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Dance in Time: February
Among February’s important historical dance events are the birthdays of prima ballerina Anna Pavlova (1881–1931; St. Petersburg, Russia), whose interpretation of Fokine’s The Dying Swan is an immortal part of ballet history; composer Clément Philibert Léo Delibes (1836–1891; St.-Germain-du-Val, France), who wrote the music for two full-length ballets, Sylvia and Coppélia; longtime School of American Ballet teacher Felia Doubrovska (born Felizata Dluzhnevska, 1896–1981; St. Petersburg, Russia), who danced with Mariinsky Ballet and Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes; and Todd Bolender (1914–2006; Canton, Ohio), a dancer and choreographer at New York City Ballet and, later, artistic director of Kansas City Ballet and ballet director at Frankfurt Ballet and other companies.
Other February birthdays include former Royal Ballet and ABT danseur noble Sir Anthony Dowell (1943–; London, U.K.), who had a lengthy onstage partnership with Antoinette Sibley and served as artistic director of The Royal Ballet for 15 years; tap dancer, Broadway star, and Emmy Award–winner Gregory Hines (1946–2003; New York City), a major figure in revitalizing tap in the 20th century and a leader in the movement to establish National Tap Dance Day; Eiko Otake (1952–; Tokyo, Japan), who received a Bessie Award special citation in 2016 for her Danspace Project Platform A Body in Places; dancer, director, and choreographer Bill T. Jones (born William Tass Jones, 1952–; Bunnell, Florida), who won Tony Awards for best choreography for Spring Awakening (2007) and Fela! (2010); and ballet superstar Sylvie Guillem (1965–; Paris, France), who performed for more than 30 years, first with Paris Opera Ballet—where she was the youngest dancer ever named étoile—and later with The Royal Ballet.
On February 28, 1947, Martha Graham’s Errand Into the Maze, based on the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, premiered at New York City’s Ziegfeld Theatre, with Graham (who designed the costumes) in the lead role, music by Gian Carlo Menotti, and sets by Isamu Noguchi.
Quotable: About Dance
“When I was doing gymnastics, I was playing. It was fun. The ballet was not fun at all. Yes, I agree you must have discipline, but you don’t need to be a witch. You can’t teach a child like that. Three times a week, I went back to train as a gymnast. Then I was happy. . . . [My ballet teachers] asked me if I wanted to be in the end-of-term show. I thought: I’m not finding this ballet school exciting. Let’s try the show. One foot onstage. Curtain up. That was it. . . . The relation I had with the audience, it was fantastic. It is always so strange. You dance, and there is an answer—that is always true.” —Sylvie Guillem
(as quoted in an interview in the Guardian, February 22, 2015)