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Sally Bliss: Travels of the Trustee

April 19, 2010 1 comment

The past few months have been a hectic travel time for me fulfilling my role as Trustee of Antony Tudor’s Estate, Board Member of the Paul Taylor Dance Company, and other dance related business.

I really enjoyed David Parsons’ new and improved full evening work, “Remember Me,” based on famous and popular opera arias sung by members of the East Village Opera Company.  I’d seen the work in St. Louis in November and liked it, but the finished product at the Joyce Theatre in New York was even better.  The Parson’s dancers were wonderful.  For me it worked and was one of the best dances he has created.

From New York I traveled to Indianapolis, arriving in time for Butler University’s dress rehearsal of its’ mid-winter dance program.  Included in the program was Antony Tudor’s “Dark Elegies,” staged by Donald Mahler, Senior Repetiteur of the Tudor Trust.  What an eye opener for me!   Butler has a very strong dance program with talented choreographers on staff and lovely dancers.  I had seen some of the students dance in St. Louis (my home) as guest artists with Alexandria Ballet, but what I saw here was a quality and level of performance I was not prepared for.

I was so startled and immediately pleased, starting with the amazing dress rehearsal right through to opening night.  Each of the Mahler “Kindertotenlieder” songs one though five was danced with incredible reserve and great intelligence.   Each and every dancer in the program showed a level of depth I have rarely seen before.

It was after seeing this performance of “Dark Elegies,” I knew I was on the right track:  developing a Tudor Syllabus for university dance programs is a MUST; a priority at present, and, most important for the future of Antony Tudor and his great ballets.  I hope there is a DVD of Butler’s performance we can use as part of our syllabus.

As I mentioned, there were other dances on the program, three of which were of a pretty high standard.  As I get older, having watched a great many dances/ballets, I find myself maybe a bit jaded and less and less enthusiastic about choreography today.  This program made me sit up and watch.

I arrived home from Butler University and went into a joint rehearsal of “Little Improvisations” with COCA, Center of Creative Arts, a St. Louis performing arts school, and Principia College, a liberal arts college in Elsa, IL, (see previous blog for more in Principia.)  I’ve worked with both before but was so pleased to see how much they had improved.  I can’t believe what a difference only one year of study can do.  It was quite amazing.  Again, I’m impressed with the minds of university/college students.

I had a brief stay at home in St. Louis, saw a well danced performance by River North Chicago and then back to New York for two days of Paul Taylor.  I arrived in time to get to City Center theatre where I saw three dances by Paul Taylor.   “Brandenburgs,” created in 1988, was maybe the finest dancing and performance by the company I have ever seen.  The two New York premieres, also by Paul, were quite different from each other.  The first was “Brief Encounters.”  I liked it a lot.  The music was Debussy and, as with many of his works, there were humorous moments.  The evening ended with “Also Playing,” a very hilarious, fun piece about Vaudeville, that was very well danced.  It was a perfect end to Paul Taylors 80th Birthday Gala, my reason for being there.

The next morning Donald Mahler and I went to see the almost completed renovation of the company’s new office and studio space.  It is absolutely terrific.  I listened to Donald and Paul reminisce about their time at Syracuse University.  At that time there was no dance program at Syracuse, nevertheless it was there they both discovered dance.  So too did both give up their scholarships to study in New York.  And, as we say, the rest is history:  Paul went to Juilliard, where he worked with Antony Tudor and then followed Tudor to the Metropolitan Opera Ballet School.

The following week I headed to Denver for Colorado Ballet’s stage rehearsals of Tudor’s “Echoing of Trumpets.”  Be sure to check out our News section on the website for reviews and commentary on that performance.