Dance Writings and Poetry

Dance Writings and Poetry

EDWIN DENBY
EDITED BY ROBERT CORNFIELD
Copyright Date: 1998
Published by: Yale University Press
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt32bg7h
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  • Book Info
    Dance Writings and Poetry
    Book Description:

    Edwin Denby, who died in 1983, was the most important and influential American dance critic of this century. His reviews and essays, which he wrote for almost thirty years, were possessed of a voice, vision, and passion as compelling and inspiring as his subject. He was also a poet of distinction-a friend to Frank O'Hara, James Schuyler, and John Ashbery. This book presents a sampling of his reviews, essays, and poems, an exemplary collection that exhibits the elegance, lucidity, and timelessness of Denby's writings. The volume includes Denby's reactions to choreography ranging from Martha Graham to George Balanchine to the Rockettes, as well as his reflections on such general topics as dance in film, dance criticism, and meaning in dance.Denby`s writings are presented chronologically, and they not only provide a picture of how his dance theories and reviewing methods evolved but also give an informal history of dance in New York from the late 1930s to the early 1960s. The book-the only collection of Denby's writings currently in print-is an essential resource for students and lovers of dance.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-14652-3
    Subjects: Performing Arts

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Robert Cornfield
  4. THE THIRTIES: AN ESSAY
    (pp. 1-6)

    Pat Pasloff asked me to write something for the show about York painting in the thirties, how it seemed at the time. The part I knew, I saw as a neighbor. I met Willem de Kooning on the fire escape, because a black kitten lost in the rain cried at my fire door, and after the rain it turned out to be his kitten. He was painting on a dark eight-foot-high picture that had sweeps of black across it and a big look. That was early in ‘36. Soon Rudy Burckhardt and I kept meeting Bill at midnight at the...

  5. POEMS

  6. DANCE WRITINGS

    • Nijinska’s Noces (1936)
      (pp. 33-34)

      Noces in the choreography of Nijinska (revived this spring by the Monte Carlo Ballet) is, I’m sure, one of the finest things one can see anywhere. And if I could think of higher praise I would write it.

      Noces is noble, it is fierce, it is simple, it is fresh, it is thrilling. It is full of interest. It is perhaps an indication of the heroic age of Nijinsky. There is a realness in the relation of dance and music like a dual force, separate but inseparable. The movements, odd as they are and oddly as they come, often in...

    • Nijinsky’s Faun; Massine’s Symphonic Fantastique; American Ballet Caravan (1936)
      (pp. 34-37)

      During the last six weeks New York has been a pleasant place for a person who likes ballet. I have seen one absolutely first-class piece, Nijinsky’s Faun; Bérard’s sets for the Symphonic Fantastique, the second and third of which are as good as the best ever made — probably the best we’ll see all winter; and then a new dance group that is full of freshness and interest, the American Ballet Caravan. I have also seen other things I liked more or less, or not at all, and I have not by any means seen everything that has been done....

    • Graham’s Chronicle; Uday Shankar (1937)
      (pp. 37-40)

      In December Miss Graham presented a new heroic dance suite for herself and her group called Chronicle. It deals with division, grief, and final adjustment. I wish I had seen it again to clarify my own impression and to be able to point specifically to its more or less successful elements. As it is, I can only speak of it in general terms, and confusedly.

      Seeing Miss Graham with her group and in solo recital, I was impressed by her courage and integrity. She believes in the biggest possible gesture; so she has trained herself to execute these extraordinary movements...

    • Balanchine’s American Ballet (1937)
      (pp. 40-42)

      Classic Ballet, the new work at the Metropolitan by Dollar and Balanchine (to the Piano Concerto in F Minor of Chopin), is excellent. It is swift, pleasant, interesting, and very well danced. And its moving quality (which a first night is bound to flatten out) will increase the more often it is repeated.

      Beyond this, it shows that the American Ballet has grown up to be the first-class institution it was meant to be. George Balanchine has done more than anyone could have expected in so short a time. The company is at home on the huge stage. They are...

    • Balanchine’s Apollon; American Ballet Caravan (1938)
      (pp. 42-44)

      Now that the Metropolitan does have a ballet masterpiece in its repertory — one as good as the very best of the Monte Carlo — there’s a conspiracy of silence about it. It’s true people ignored this ballet last year, too, when it came out, but I think they’d better go again, because they are likely to enjoy it very much. It’s the Stravinsky-Balanchine Apollon I mean, which the Metropolitan is repeating this year, and which it does very well, even to playing the music beautifully.

      It is a ballet worth seeing several times because it is as full of...

    • Massine and the New Monte Carlo
      (pp. 45-48)

      The oddly written publicity for the new Monte Carlo states: “The arrival each year of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo automatically mobilizes the ballet fans of the nation, and the resulting enjoyment is prodigious.” This sounds as though we were to derive prodigious enjoyment from being automatically mobilized — almost as though we were to plunk down our shekels, raise our right arms, and shout “Heil Hurok.” Of course, the sentence quoted and others like it are ridiculous. It was a great pleasure to see the new Monte Carlo; it was a pleasure too that it was such a...

    • Ashton’s Devil’s Holiday (1939)
      (pp. 48-49)

      The Monte Carlo, which I am always happy to see, began the season with a new ballet Diaghilev would have been proud of: Devil’s Holiday. And Massine, who has been the Diaghilev for this production, deserves equal praise. I have seen it three times and I like it better each time. Everything about it is full of zest, sincerity, freshness, and charm. Tommasini, as Mr. Martin so well said, seems to have had the time of his life writing the music on Paganini themes, and the variations in the first half of the last scene struck me as particularly beautiful....

    • Balanchine and Stravinsky: Poker Game and Baiser; The Monte Carlo Season (1940)
      (pp. 50-53)

      Balanchine’s Poker Game (set to Stravinsky’s Jeu de Canes), revived this fall at the Monte Carlo, is a ballet in a minor genre but it is as good ballet as one can possibly have. And it creeps into your heart as unpretentiously as a kitten. To be sure, its range is limited. It is no more than a new twist to the animated doll subject, which by nature is witty, ironical, appealing, and playful, and rather likes to stay within the bounds of pleasant manners. Ballet certainly can have a wider range if it chooses; and Petrouchka, even though it...

    • Graham’s El Penitente and Letter to the World; Balanchine’s Balustrade (1941)
      (pp. 53-57)

      Martha Graham has now presented to New York her two dance works El Penitente and Letter to the World, which are full of interest and full of poetry. El Penitente looks like a mystery play. A young woman and two young men come on the stage carrying a bright banner. Their manner is collected and cheerful. You watch them act out a play which tells that though man’s duty to Christ is hard, his pain is relieved by a Divine Grace visiting him in turn as a virgin, a seductress, and a mother. Sometimes they use their banner as a...

    • Kurt Jooss; The Monte Carlo Ballet (1941)
      (pp. 57-60)

      The season opened with the Jooss Ballet, presenting eight or nine pieces by Jooss and one brand-new one by Agnes de Mille. First, Miss de Mille’s Drums Sound in Hackensack. It is about New Amsterdam, the fur trade, how the cheated Indians found a Dutch girl in the jungles of Jersey, and what happened then. To show us New Amsterdam, Miss de Mille begins with a folk dance, adds a Puritan hop and a de Mille wiggle, and we all get the joke and smile easily. When she comes to the serious parts, terrors of the forest and Indian savagery,...

    • Ballet Theatre (1942)
      (pp. 60-61)

      The reorganized Ballet Theatre presented a season that was timid and on the musty side. Only one new feature was a real pleasure: the presence of Alicia Markova, the great English dancer. … Markova has appeared here before, but the more you see her the higher you value her. Seen merely as a virtuoso she is extraordinary; the adagio movements “bloom in space,” the allegros “scintillate evenly,” the leaps soar and subside, when lifted she looks fluid—well, in every department of classic technique she is flawless. And she has all those peculiarities of physical structure that ballet enthusiasts gloat...

    • Isadora Reconsidered; Graham’s Punch and the Judy Revisited (1942)
      (pp. 62-65)

      The recital of Maria Theresa (one of the original Duncan dancers), who danced several of Isadora’s Chopin pieces, was interesting because it brought up again some of the technical procedures of Isadora: the large plain phrases in which a single gesture is carried about the stage; the large, clear contrast between up and down, forward and back; and the way the body seems to yield to the music and still is not passively “carried” by it, but carries itself even while it yields. It seems to me the effect of these dances, technically speaking, comes from the kind of support...

    • Tudor’s Dark Elegies; Swan Lake (1942)
      (pp. 65-66)

      Dark Elegies, danced to Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder, is a work in which pauses, a naive solemnity, and the simplest of dance figures give a clear effect of pathos. The dance style is that of Northeast European folk dances; the style of expression is like the odd stiffness of English morris dancers. The relation of dance rhythm to the music, the timing of the accents, the spacing of the figures — these are, as always with Tudor, of an impeccable elegance and clarity.

      It is true that the willful spareness of the movement — as if it were dragged out of the...

    • Massine’s Aleko (1942)
      (pp. 66-66)

      The one big-time novelty of the Ballet Theatre is Massine’s Aleko. It has the only Paris School décor of the season, by Chagall, and besides giving the satisfaction and having the fine presence of a great painter’s work, it is also beautifully executed. The ballet is Massine’s finest since Fantastic Symphony. It has lots of his expert stylization of local color (in this case, Russian gypsies and peasants), lots of his stylized dance-pantomime, lots of his ballet counterpoint (different dancers doing different things at the same time). It has as prize plum a long last scene with the breathless melodramatic...

    • Balanchine and Tchaikovsky: Ballet Imperial (1943)
      (pp. 66-69)

      Ballet Imperial (Balanchine-Tchaikovsky-Doboujinsky; danced by and created in 1941 for Kirstein’s American Ballet) was the single full-length ballet offered at the New Opera and it is the most brilliant ballet of the season. In intention it is a homage to the Petersburg ballet style, the peculiarly sincere grand manner which the Imperial Ballet School and Petipa evolved. We know the style here from the choreography of Swan Lake, Aurora’s Wedding, and Nutcracker, even of Coppélia, though all of them have been patched out; we know it from glimpses of grandeur in the dancing of the Russian-trained ballerinas; from photographs, especially...

    • Notes on Nijinsky Photographs (1943)
      (pp. 70-76)

      Looking at the photographs of Nijinsky, one is struck by his expressive neck. It is an unusually thick and long neck. But its expressivity lies in its clear lift from the trunk, like a powerful thrust. The shoulders are not square, but slope downward; and so they leave the neck easily free, and the eye follows their silhouette down the arms with the sense of a line extraordinarily extended into space, as in a picture by Cézanne or Raphael. The head therefore, at the other end of this unusual extension, poised up in the air, gains an astonishing distinctness, and...

    • Markova’s Dance Rhythm; Tudor’s Romeo and Juliet (1943)
      (pp. 76-79)

      The great event of any Ballet Theatre season is the dancing of Markova. And this season she danced even more wonderfully than before. She appeared night after night, and even in two ballets on the same program. Once the papers said she had fainted after the performance. There is only one of her. I very much hope she is gratefully taken care of and prevented from injurious overwork.

      When she dances, everybody seems to understand as if by sympathy everything she does. And yet her modesty is the very opposite of the Broadway and Hollywood emphasis we are used to....

    • Massine’s Capriccio Espagnol; De Mille’s Three Virgins; Giselle (1943)
      (pp. 79-81)

      Saturday night’s performance of Ballet Theatre at the Lewisohn Stadium was a full success. The first two ballets (Capriccio Espagnol and Three Virgins and a Devil) have the boisterous qualities that register most easily in the open air. Giselle, the third ballet, is anything but boisterous. But the passionate precision of Miss Markova in the lead made its subtle values intelligible a block away. It was a startling experience to see so delicate, so intimate a piece appeal without effort to an audience of ten thousand. It was a triumph for Miss Markova as a theater artist.

      Capriccio Espagnol in...

    • Tudor and Pantomime (1943)
      (pp. 81-83)

      Many people who are disappointed to find little meaning in ballet dancing are struck by how much meaning the ballet figures in Tudor’s Pillar of Fire and Lilac Garden convey to them. In Lilac Garden, for example, an about-to-be-abandoned mistress sees her lover standing alone, facing her at a distance. Desperately she rushes at top speed across the stage; she seems to leap straight onto his shoulder. He holds her tightly by the waist; she crouches there above his head, tensely arching her neck. He does not look up. The action is as sudden as the leap of a desperate...

    • On Meaning in Dance (1943)
      (pp. 83-85)

      Any serious dance work has an element of pantomime and an element of straight dance, with one or the other predominant. When you think about it, it is curious in how different a way the two elements appeal to the intelligence, how differently they communicate a meaning.

      Tudor’s Pillar of Fire is a brilliant example of contemporary pantomime ballet. It is as absorbing to us as Fokine’s Schéhérazade was to our parents in its 1910 version thirty years ago. The difference between the two is striking: Schéhérazade was bright and luscious, Pillar of Fire is gloomy and hot; Fokine hacked...

    • Ballet Technique (1943)
      (pp. 85-86)

      When they watch a ballet in the theater, some people can take ballet technique for granted as easily as school kids take the technique of basketball for granted while they watch a lively game in a gym. These ballet lovers see the dance impulses perfectly clearly.

      Other people, however, are bothered by the technique. They watch the gestures without feeling the continuity of the dance; the technique seems to keep getting in the way of it. Ballet looks to them chiefly like a mannerism in holding the arms and legs, and in keeping the back stiff as a ramrod. They...

    • The Dance in Film (1943)
      (pp. 86-88)

      … Dance expression and dance recording are two separate functions in the cinema that rarely coincide. The motion picture is the only means of accurately recording dancing, but dance lovers are aware of how rarely it projects anything like the dance quality one knows from the theater. When we watch dancing anywhere, the more distinctly we can see the plastic quality — the three-dimensional quality — of the movement, the more clearly we feel the point of the dance. But the camera gives a poor illusion of volume; it makes a distortion of foreshortening and perspective, and it is plastic...

    • Flight of the Dancer (1943)
      (pp. 89-93)

      If you travel all over the world and see every brilliant and flying dance that human beings do, you will maybe be surprised that it is only in our traditional classic ballet dancing that the dancer can leap through the air slowly. In other kinds of dancing there are leaps that thrill you by their impetuousness or accuracy; there are brilliant little ones, savage long ones, and powerful bouncing ones. But among all dance techniques only classic ballet has perfected leaps with that special slow-motion grace, that soaring rise and floating descent which looks weightless. It isn’t that every ballet...

    • About Toe Dancing (1943)
      (pp. 93-95)

      To a number of people ballet means toe dancing, that is what they come to see, and they suspect that a dancer only gets down off her “pointes” to give her poor feet a rest. But toe steps are not what ballet is about. They are just one of the devices of choreography, as the sharp hoots of a soprano are one of the devices of opera. Toe steps were invented, the historians say, “toward 1826” or “toward 1830.” And the historians also explain that ballet during the century and more before the introduction of toe steps was quite as...

    • How to Judge a Dancer (1943)
      (pp. 95-97)

      When you watch ballet dancers dancing you are observing a young woman or a young man in fancy dress, and you like it if they look attractive, if they are well built and have what seems to be an open face. You notice the youthful spring in starting, the grace of carriage, the strength in stopping. You like it if they know what to do and where to go, if they can throw in a surprising trick or two, if they seem to be enjoying their part and are pleasantly sociable as performers. All this is proper juvenile charm, and...

    • Tudor’s Lilac Garden; Lichine’s Helen of Troy (1943)
      (pp. 97-98)

      Saturday night’s Ballet Theatre performance at the Metropolitan was brilliantly executed throughout. First came the new Fair at Sorochinsk, the choreography of which has been previously reviewed. Dolin, as the Devil of the Ukraine, danced his part (which, if I saw right, includes even two gargouillades) at astonishing speed. His toe steps — Caucasian style — make him look as if he were dancing on a claw. Eglevsky, in the part of young Gritzko, did a pirouette followed by a triple tour in the air as if it were the most natural thing in the world. His simplicity in the...

    • Argentinita’s Pictures of Goya; Tudor’s Judgment of Paris (1943)
      (pp. 99-99)

      Last night’s performance of Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan was — like that of the night before — full of verve, and the crowded house applauded the dancers in the friendliest spirit.

      The program brought the second performance of Argentinita’s new suite called Pictures of Goya, danced by herself; her sister, Pilar Lopez; and their two partners, José Greco and Manolo Vargas. It was a distinct hit with the audience.

      At the first performance of the piece, I had found it too unclear in its phrasing to be effective as dancing, and it did not seem one of the successful...

    • The de Mille “Touch” (1943)
      (pp. 99-101)

      Miss de Mille’s dances for One Touch of Venus shine by their good sense. Among our choreographers she has always had in particular that touch of nature that the title of the piece suggests. It is a striking virtue in musical comedy, where nature is the last thing you expect. Miss de Mille has not this time the chance for human warmth she had in Oklahoma! but she certainly makes the most of what opportunity she has; and in Venus she again succeeds in touching the heart of the average audience through the dance numbers in a way no other...

    • Billy the Kid and Its Dance Faults (1943)
      (pp. 101-103)

      The ballet Billy the Kid is a peculiar piece. Any sensible person can point out its absurdities, yet sensible people like it. It bobs up year after year in one company or another, always in inadequate performance, but it keeps on the boards. It is not satisfactory while you look at it, it is obscure and pieced out awkwardly; but something of it stays with you, something original that it alone has. I find its flavor very different from that of Rodeo, our other serious American ballet. Rodeo is about the West as it is lived in; Billy is about...

    • Some Faults of Ballet Theatre (1943)
      (pp. 103-105)

      In the recent Ballet Theatre season the new choreographies were — except for the fair scene in Lichine’s Fair at Sorochinsk — disappointing. I am not referring to the disappointing roughness of execution of the opening nights, but speaking of the ballets as they look at their best. At its best, a little of Massine’s Mademoiselle Angot was amusing in a sort of overcute, opérabouffe style; and all of Tudor’s Dim Lustre was a competent dance version of a modern English drawing-room play. They both had less conviction than manner, and both tried too anxiously to play safe; they were...

    • Anna Sokolow (1943)
      (pp. 106-107)

      Anna Sokolow’s modern-dance recital brought back to mind the striking impression she had made a few years ago in intense numbers evoking proletarian adolescence. Her figure with the small head, the solid neck, the small sloping shoulders and elongated limbs was immediately touching. Her hands and wrists were lovely, her arms light. Her dancing had the directness of a child’s motions. When she lifted her forearm, when she ran and leaped, you watched the action itself. It was the action in itself that moved you. In composing, the way she derived dance gestures easily from pantomime, her simple formal arrangements...

    • Graham’s Deaths and Entrances and Salem Shore (1943)
      (pp. 107-109)

      Martha Graham, no doubt the greatest celebrity in the American dance world, appeared last night at the Forty-sixth Street Theater, giving her first Broadway recital in two seasons. The house was sold out the first day of the ticket sale, and the performance is to be repeated January 9.

      Miss Graham presented two new works, Salem Shore and Deaths and Entrances. Deaths and Entrances is a piece for ten dancers — six women and four men — and is described in the program as “a legend of poetic experience rather than a story of incident. It concerns the restless pacings...

    • Deaths and Entrances Revisited (1944)
      (pp. 109-110)

      It isn’t often I’ve seen the lobby in the intermission so animated in its discussion of a ballet as it was after Martha Graham’s new Deaths and Entrances. The piece is a harsh one: it has neither a touching story, nor a harmonious development, nor wit and charm to help it along. But at both its recent performances it has held the audience spellbound. What fascinates is the movement itself as it takes place on the stage — the rapid succession of curiously expressive and unforeseen bursts of gesture, the urgency they have, and above all the intense vividness of...

    • The Rockettes and Rhythm (1944)
      (pp. 111-112)

      The Rockettes at the Music Hall are an American institution and a very charming one. Their cheerfulness is sweet as that of a church social. Their dancing is fresh and modest, their rhythm accurate and light, and everyone can see that they accomplish what they set out to do to perfection. At the end of their routine, when the line of them comes forward in a precision climax, the house takes all thirty-six of them collectively to its family heart. It is a very pleasant moment of contentment all around.

      The Music Hall has a charming chorus of classic-ballet girls...

    • Humphrey’s Inquest (1944)
      (pp. 112-114)

      Doris Humphrey’s new Inquest is a dance that leaves no doubt as to its story or its point. The story is clearly told by a speaker, who reads a newspaper report of an inquest held in 1865 in a London slum. We hear of a destitute family, father, mother, and son, who lived in a squalid room. The son began to go blind; finally the father died of starvation. As we listen to the words we also watch the scenes they tell us of, they are acted out in quiet pantomime upstage, in a small space like a room. When...

    • A Note on Dance Intelligence (1944)
      (pp. 114-115)

      Expression in dancing is what really interests everybody, and everybody recognizes it as a sign of intelligence in the dancer. But dancing is physical motion, it doesn’t involve words at all. And so it is an error to suppose that dance intelligence is the same as other sorts of intelligence which involve, on the contrary, words only and no physical movement whatever. What is expressive in a dance is not the dancer’s opinions, psychological, political, or moral. It isn’t even what she thinks about episodes in her private life. What is expressive in dancing is the way she moves about...

    • A Forum on Dance Criticism (1944)
      (pp. 115-117)

      Agnes de Mille, speaking on a forum on dance criticism recently, made a point I should like to pass on to other dancers as the wisest advice I know on the relation of the dancer to the critic. She spoke of the alternate confident and uncertain periods through which artists pass and how in his uncertainty the dancer longs for assistance and clarification. He is tempted then to turn to the critic to lead him out of his confusion by an authoritative estimate of his individual creative gifts. But Miss de Mille warned against relying on reviews in such moments...

    • Merce Cunningham (1944)
      (pp. 117-118)

      At the small Humphrey-Weidman Studio in the darkness of Sixteenth Street, Merce Cunningham and John Cage presented a program of solo dances and of percussionist music last night which was of the greatest aesthetic elegance. The audience, an intelligent one, enjoyed and applauded.

      It was Mr. Cunningham’s first solo recital, though he is well known to dance audiences as soloist in Martha Graham’s company. His gifts as a lyric dancer are most remarkable. His build resembles that of the juvenile saltimbanques of the early Picasso canvases. As a dancer his instep and his knees are extraordinarily elastic and quick; his...

    • Serenade (1944)
      (pp. 118-118)

      Balanchine’s Serenade was beautifully danced last night by the Monte Carlo at the City Center, and it is a completely beautiful ballet.

      George Balanchine is the greatest choreographer of our time. He is Petipa’s heir. His style is classical: grand without being impressive, clear without being strict. It is humane because it is based on the patterns the human body makes when it dances; it is not — like romantic choreography — based on patterns the human body cannot quite force itself into. His dance evolutions and figures are luminous in their spacing, and of a miraculous musicality in their...

    • A Monte Carlo Matinee (1944)
      (pp. 119-119)

      At the City Center, at the Saturday matinee, the Monte Carlo gave their three-scene version of The Nutcracker, and the children in the audience were impressed when little Clara — no older than they — came on in the third scene and all the dancers bowed to her and she to them. But at the jumping Chinaman they crowed and burbled with pleasure all over the house. Later, they approved the rodeo scene in Rodeo as audibly, especially when the heroine fell off her imaginary horse and rolled over on the floor. A few of them, I imagine, will remember...

    • Fancy Free (1944)
      (pp. 119-120)

      Jerome Robbins’s Fancy Free, the world premiere given by Ballet Theatre last night at the Metropolitan, was so big a hit that the young participants all looked a little dazed as they took their bows. But besides being a smash hit, Fancy Free is a very remarkable comedy piece. Its sentiment of how people live in this country is completely intelligent and completely realistic. Its pantomime and its dances are witty, exuberant, and at every moment they feel natural. It is a direct, manly piece: there isn’t any of that coy showing off of “folk” material that dancers are doing...

    • Pearl Primus (1944)
      (pp. 120-121)

      Pearl Primus, the young Negro modern dancer, who has attained celebrity via ten months at Café Society Downtown, gave a solo recital at the Ninety-second Street ymha last Saturday and repeated the program on Sunday. Both dates were sold out long ahead. Since her last recital in January (jointly with Valerie Bettis) Miss Primus has made striking progress in the technical finish of her dancing, and the revisions she has made in her numbers are all of them interesting choreographic improvements. Now her magnificent natural dance impulse is seen even better than before.

      Strange Fruit and African Ceremonial were on...

    • Dark Elegies (1944)
      (pp. 121-122)

      Tudor’s Dark Elegies, on yesterday’s program at the Metropolitan, is Ballet Theatre’s Parsifal. A sort of Weihefestspiel given only once or twice a season, it is said to be Tudor’s favorite among his works, and Miss Kaye and Mr. Laing, the stars who interpret his work so brilliantly, are said to consider it his masterpiece. The reviewer feels respect for these opinions, but he does not share them.

      Dark Elegies is set to Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder, a luxurious, slightly overstuffed symphonic setting of the touchingly intimate poems by Rückert on the death of children. In the orchestra a man sings the...

    • A Tribute to Youskevitch (1944)
      (pp. 122-123)

      The Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo closed its spring season at the City Center Saturday night with a program consisting of Etude, Cuckolds’ Fair, Pas de Deux Classique [“Black Swan”] (danced by Alexandra Danilova and Igor Youskevitch), and Red Poppy. It was the pas de deux that was the event of the evening, and it was Seaman Second-Class Youskevitch — dancing on the last night of his shore leave — who made it so.

      At the moment Youskevitch is at the peak of his classic style. His style is calm, rich, and elastic. It is completely correct. You see easily...

    • Markova’s Giselle: Ballet Theatre’s Glory (1944)
      (pp. 123-124)

      Alicia Markova in Giselle is Ballet Theatre’s greatest glory. Last night was the second of three performances of Giselle on this season’s programs; and it was a gala evening at the Metropolitan. Miss Markova danced once again with incomparable beauty of style — dazzlingly limpid, mysteriously tender.

      There is no other dancer whose movement is so perfectly centered, and who controls so exactly the full continuity of a motion from the center to the extremities. There is no other dancer whose waist and thighs are so quick to execute the first actions that lead to an arm gesture and to...

    • Where Are the New Serious Ballets? (1944)
      (pp. 124-125)

      The April “war” between Ballet Theatre and the Monte Carlo would have been more exciting to watch if it had been a competition between artistic directions instead of a competition for customers. There were plenty of customers everywhere, so both companies won. Ballet Theatre, of course, had the smash hit, Fancy Free, and it had all through the smarter public. But it didn’t allow its great choreographer, Mr. Tudor, to produce a new serious work; nor had the Monte Carlo allowed its guiding artist, Mme Nijinska, also a great choreographer, to create a serious new piece. Though the dancing was...

    • Graham’s American Document and Primitive Mysteries (1944)
      (pp. 125-126)

      Last night’s program of Martha Graham and her company at the National consisted of Primitive Mysteries, Punch and the Judy, and American Document. Primitive Mysteries is a gentle work of ten years ago which many recall with pleasure. Suggested — like several other of Miss Graham’s works — by the Spanish-Mexican art of the Southwest, it is consciously naive in its gesture. It contrasts the rigid, heavy, underslung stance of the group of girls with Miss Graham’s delicate refinement; she is a Madonnalike figure who sheds her grace gently on her peasant worshippers. The sense of communion on the stage...

    • A Ballet Lover’s View of Martha Graham (1944)
      (pp. 126-128)

      Any one of Martha Graham’s highly intelligent pieces would gain in theatrical brilliancy if she and her company could present it singly, say, as an item on a Ballet Theatre program. Her particular genius would flash more strikingly right next to the genius of other choreographers and dancers who excel at other aspects of dancing. Some of my friends are shocked by this genius of hers and they tell me she has no style, that she fascinates merely as heretics do, by her contrariness. But I keep being struck in all her work by its intellectual seriousness, its inventiveness, and...

    • Balanchine’s Danses Concertantes (1944)
      (pp. 128-129)

      The Monte Carlo’s new Danses Concertantes is a glittering little piece, brilliantly animated and brilliantly civilized. As a production it combines the talents of Stravinsky, Balanchine, and Berman — a ballet composer, a choreographer, and a ballet decorator so eminent that each in his field can be called the best in the world. A new piece involving any one of them is something to look forward to; a piece that involves all three at once and allows each to do his sincere best is that rare luxury, a ballet production in the grand style — in the grand style Diaghilev...

    • Coppélia Tells the Facts of Life (1944)
      (pp. 130-131)

      The Monte Carlo Coppélia might well be more celebrated than it is. With radiant Miss Danilova and either Franklin or Youskevitch in the leads, and given in its entirety — as it wasn’t this fall — it is a very happy version of a delightful classic. The score Delibes made for it so carefully has lost none of its charms. And in the Monte Carlo production the choreography and the decoration are — like the music — distinguished, gracious, and light. Coppélia is a modest little comedy, but it has a peculiar grace, an 1870 secret, a bouquet as fresh...

    • Pearl Primus on Broadway (1944)
      (pp. 131-132)

      Pearl Primus, the justly celebrated young Negro dancer, and her troupe opened a ten-day season last night at the Belasco with a show that came across completely only in a few numbers. She has proved herself a quite exceptionally gifted and thrilling dancer before, and it is likely that later performances will not have the self-consciousness that she and her somewhat disparate troupe showed again and again in their first contact with the Broadway theater public.

      The program, elucidated by a speaker, begins with “primitives” — that is, dances derived from African or Haitian origins. A second part brings dances...

    • Ballerina Trouble at Ballet Theatre? (1944)
      (pp. 132-134)

      The Ballet Theatre company, in the first five days of the season, has seemed to suffer from a drop in its morale, unknown before in this admirably steady ensemble. The trouble has been, I imagine, that Ballet Theatre has had to change classic ballerinas in midstream and that this delicate operation was not at once successful. For a ballerina is not only a superacrobat with extra publicity. She is also an artist whose performance shows you the heart of a ballet. She sets the tone; the other dancers can add to it but cannot go counter to it, and so...

    • Riabouchinska and Toumanova (1944)
      (pp. 134-135)

      The general impression over the weekend is that Ballet Theatre is headed up again. Sunday night’s performance at the Metropolitan was lively and accurate, the best evening so far. The new Waltz Academy looked as it should have on its opening night, gay, unpresuming, and beautiful. Miss Alonso was dancing with new animation in her perfect neatness, Miss Gollner with a new simplicity in her fine feats, a directness we have waited for for two years. And the audience enjoyed the charming piece and the company cordially.

      The bill included the Grand Pas de Deux from The Nutcracker, danced by...

    • Toumanova in Giselle (1944)
      (pp. 135-136)

      Miss Toumanova with her large, handsome, and deadly face, her swordlike toe steps, her firm positions, her vigorous and record-high leg gestures — and with her bold and large style of dancing — by nature makes a very different figure from delicate Miss Markova, whose star role in Giselle she undertook for the first time last night. Dancing at the Metropolitan as guest of Ballet Theatre in the familiar Ballet Theatre version (including Mr. Dolin as the star’s partner), Miss Toumanova was very striking and was properly cheered. But Miss Markova’s Giselle is still incomparable.

      In Toumanova’s performance, this Markova...

    • Toumanova’s Show (1944)
      (pp. 136-137)

      Dazzlingly handsome to look at in Black Swan, effervescently and girlishly temperamental in Three-Cornered Hat, Tamara Toumanova sustained and put across last night’s Ballet Theatre show at the Metropolitan as a star performer should. Ballet can be more gracefully poignant and the Spanish style more controlled; but last night one was happy in the vigorous theatrical impetus Miss Toumanova gave both pieces she appeared in.

      Black Swan is the grand pas de deux from Swan Lake, Act Three. The most correct version of the duet was the Monte Carlo’s of 1941, danced then by Toumanova and Eglevsky, and a performance...

    • A Fault in Ballet Theatre’s Dancing (1944)
      (pp. 137-138)

      Each Ballet Theatre season, the more often I go, the more I admire the company. As a group they are gifted, strong, conscientious, untiring dancers; as individuals they are lively, attractive young people. Each season, as the weeks pass and they recover from the strain of touring and from the interruption of ballet classes on tour, you see first this one and then that one begin to blossom in their dancing. Just now they are better than ever, and among the soloists, warmhearted Miss Hightower, Miss Alonso, and Mr. Kriza are often even strikingly expressive. And yet, despite all this,...

    • Toumanova and Dolin at Ballet Theatre (1944)
      (pp. 139-140)

      What really thrills in Toumanova’s dancing is its horizontal and downward drive — the velocity with which she travels perfectly stiff, the force with which she rams her squared-off toe shoe into the floor, the solid slowness with which her free leg deploys its mass from the leg she stands anchored on. These are thrills where her prowess and her dance instinct coincide. She can simulate the motions of airiness — she did it perfectly in her second Giselle performance and in Sylphides — but she does not sustain for any length of time the impulse upward, the lyric breathing...

    • Ballet International at Two Weeks (1944)
      (pp. 140-141)

      Ballet International, our new company, has several strong points which should not be overlooked. In the first place, it is a resident company. The dancers will not be exhausted by touring and their regular training will be less interrupted. Ballet dancers are athletes and they respond to a reasonable hygiene as much as other athletes do; they are also artists, and artists need a quiet place where they can work and they need an unconscious participation in the daily life of a city as anybody there lives it. A resident company can eat and sleep at home; it can practice...

    • About Ballet Decoration (1944)
      (pp. 141-143)

      Because ballet dancers keep moving all over the stage and because in looking at them you keep looking at all the scenery all the time, ballet decoration is observed in a livelier way than play or opera decoration. In fact as a ballet unfolds and your interest in watching it grows, you become more susceptible to visual impressions and so more sensitive, too, to the decoration. In plays or operas you forget the scenery for long stretches while the performers stay still and you listen, more and more captivated, to their voices. The real dramatic power of a play or...

    • Meaning in The Nutcracker (1944)
      (pp. 143-146)

      Thinking of Christmas, I remembered the Christmas tree conspicuously onstage and the Christmas party in the first scene of The Nutcracker, the venerable fairy-tale ballet that Petipa’s collaborator Ivanov set long ago to Tchaikovsky’s lovely score. Has the action anything to do with Christmas? What is its nonsense plot really about, and how does The Nutcracker create its mild and beneficent spell? This serene old vehicle, complete with all the 1890 ballet conventions — pantomime scene, ballroom dance, grand pas de deux, divertissement, and ballabile, all of them strung in a row on a story nobody pays attention to —...

    • Deaths and Entrances (1945)
      (pp. 146-147)

      Martha Graham and her company made their first metropolitan appearance of the season last night, presenting Salem Shore, Deaths and Entrances, and Every Soul Is a Circus. Deaths and Entrances was the most absorbing dance work that opened in New York last season, though it competed with plenty of ballet novelties. If its original shock value no longer operates, both the piece itself and Miss Graham’s dancing in it have lost none of their first fascination.

      Suggested originally by the life and works of the Brontës and by their atmosphere of passionate intellectual sensuality, heroic in despair, Deaths and Entrances...

    • Ballet Imperial (1945)
      (pp. 147-148)

      In Ballet Imperial, the novelty that the Monte Carlo presented at its opening last night at the City Center, the company looked miraculously renewed. It danced with an animation, a lightness and neatness that was far from the disheveled young valiance it showed only last September. The transformation that the dancing in Balanchine’s Danses Concertantes then suggested is now in full view in his brilliant Ballet Imperial. And Mary Ellen Moylan, the leading ballerina of the piece, is a lovely jewel and a joy.

      Ballet Imperial, which was first danced here by Private Kirstein’s American Ballet a few years ago...

    • Balanchine’s Mozartiana (1945)
      (pp. 148-149)

      Mozartiana,* the new Balanchine ballet that the Monte Carlo presented last night at the Center, is in atmosphere light and subtle; it is as full of personal life as an ancient town on the Mediterranean on a holiday morning in the bright sun. In point of form, Balanchine recaptures the flavor of an old-style grand ballet like Petipa’s Don Quixote, recaptures in novel terms its variety of playfulness, tenderness, and virtuosity, and he does it with only four principals and a chorus of eight girls. Mozartiana is another of his unassuming pocket masterpieces which restore to ballet its classic clarity...

    • Coppélia: Ballet’s Masterpiece of Comedy (1945)
      (pp. 150-151)

      Fokine’s Prince Igor dances, looking as pleasant as a newly weeded victory garden in August, reappeared nicely cleaned up in the Monte Carlo’s repertory at the Center on Thursday. The event of that evening, and an event of local dance history, was the Coppélia performance which preceded Igor. It was all through in spirit and in style the finest presentation of an old-style classic that this reviewer has seen. Had it been shown in the flattering frame of the Metropolitan instead of the impossible one at the Center, it would have been not only the success it was, but the...

    • Balanchine’s Pas de Deux (1945)
      (pp. 151-152)

      Balanchine’s new Pas de Deux, which Danilova and Franklin introduced last night at the Center, is a lovely incident in the grand manner but too brief a one. When you see these two stars dancing beautifully on the stage you want them to go on dancing; and though the piece isn’t called a “grand” pas de deux, the audience nonetheless was hoping for solo variations and a coda to come when the curtain went down.

      Not that the piece itself is fragmentary in feeling or in form. It is set to entr’acte music from Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty, music composed to...

    • Balanchine: Ballet Magician (1945)
      (pp. 152-154)

      At the Center last night the Monte Carlo presented the first of two all-Balanchine programs, celebrating his twenty-fifth anniversary as a choreographer. (He was born in 1904.) At the conclusion of the second ballet of the evening the curtain rose again on the company, some of them in the costumes of Danses Concertantes, which they had just danced brilliantly, some of them already dressed for Ballet Imperial — a brilliant performance of which followed — the rest in street clothes, with Mr. Balanchine standing among them. Everyone applauded, the audience calling “Bravo!” Then Mr. Denham, the company director, made Mr....

    • Massine’s Moonlight Sonata (1945)
      (pp. 154-155)

      Poor Toumanova. Poor Ballet Theatre. With a kind of numb dismay, your reporter watched them submitting to a new choreographic indignity when Massine’s Moonlight Sonata was shown Saturday night for the first time at the Metropolitan. Slick the performance was; but “Russian ballet” can hardly sink any lower than it does in offering us this clammy hallway chromo. And to have the great Massine and our fine Ballet Theatre responsible is ignominious for everyone.

      Massine himself appeared as that stock chromo character “The Poet.” Against a chromo backdrop representing a lake in the moonlight — it looked like an inexpensive...

    • Markova at Ballet Theatre (1945)
      (pp. 155-156)

      There are only two real ballerinas in the country; the senior one is the great Alexandra Danilova and the junior one is the great Alicia Markova. Miss Markova, appearing last night with Ballet Theatre at the Metropolitan in two of her former ballets, Romeo and Juliet and Pas de Quatre, transformed this sadly disoriented company at a stroke into the splendid one it was during her marvelous final week with them last spring. She did it by showing them the quiet simplicity of a great style, by believing completely in the piece she was performing. They glowed, they danced, they...

    • Tudor’s Undertow (1945)
      (pp. 156-158)

      Undertow, Tudor’s new ballet which Ballet Theatre is giving at the Metropolitan, is well worth seeing. Though not so effective theatrically as Pillar of Fire or Romeo, it is a highly interesting, a very special piece, and a notable credit to the season. Undertow tells a story which appears to happen more in a young man’s mind than in objective reality. The first scene presents quite realistically an image of his birth and his later interrupted breast-feeding. In the second, he stands, a shy and gentle adolescent in an imaginary city, and watches with increasing excitement the suggestive actions of...

    • The Toumanova Problem (1945)
      (pp. 158-160)

      Ballet Theatre’s current season closes next Sunday; judging by the improvement the company has shown this last week the final one may well be brilliant. Thanks to Undertow the company’s spirits have recovered and so has attendance. During the first fortnight, however, Ballet Theatre looked generally demoralized. Poor its houses were, due to a general slump in theater business, but an experienced company is not bowled over by a week of poor houses. I shouldn’t wonder if Ballet Theatre’s jitters are serious and are due to an aggravated case of ballerina trouble. Ballet Theatre often seems like a tight little...

    • Ballet Theatre’s Season (1945)
      (pp. 160-163)

      Though Ballet Theatre’s season has proved disappointing on several counts, the individual performances of its soloists have frequently been very fine, and a phenomenal performance among them has been Miss Alonso’s as Ate in Undertow. In devising the part Tudor was at his most brilliantly horrid in the special angle of the head, the slightly lopsided ports de bras, the shoulder thrusts, the nasty accents of toes and knees, the fingering of the dress — all reminiscent, if you will, of the Youngest Sister in Pillar. Miss Alonso might have done all this as a series of striking gestures and...

    • Graham’s Herodiade (1945)
      (pp. 163-164)

      Herodiade, a tragic dance scene for two characters which Martha Graham presented for the first time in New York last night, was first seen like her new Appalachian Spring at the Coolidge Festival last fall in Washington, for which both works — their scored an choreography — had been commissioned. And here at the National, like Appalachian Spring on Monday night, yesterday’s Herodiade was another complete audience success. But apart from that, the two pieces resemble each other not at all.

      The scene of Herodiade as the program states is “an antechamber where a woman waits with her attendant. She...

    • Appalachian Spring and Herodiade a Second Time (1945)
      (pp. 165-166)

      On seeing Martha Graham’s new Appalachian Spring a second time a quality which touched me particularly was the fresh feeling of hillside woods and fields the piece conveys. It does it partly in the way the still figures look off as if at a horizon of hills. The horizon is not the treetop garden horizon of Letter to the World nor the expanse of summer sky and sea of Salem Shore, but it is the real open air that is suggested in all three. Herodiade and Deaths and Entrances, on the other hand, happen in a room of some kind,...

    • Concerto Barocco (1945)
      (pp. 166-168)

      Concerto Barocco, the Balanchine novelty of the current Monte Carlo season at the Center, is an unpretentious and good-tempered little ballet and it is also the masterpiece of a master choreographer. It has only eleven dancers; it is merely straight dancing to music — no sex story, no period angle, no violence. It does not seem to be trying to win your interest, but before you know it, it has absorbed your attention and doesn’t let it go. It has power of rhythm and flow; in a wealth of figuration it is everywhere transparent, fresh, graceful, and noble; and its...

    • To Argentinita (1945)
      (pp. 168-169)

      The death of Argentinita brings to many Americans who loved to see her dance a grief like that of a personal loss. Only the greatest dancers can awaken so personal a response by as restrained an art as hers was. Her spell as a star was that of a special Latin bearing, discreetly sensible and delightfully polite; she seemed a lady vivaciously entertaining her guests, and one could imagine that her expertness as host was only the reflection of the pleasure she felt in seeing her friends. Her dances had the effect of captivating anecdotes about Spanish style easy for...

    • Apollo: The Power of Poetry (1945)
      (pp. 170-171)

      Ballet Theatre covered itself with a real glory at the Metropolitan last night by bringing back to us Balanchine’s Apollo and by dancing it completely beautifully. ApolloApollon Musagète is the title of the Stravinsky score — has been performed in New York now and then by various companies during the last ten years, and each time its serene and sensuous poetry has won it a spontaneous acclaim. It is an untarnished masterpiece. Last night, too, there were bravos, and not bravos merely for the virtuosity but for the poetic beauty of the dancing. For myself, seeing Apollo last...

    • Alonso and Eglevsky in Giselle (1945)
      (pp. 171-172)

      Alicia Alonso danced Giselle Tuesday night with Ballet Theatre and both Havana and New York crowded into the Metropolitan to cheer, in enthusiastic ballet fashion, Markova’s heiress apparent in the company. Young, unaffected, and often very brilliant the performance was, on Alonso’s part and on André Eglevsky’s, who danced the great partner role of Albrecht magnificently. Both of them broke through the familiar Markova-Dolin interpretation with a sincere youthful fervor of dancing and of love that even the mystery beyond the grave could not repress. You can imagine how the audience cheered.

      Alonso is a delightfully young and a very...

    • Apollo (1945)
      (pp. 172-174)

      Balanchine’s Apollo is a ballet so simple in story, so rich in dance imagery, so exciting in invention, I should like to describe a little what happens. The piece calls for a string orchestra to play the Stravinsky score and for four superb dancers; it has beyond that only three small parts, no chorus, almost no scenery. It is quite unpretentious as theater. The scene is on Delos, Apollo’s birthplace, and the action begins a moment before his birth, with Leto, his mother, high on a rock in a sharp ray of light, tossing grandly to and fro in the...

    • Robbins’s Interplay (1945)
      (pp. 175-176)

      Robbins’s Interplay, once in Billy Rose’s Concert Varieties and now a success in Ballet Theatre’s repertory, is of serious interest both for being young Robbins’s second work and for being, of all the ballets by American-trained choreographers, the most expertly streamlined in dance design. Interplay looks like a brief entertainment, a little athletic fun, now and then cute, but consistently clear, simple, and lively. You see four boys come out and then four girls and all eight join in improvised games (such as follow-the-leader) done in dance terms; there is a boy’s joking showoff solo, and a duet with a...

    • Markova’s Failing (1945)
      (pp. 176-177)

      Ballet Theatre’s season, which closes tonight, has been very successful commercially, but artistically it leaves a disappointing impression, and one of its unexpected disappointments has been the lessening of Markova’s marvelous magic. Sunday night in Romeo and the night before in Giselle she was an exquisite figure to watch, clearly Ballet Theatre’s loveliest dancer. But she who in her own miraculously fragile way used to illuminate the meaning of an entire ballet and spread a radiance over the rest of the cast and the entire stage seemed too often to be upstaging the company and to be dancing her own...

    • Ballet Theatre in Decline … and a Farewell (1945)
      (pp. 178-180)

      Ballet Theatre is on the decline and its decline is due to mistakes in its management. That is the impression the recent season has left despite the crowds at the Metropolitan. Fine performances there were, bright moments of glory. But the defects which last spring grew less marked as the season progressed, this fall became more pronounced and new ones joined them. Many people noticed this time the increasing rudeness and heaviness of Ballet Theatre’s general dancing; they noticed more than ever dancers in solo passages drawing attention to themselves at the cost of dance style and dramatic illusion, and...

    • Wigman After the War (ca. 1947)
      (pp. 180-181)

      Harald Kreutzberg danced here a week ago, and tried out some new, decoratively surrealist numbers that looked silly to me; but I’m not a Kreutzberg fan. The public here was divided much as at home — he’s a success but not with dance lovers. At the recital I saw Mary Wigman, light-eyed, red-haired, with a wild, ruined face and a wonderful human warmth; she was in Locarno (the next town) for a few days’ vacation after giving a two-week course in Zurich (with Kreutzberg) and before going back to her school in Leipzig (Russian Zone). She was having a wonderful...

    • Ashton’s Cinderella (1949)
      (pp. 181-187)

      The big hit of Ashton’s Cinderella is its pair of Ugly Sisters, Helpmann and Ashton himself, and it is the one Ashton plays, the Second Ugly Sister, who becomes the charmer of the evening. She is the shyest, the happiest, most innocent of monsters. She adores the importance of scolding, the fluster of getting dressed up — in a rush of milliners, hairdressers, jewellers, violinists. To do a little dance transports her, though she keeps forgetting what comes next. At the Prince’s she is terrified to be making an entrance; a few moments later, poor monster, in the intoxication of...

    • Against Meaning in Ballet (1949)
      (pp. 188-192)

      Some of my friends who go to ballet and like the entertainment it gives are sorry to have it classed among the fine arts and discussed, as the other fine arts are, intellectually. Though I do not agree with them I have a great deal of sympathy for their anti-intellectual point of view. The dazzle of a ballet performance is quite reason enough to go; you see handsome young people — girls and boys with a bounding or delicate animal grace — dancing among the sensual luxuries of orchestral music and shining stage decoration and in the glamour of an...

    • Dance Criticism (1949)
      (pp. 192-203)

      People interested in dancing as a form of art complain that our dance criticism is poor. Poor it is but not poor in relation to its pay. Anyone who writes intelligently about dancing does so at his own expense. As a matter of fact the sort of semi-illiterate hackwork that oozes out shamelessly and pays off modestly in books and articles about music — educators recommend it — is hardly profitable when it deals with the dance. Almost all our dance criticism appears in the form of newspaper reviewing. But almost all papers would rather misinform the public than keep...

    • An Open Letter About the Paris Opéra Ballet (1950)
      (pp. 203-209)

      I wanted to write you* an article about ballet at the Maggio Musicale as you suggested, but I couldn’t, so I started a letter and then began to rewrite it to find out what I meant; here it is, it turned out to be just about the Paris Opéra.

      What I most looked forward to at the Maggio was my first sight of Vyroubova. I agree with you about her entirely. After three steps I loved her — delicious figure, limpid style, sweet absorption. To be sure by the time she had done four ballets I didn’t love her as...

    • A Letter About Ulanova (1951)
      (pp. 209-212)

      About Ulanova. She is a very great dancer, no doubt of that, even seeing her as we did very awkwardly presented. What we all saw first was the magnificent schooling and the admirable personal discipline. You know how touching that is when you see a dancer not allowing herself to monkey with the rules. What we saw was a wonderful flow of movement sustained and sustained, a sort of cantilena style of dancing with beautiful legs (marvelously shaped arabesques of all kinds, and so clearly differentiated too), and beautiful elbows. The very beginning of a movement is fresh and quick...

    • A Letter About Ulanova and the Royal Danish Ballet (1951)
      (pp. 212-216)

      I went back to Florence for Ulanova’s second recital. She danced, I think a critic would have said, even better: the same large clear strong movement, the same calm lightness of strength, and the wonderful velvet flow. The timing is perfection: each phrase of movement, of the step or arm gesture, materializes at the exact speed and with the right urgency to make it visible in itself and coherent in the sequence, as movement and as plastic image; a perfectly proportioned continuity or dance phrase. Great musicians play music with a similar absolute clarity of proportions in the continuity, so...

    • A Letter on New York City’s Ballet (1952)
      (pp. 216-231)

      I hadn't expected so intense a pleasure, looking at New York again,* in the high white February sunlight, the childishly euphoric climate; looking down Second Avenue, where herds of vehicles go charging one way all day long disappearing into the sky at the end like on a prairie; looking up a side of a skyscraper, a flat and flat and a long and long, and the air drops down on your head like a solid. Like a solid too the air that slices down between two neighbor skyscrapers. Up in the winter sunlight the edge of such a building far...

    • Impressions of Markova at the Met (1952)
      (pp. 232-235)

      Alicia Markova has become that legendary figure, the last of the old-style ballerinas. Her second Giselle with Ballet Theatre this fall season broke a box-office record at the Metropolitan Opera House. Five people fainted in standing room. She did the contrary of everything the new generation of ballerinas has accustomed us to. With almost no dazzle left, Markova held the house spellbound with a pianissimo, with a rest. A musician next to me was in tears, a critic smiled, a lady behind me exclaimed “Beautiful!” in an ecstatic, booming voice. Her dancing was queerer than anyone had remembered it. A...

    • Some Thoughts About Classicism and George Balanchine (1953)
      (pp. 235-243)

      The beautiful way the New York City company has been dancing this season in the magnificent pieces of its repertory — in Serenade, Four Temperaments, Symphonic Concertante, Swan Lake, Caracole, Concerto Barocco, Orpheus, Symphony in C, and the new Metamorphoses — not to mention such delicious small ones as Pas de Trois, Harlequinade, or Valse Fantaisie — made me want to write about the effect Balanchine’s work has had in developing a largeness of expression in his dancers, and in showing all of us the kind of beauty classic ballet is by nature about. Thinking it over, I saw questions...

    • Stars of the Russian Ballet: A Film Review (1954)
      (pp. 243-247)

      Stars of the Russian Ballet tries very nicely to give a front-row view of Soviet ballet. The dancers in it are members of Russia’s two best companies, the stars are among the country’s most brilliant. They dance Swan Lake (a revised version), The Fountain of Bakhchisarai, and The Flames of Paris; the latter two are Soviet productions of 1934 and 1932 and are based on character steps. At the Bolshoi each of the three would last a whole evening, but the film condenses them to eighty minutes all included.

      On the screen flashes of dance and mime delighted me. It...

    • Western Symphony and Ivesiana (1954)
      (pp. 247-252)

      The two new pieces presented by the New York City Ballet during its fall season — Western Symphony and Ivesiana, both by George Balanchine — are as far apart as possible from one another in the kind of theater appeal they offer. Western is likable and lively, with good-natured jokes and fireworks, and it develops a dance momentum that for stamina, speed, and climax is irresistible. Ivesiana develops no speed of momentum at all, no beat; it is carried onward as if way below the surface by a force more like that of a tide, and the sharp and quickly...

    • Dancers, Buildings, and People in the Streets (1954)
      (pp. 252-260)

      On the subject of dance criticism, I should like to make clear a distinction that I believe is very valuable, to keep the question from getting confused. And that is that there are two quite different aspects to it. One part of dance criticism is seeing what is happening onstage. The other is describing clearly what it is you saw. Seeing something happen is always fun for everybody, until they get exhausted. It is very exhausting to keep looking, of course, just as it is to keep doing anything else; and from an instinct of self-preservation many people look only...

    • Romeo and Juliet: A Film Review (1956)
      (pp. 260-264)

      The Russian feature-length ballet film Romeo and Juliet is more fun to watch if you don’t like classic dancing than if you do. The whole cast keeps behaving like the operatic boyars and muzhiks one is acquainted with from Russian historical films. They rush up and down stairways, they fence by hundreds, they stare, feast, dance, and mourn with an unquenchable agility and vehemence. Seen close up, they ham an emotion with a capital letter. They do a little classic dancing too, and tie it in by heavy character acting. They are completely convinced, if not completely convincing. You can’t...

    • Three Sides of Agon (1959)
      (pp. 264-270)

      Agon, a ballet composed by Igor Stravinsky in his personal twelve-tone style, choreographed by George Balanchine, and danced by the New York City Ballet, was given an enormous ovation last winter by the opening-night audience. The balcony stood up shouting and whistling when the choreographer took his bow. Downstairs, people came out into the lobby, their eyes bright as if the piece had been champagne. Marcel Duchamp, the painter, said he felt the way he had after the opening of Le Sacre. At later performances, Agon continued to be vehemently applauded. Some people found the ballet set their teeth on...

    • The Bolshoi at the Met (1959–60)
      (pp. 271-276)

      In the spring of 1959, The Great Moscow Bolshoi Ballet disappointed some balletgoers. “We’d all expected so much, and they aren’t superhuman after all,” a bright young lady exclaimed as we met at the door after a performance of Swan Lake; she quickly added the warmest praise for Ulanova in Romeo and Juliet.

      About Ulanova I quite agreed. At first sight her vividness of motion, unique among the dancers around her, reminded me of Martha Graham’s. As for the company, the first half hour shows it is a great one — highly skilled, convinced, attentive, lively. In Romeo everybody did...

    • Martha at Sixty-Eight (1961)
      (pp. 276-277)

      Martha is sixty-eight. The moves she makes are sketched. At crucial moments the timing is extremely vivid. She holds her audience by imagination. She does it all evening long in Clytemnestra, several seasons old now, a masterpiece as weird as Melville. But her public wants to see her every year, and that keeps her troupe going. The news is what the troupe has done to itself. It has blossomed.

      It hadn’t found out how to until the end of last season; it had been a strong severe bud for about twenty years. It had been bold about being in earnest,...

    • Balanchine Choreographing (1962)
      (pp. 277-287)

      When George Balanchine was about to choreograph Variants, to a new score by Gunther Schuller, I was asked to report the process as clearly as I should be able to; Rudolph Burckhardt was to take photographs. Mr. Balanchine very generously gave us permission to attend rehearsals.

      The wall clock in a large classroom at the School of American Ballet marked five minutes before the hour. Two dancers, Melissa Hayden and Arthur Mitchell, were doing a few final stretches at the barre; they paused and began to wipe their faces and necks. Balanchine stood beside the piano intently reading his copy...

    • Forms in Motion and in Thought (1965)
      (pp. 288-306)

      In dancing one keeps taking a step and recovering one’s balance. The risk is a part of the rhythm. One steps out of and into balance; one keeps on doing it, and step by step the mass of the body moves about. But the action is more fun and the risk increases when the dancers step to a rhythmic beat of music. Then the pulse of the downbeat can lift the dancer as he takes a step, it can carry him through the air for a moment; and the next downbeat can do it again. Such a steady beat to...

    • Dance Magazine Award Acceptance Speech (1966)
      (pp. 306-306)

      I remember that Doris Hering told me that you should thank your teachers on this occasion, that it was customary, and I’m only too glad to. But there are so many of them that I can’t even name them all. Of course there’s one man who has taught me to see and hear more than anyone else, and you can guess who I mean — Mr. Balanchine. And he goes right on teaching me. I am very much interested in not only all the variety in which he sets the music and the different kinds of events that happen to...

  7. BIBLIOGRAPHY OF DENBY’S WRITINGS
    (pp. 307-308)
  8. INDEX
    (pp. 309-320)