Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Tudor Trust’

Antony Tudor: My Godfather, By Mark B. Bliss

May 15, 2010 2 comments

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

Advertisements

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.

Tudor and Education: A Perfect Match

January 13, 2010 2 comments

by Sally Brayley Bliss

There is a small village on the east side of the Mississippi River in Illinois named Elsah. Not just beautiful and historical, it is also the home of Principia, a small liberal arts college for Christian Scientists. When I was Director of the Joffrey II Dancers 1969 thru 1986, on one of our many bus tours, we of course played St. Louis and we had many run outs. One time, thanks to our Iowa friend, John Fitzpatrick, we performed at Principia College. I will always remember my experience with the dynamic college in this quaint little town.

My point is that Principia has a dance program; a good one. The Dance Department Chair, Hilary Harper-Wilcoxen, happens to be a huge Tudor fan; not only that, but her mother studied with Tudor in New York many years ago. The ballet world is at once expansive and small. You just never know who you will meet and where.

After she introduced herself a year ago, I arranged for her program to learn and perform Little Improvisations. Amanda McKerrow was the ideal répétiteur to stage it for them. Amanda, Hilary, the entire dance program, production staff, filmmakers and I all pitched in. This residency became a huge event and a learning experience for all of us. Most importantly, the process pushed me into deep thought. Having worked by that time with many university and college dance departments, I realized Tudor’s choreography (not all, but some of his works) are perfect for university dance programs. His choreography is so understood by the students, who not only enjoy but are intellectually stimulated by the works of Tudor. Dance departments all over are growing and rapidly developing their abilities to undertake new challenges. I had the pleasure of working with Juilliard College, Duke, Stanford, and Washington Universities, while the Tudor Trust répétiteurs have worked with so many more. Hence, it led me to decide the time was right to develop a Tudor Syllabus that will enhance and enrich already strong programs like Principia, while opening opportunities for many others. I realize that this has never been done, but the challenge will be an exhilarating one. Tudor was always an educator and this fit is a natural one.

I have delegated a group of university dance faculty, led by répétiteurs James Jordan and Amanda McKerrow to develop a Tudor Syllabus. They will be working closely with Kristine Elliot, Lance Westergard, and the aforementioned Hilary Harper-Wilcoxen. I’m sure there will be more on board as we develop our plan and move ahead. Hilary will guide us as we lay the foundation for all that is necessary to create a university dance syllabus that will be approved by the system.

This is just the beginning. We have a lot of work to do and we need your help. The Trust is very interested in your best ideas for developing something very new and exciting. This is the future, not only for Tudor, but for all of dance.