May-June 2017 | Dance History Quiz

Fun facts for teachers and students

1 In 2015 former Royal Ballet principal dancer Alessandra Ferri pleasantly surprised the ballet world by returning to the professional stage to dance Woolf Works with the company. At age 52, she was the oldest former principal to dance with The Royal Ballet since Dame Margot Fonteyn. Which other company record does Ferri hold?

a. She performed more times as Giselle than any other company member.
b. At age 19, she became the company’s youngest ever prima ballerina.
c. Over her career, she gave five command performances for Queen Elizabeth.
d. Her 1992 performance in Romeo and Juliet was capped off with seven curtain calls.


2 Merce Cunningham created many of his boundary-pushing modern dances by using which inventive system for choosing movements and patterns?

a. Rolling dice or tossing a coin
b. Pulling slips of paper out of a hat
c. Asking strangers for suggestions
d. Adhering to a complex mathematical algorithm

3 How “Russe” were the Ballets Russes?

a. Totally; all original members were Russian.
b. Partially; the dancers had Russian or European origins, but the company toured only in Russia.
c. Not very; dancers hailed from many countries, including the United States.
d. Not at all; the all-British company chose that name to capitalize on the popularity of Russian ballet.

4 The George Gershwin musical Girl Crazy (1930) holds a special place in musical aficionados’ hearts because it marked the first time larger-than-life singer Ethel Merman appeared on a Broadway stage (belting out “I Got Rhythm”). But the musical also marked an important (and lesser remembered) moment for dance fans when it brought together two creative forces for the first time. Who were they?

a. Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon
b. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers
c. Irene and Vernon Castle
d. Gene Kelly and Donald O’Connor

5 Popular and prolific ballet and Broadway choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, a native of Somerset, United Kingdom, was enjoying a career as a dancer with The Royal Ballet in the early ’90s when which event prompted his move to the U.S.?

a. His heart was broken by a kindergarten teacher he met on a blind date.
b. He inherited a sizable fortune from an estranged uncle living in Milwaukee.
c. The movie Titanic inspired him to seek his fortune in the States.
d. His purchase of a vacuum cleaner included a free airplane ticket to New York City.

6 George Balanchine’s Serenade (1934) is a favorite of many a balletomane. Although the great choreographer tinkered with the ballet over the years, the opening tableau still features 17 dancers—an odd number to set a piece on. What is the significance of the number 17?

a. Balanchine immigrated to the United States in 1917.
b. He was first invited to join a professional ballet company at age 17.
c. Seventeen is a lucky number in Russian folklore.
d. Only 17 dancers showed up at the first rehearsal.

7 Which dancer famously used the phrase, “Everything’s copacetic”?

a. Bill “Bojangles” Robinson
b. George M. Cohan
c. Ann Miller
d. James Cagney

8 John Cranko’s ballet Onegin is based on an epic and heartbreaking novel in verse by 19th-century Russian writer Alexander Pushkin. Little did Pushkin know that in his case life would imitate art. Which tragedy befell a young man in Pushkin’s novel and, later, the author himself?

a. Cruelly rejecting a woman in love with him, to his everlasting regret
b. Fleeing into exile
c. Dying after a duel over a woman
d. Loss of his fortune through gambling