January 2017 | Bulletin Board

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Dance in Time: January

January birthdays in the dance world include those of actor, singer, and dancer Ray Bolger (1904–1987; Dorchester, Massachusetts), who began his career in vaudeville and, as the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, found a place in millions of people’s hearts; modern dance pioneer José Limón (1908–1972; Culiacán, Mexico), who studied under Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman and whose company, founded in 1946, keeps his legacy alive; and ballerina Nora Kaye (1920–1987; Brooklyn, New York), who danced with American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet and was best known for her roles in Antony Tudor’s ballets.

More January birthdays: Moira Shearer (1926–2006; Dunfermline, U.K.), a dancer with Sadler’s Wells Ballet who gained worldwide fame as the star of the movie The Red Shoes; modern dance groundbreaker Alvin Ailey (1931–1989; Rogers, Texas), who danced on Broadway before founding Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater; Bruce Marks (1937–; New York City), a former ABT and Royal Danish Ballet dancer who directed Ballet West and Boston Ballet; international ballet star and actor Mikhail Baryshnikov (1948–; Riga, Latvia), who danced with and directed ABT and co-founded (with Mark Morris) White Oak Dance Project; hip-hop dancer and choreographer Rennie Harris (1964–; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), founder and director of Rennie Harris Puremovement and Rennie Harris Awe-Inspiring Works; and composer and performer Lin-Manuel Miranda (1980–; New York City), who created and starred in the Broadway hit Hamilton.

On January 15, 1890, Marius Petipa’s second full-length classical ballet, The Sleeping Beauty, premiered at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia, with music by Tchaikovsky. Lead roles were danced by Carlotta Brianza (Aurora), Paul Gerdt (Prince Charming), Enrico Cecchetti (Carabosse, Blue Bird), Marie Petipa (Lilac Fairy), and Varvara Nikitina (Princess Florine, in the Blue Bird pas de deux with Cecchetti).

On January 11, 1940, the newly minted Ballet Theatre (later American Ballet Theatre) gave its first performances. (It had been founded the previous fall.) The first season included ballets by Michel Fokine, Adolph Bolm, Anton Dolin, Agnes de Mille, Antony Tudor, and Eugene Loring.

In January 2016, Tamara Rojo, artistic director of English National Ballet, completed a Doctor of Arts degree (magna cum laude) from Rey Juan Carlos University in Madrid, Spain. Her thesis was titled “Psychological Profile of the Elite Dancer: Vocational Characteristics of the Professional Dancer.” She was awarded a CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in the Queen’s 2016 New Year’s Honors. At the same ceremony, choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, of An American in Paris fame, was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for “promoting the interests and reputation of British classical and theatrical dance worldwide.”

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 Quotable: About Dance

About Akram Khan’s production of Giselle, which was reimagined against the European refugee crisis, and which English National Ballet premiered in Manchester, U.K., on September 27, 2016:

“I am a true believer that for any art form to continue to be relevant the works have to be revisited, reinterpreted, re-edited. This is why I want to continue to look at the classic repertoire and reinterpret it, reinvigorate it, and give chances to the artists of today—to look at it and break it apart and put it together in a most wonderful, surprising way.”
—Tamara Rojo, artistic director of English National Ballet
(as quoted in a YouTube video, August 12, 2016)

“When we had our first collaborators’ meeting, I could start to feel the weight, and the weight of history. . . . You see a forest and then you have to somehow find your path through the forest and not the pathway that’s been given to you, that’s been kind of pounded down by the many choreographers and composers that have walked through that pathway. You have to find your own pathway, but still within the same forest.”
—Akram Khan, choreographer
(as quoted in a YouTube video, August 12, 2016)