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Dance in Time: November
This month marks the birthdays of expressionist dance pioneer Mary Wigman (1886–1973; born Karoline Sophie Marie Wiegmann in Hanover, Germany), whose school became the center of German modern dance; famed teacher Margaret Craske (1892–1990; Norfolk, United Kingdom), a student of Enrico Cecchetti, dancer with Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, and director of the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School; beloved teacher Alexandra “Choura” Danilova (1903–1997; Peterhof, Russia), ballerina and muse of George Balanchine; acclaimed Bolshoi ballerina Maya Plisetskaya (1925–2015; Moscow), also a teacher and director of Ballet del Teatro Lírico Nacional, in Madrid; international ballet star Natalia Makarova (1940–; Leningrad), who danced with Kirov (now Mariinsky) Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, and The Royal Ballet; dancer, director, and choreographer Ann Reinking (1949–; Seattle, Washington), who won a Tony Award for her choreography for the 1996 revival of Chicago; and famed rhythm tapper Savion Glover (1973–; Newark, New Jersey), a Broadway star and director of HooFeRzCLuB School for Tap.
In November 1862, Emma Livry, a protégée of Marie Taglioni, was rehearsing La Muette de Portici, an opera by Daniel-François-Esprit Auber, when her skirt brushed a gaslight and caught fire. She died from her injuries eight months later. A gifted dancer who had trained at the Paris Opera School and with Taglioni, Livry made her debut with the Paris Opera in the title role of La Sylphide at age 16.
On November 18, 1977, the movie The Turning Point was released, to the joy of bunheads everywhere. It starred Mikhail Baryshnikov (playing the ballet star/heartthrob he was) and Leslie Browne; other dancers in the cast were Antoinette Sibley, Starr Danias, Daniel Levins, and Alexandra Danilova (playing the great teacher she was). Browne, a soloist with American Ballet Theatre at the time, was tapped to play Emilia when Gelsey Kirkland dropped out of the production.
On November 22, 1988, Mark Morris’ evening-length L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, widely considered a masterpiece, premiered at Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, the national opera house in Brussels, Belgium. Morris founded his company, Mark Morris Dance Group, in New York City in 1980; eight years later he became director of dance at Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie (where he stayed until 1991). L’Allegro was the first work he made during his tenure in Brussels.
The International Competition for the Erik Bruhn Prize—hosted by The National Ballet of Canada (NBC), where Bruhn served as artistic director from 1983 until his death in 1986—takes place this year on November 15. Bruhn established the prize, which is awarded to two dancers who, he said (as quoted on the NBC website), “reflect such technical ability, artistic achievement and dedication as I endeavored to bring to dance.” The first prize was awarded in 1988, to Rose Gad of Royal Danish Ballet and Errol Pickford of The Royal Ballet; this year’s competition is the 12th since its inception.
Quotable: Dancers on Dance
On L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato:
“It almost killed me. It was extremely difficult, very arduous, very frustrating. I tortured myself and I was pretty cruel to my dancers. I chose to apply that pressure to myself. I chose it and it was monumental and it still is.”
(as quoted in an interview for The Telegraph, March 30, 2010)
“I have a very deep attachment to the drama and brilliance of Baroque music and Handel in particular. . . . The incredible suite of Milton’s poems as set by Handel with such delicacy and specificity thrilled me then and still does. I think this evening of dancing and music is satisfying because it is so open and humane and available to anyone willing to spend time on it.”
(as quoted in a PBS/WNET interview, March 25, 2015)