Home > ATBT Staff > Antony Tudor: My Godfather, By Mark B. Bliss

Antony Tudor: My Godfather, By Mark B. Bliss

Rather than just cut and paste the introduction from our new book, Antony Tudor: Centennial, I thought I’d take the opportunity to write a separate account of what this project has meant to me.

Book Cover

As a kid, you always hear adults in your life complain that you don’t appreciate what you have, or the people in your life or how different things are from when they were kids. This information goes in and out of your ears without a second thought. “Old people,” you think. And then a funny thing happens. You age. Suddenly you’re saying the same thing to the youngsters in your life and forget how easy it was for you to dismiss this sage advice, much to your chagrin. It’s the real circle of life, a kick in the rear to remind you that you are only getting to witness yourself in a smaller being.

I found myself contemplating this very issue as I undertook the editorship of the Centennial Book project. As I steamed ahead into developing content for the website and (later on) the book, I understood the uniqueness of my childhood in a completely different light. I didn’t understand that my godfather was famous. I knew he was important in the dance world, but everyone in my parents circle of friends seemed to be, so what was the big deal? It’s not that I didn’t like the perks of growing up cradled in the arts world. I was an extra in Petrushka with Nureyev. I got to go to the White House and have Amy Carter tell me that she and her mom made all the cookies for the kids at the reception for the Met’s presentation of Babar. Ron Reagan, Jr. was in my mother’s ballet company. Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino were like friendly uncles. I got to go backstage at the Met. My family was in People Magazine for an article that asked “What do the Metropolitan Opera and the Joffrey Ballet have in common? Wedded Bliss!” My brother and I slept under the tables of the best restaurants in New York City after every performance. All of these weren’t typical childhood experiences, for sure.

I would say that I developed an appreciation for ballet at an early age, but my passions were invested in things like hockey, baseball, comic books and Star Wars. I certainly liked ballet better than opera, which for some reason put me to sleep within minutes of the curtain rising until I was much older. I loved ballets like Daryl Gray’s Threads from String of Swing and Agnes de Mille’s Rodeo. While those ballets were fun, I remember Tudor’s Continuo sticking with me in a way I wouldn’t experience again until a few years ago when I saw The Leaves Are Fading and Echoing of Trumpets. Yes, I knew Antony Tudor had something to do with the ballet world. But that wasn’t what I liked about him as a godfather.

Antony Tudor, Mark Bliss, Nancy Zeckendorf, 1980

I got a kick out of his English accent. Nobody I knew had a godfather from another country and that was very cool. He always had a sparkle in his eye and a playful wink would follow. His laughter was infectious, even though I didn’t get most of his jokes. He didn’t condescend when speaking to me, and would always include me in the adult conversation. He gave me unique gifts, including books that I still have today. The picture in this blog is my most treasured memory of Tudor. He and my wonderful godmother, Nancy Zeckendorf, took me to see The Black Stallion, which was my favorite book as a kid.

Before I took on the job as editor of the book and website, I knew only a little more of Tudor than I did as a kid. This project not only allowed me to play a part in preserving his legacy, it was also an opportunity to learn about the Tudor I didn’t know. Reading all the books about him, sorting through archival photographs, reviewing remembrances of his impact on others lives; all of these things helped me to understand who my godfather was. I am proud of the effort the team put into this project. My mother was a fabulous resource, as our leader and chief historian. Tara Moira McBride was the planner, focusing our meetings and figuring out the logistics of this monumental task. And Adria Rolnik, having served as Centennial Celebration event coordinator and now as archivist, took inventory of our vast photo collection and tracked down the needed permissions for each one. The result is our terrific website and now a book that I think everyone will find was worth the wait.

Antony Tudor was a great godfather. While I didn’t appreciate what he did for the world of ballet, and barely understood what he actually did for a living, I have no regrets about the fact that I enjoyed the company of my godfather for the man he was to me, not the legend he was to everyone else. Actually, I do regret that he died before I became an adult and could grasp the impact he had on the arts. I would love to talk to him about his childhood in England and the fascinating early days of the Rambert Ballet Club. I’d love to be able to ask him about his methodology. I’d love to be able to appreciate his wit from a mature perspective. But this is as futile as telling a child about the good old days.

Instead, I can remember what my godfather meant to me as a child.

Excerpt From Book

Excerpt From Book

Excerpt From Book

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  1. Daryl Gray
    June 3, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    Dear Mark,

    Thank you for including my ballet “Threads from a String of Swing” in your article. Ten companies have done this work and no cast anywhere ever did it better than the casts at Joffrey. It was with them, as they conveyed to so many audiences, pure joy.

    Best regards,

    Daryl Gray

  2. Daryl Gray
    June 10, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    I had the privilege of seeing many of Tudor’s works when I was an ABT scholarship student and went nightly to the ballet with my classmates to see unforgettable casts in his works. Later, I also had the honor of working with Mr. Tudor when he coached me in his “Little Improvisations”, prior to performing it in South America. This encounter was only a week but made a powerful lasting impression on me as well. Perhaps,”people who happen to dance, rather than dancers who happen to be people”, as Mr. Tudor said, is one reason why I strive for my work to be like minded. So too,this also may be a reason why “Rodeo” and other such works may have struck the author as a child with such a positive impression of ballet. Tudor’s works live and will live on because they touch our hearts, spirits and souls, whether by moving or amusing us. These are qualities worth honoring and emulating for us all. His contribution to ballet has been enormous.

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