great).

However, ballet was formally introduced in Russia when a French dancer and ballet master, Jean Batiste Landé, wrote a letter to Empress Anne requesting 12 children—six males and six females—to create a dancing school.

The request was granted and in 1738 the school, which eventually became the St. Petersburg Imperial Ballet School, was established. Over the next decade, under Landé’s direction, the small company performed in entertainments held in the royal palaces in St. Petersburg and Moscow. After Lande’s death, impresario Biovanni Locatelli staged ballet productions in a St. Petersburg opera house. With continued royal patronage the art form flourished. Ballet masters from around the world staged their works, which were at first danced mostly by foreign principal dancers. Eventually, however, Russian-born dancers began to emerge as major talents.

During the periods 1801–1811 and 1816–1834 choreographer and teacher Charles-Louis Didelot directed the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg, introducing new works into the repertoire and at the same time enthroning into the Russian system important principles of ballet training: rigorous technique and attention to acting.

Famous dancers like Marie Taglione and Fanny Elssler made guest appearances in St. Petersburg, and fine Russian dancers continued to emerge. However, it was under Marius Petipa that Russian ballet attained status as the gold standard of ballet worldwide for generations to come. First employed as a dancer at the Imperial Theater in St. Petersburg, he began choreographing, and was appointed ballet master in 1862. Petipa is credited with contributing some of the great masterworks to the ballet canon, choreographing ballets like Don Quixote, La Bayadère, and restaging works like Giselle, Coppélia, and La Sylphide for the Imperial Theaters in both Moscow and St. Petersburg. The history and tradition of Russian ballet is long and illustrious, but it might be said that it got its start when 12 children began studying ballet in 18th-century St. Petersburg in what would become the Imperial Ballet School and then—several name changes later—the Vaganova Ballet Academy.

For more information:
Vaganova Ballet Academy, St. Petersburg, Russia

6 Which famous dancer was imprisoned in an internment camp during World War II?

a. Michio Ito, a Japanese dancer and choreographer known for a choreographic style and teaching methods that incorporated Eastern and Western influences
b. American-born modern dancer Yuriko (Kikuchi), whose affiliation with Martha Graham Dance Company lasted 50 years
c. Kazuo Ohno, one of the founders of butoh
d. Dorothy Toy, who with Paul Wing was part of a duo often called the “Chinese Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers,” although Toy (née Takahashi) was of Japanese descent. She changed her name to fit on marquees (primarily Chinese nightclubs) and to avoid anti-Japanese sentiment.

a. Michio Ito and b. Yuriko

Born in Tokyo, at 18 Ito decamped to Europe to train as an opera singer. Underwhelmed by what he saw on the opera stage, however, and enchanted with the performances of dancers like Anna Pavlova, Nijinski, and Isadora Duncan, Ito decided to pursue dance instead of opera. He studied eurhythmics at the Dalcroze Institute in Germany before fleeing to London when World War I broke out. There he began performing works that combined European and Japanese influences. His performances attracted the attention of Ezra Pound and William Butler Yeats who wrote a dance play, At the Hawk’s Well, for Ito.

Ito moved to New York where he taught, performed, and choreographed, including The Mikado on Broadway. After a cross-country tour, Ito and his young family landed in Los Angeles, where he choreographed and directed dance scenes for film, and choreographed large-scale works at the Pasadena Rose Bowl and the Hollywood Bowl. He also taught at the Edith Jane School of Dancing. His approach to dance training is thought to be the first codified method of teaching dance. It combined ballet, acrobatics, and Asian-influence movement. Ito devised two series of 10 arm movements, one feminine and one masculine. He also employed the use of breath. His system is thought to have influenced the teaching methods of Lester Horton and Luigi, who studied with Ito and who credits Ito’s method with helping him rehabilitate after his near-fatal car accident.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Ito was sent to an internment camp in New Mexico. In 1943 he repatriated to Japan as part of a prisoner exchange. He founded a school there and remained in the country of his birth until his death in 1961.

Yuriko (Kikuchi) was born in San Jose, California, but was raised in Japan, where she studied dance starting at the age of 6. She returned to the U.S. in 1937, performing with Dorothy Lyndall’s Junior Dance Company and with the UCLA Dance Group. She was incarcerated from 1941–1943 in an Arizona camp. After her release she moved to New York, began studying at the Martha Graham School and joined the company in 1944.