Poll Archive


If a theatre audience is dressed formally, or in evening wear, does this increase the enjoyment of a theatrical performance?



Depends on the production

67% ■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■■

11% ■■■

20% ■■■■■■■

As a performer, yes.
As an audience member, no.
And I don’t know why.

It would be refreshing after the last ten years in the United States which has become a “nation of slobs”.

Oh, yes, you did!
Quotes from our newsletters in 2004:

It’s Chardonnay/Champagne & BBQ time here…
(ed: the former Bluebell Girl, Anne Stuart, on the current scene in Sydney)

In the bad old days when you needed a carte de travail to work in Paris, it gave my profession as “Girl”. Not dancer. Imagine having to show that to the police.
(ed: Jocelyn Cassia danced in Europe, Africa and America during her career)

I wonder that more dancers of mature years don’t fall over themselves to take these parts?
(ed: British actor, Alan Bird, on character roles in ‘Coppelia’)

I deal with a generation, especially in summer stock, where they often break their contracts the day before we start…
(ed: Professor of dance and director of summer stock in the USA, Eric Brandt Nielsen)

…It is to me is a very serious ballet…
(ed: former Ballet Rambert dancer, Leon Draper, on Coppelia)

Management spends a fortune on cast changeovers on long running shows and then you have just done a big changeover and there is another notice letter lying on your desk – drives me insane…
(ed: former Lido de Paris dancer and now directing productions in Sun City, South Africa, Ivor Jones)

Ohhhhh, MY PIPES ARE TIRED! I had rehearsal last night and had to sing Anthem from “Chess” 5 times…
(ed: Jeffrey Scott Adair appeared in the USA and Europe during his dance career)

“Dignity before cheap applause”.
(ed: recalling Ivor Jones’s comments backstage at the Lido in Paris in the 1970s-80s)

I fell two weeks ago! 5ft, off a black staircase on a black stage in a black out!! Yikes! I am fine thank goodness! I had done a really good warm up that day and although bruised, nothing is broken. It was on a Sunday matinee and I had the next two days off so didn’t have to miss a show!! A bruised ego and a few Band-Aids were the worst of it. I am the new tumbling act in the show!

(ed: on backstage at The Florida Follies, Fort Lauderdale, during February, 2004. The age range of the cast is between 50 to 80 years old; the production has been getting standing ovations at every performance. It looks like the Parker Playhouse has found a winning formula, similar to the longer established, Palm Springs Follies. This website salutes you all. Way to go…)

…Shakespeare was originally performed for all levels of society and so it follows that what was once entertainment for the masses eventually becomes ‘art’…
(on the musical)

As Donn (Arden) used to say,”Honey, the trouble with our type of show, that runs so long, is you have to watch it for years, mistakes and all. With television you do it and start all over the next week!”

The singers simply combed their hair at the end of the day and went out for cocktails.
(on musical rehearsals)

By far one of my favorite musicals to direct and choreograph is 42nd Street, but I wouldn’t categorize it as one of the great thought provoking musicals of the century. It is one of many which I consider “fluff” musicals.

I’ve heard of stars calling their choreographers in the middle of the night seeking support for their fears. Sort of a dancing pschiatrist on 24 hr. duty.
(on the musical)

Francois Szony is still so elegant and turns beautifully at age 78!
(writing about a colleague in The Florida Follies)

May I raise a glass and toast the artists of Florida Follies.

…the old black and white classic Fred Astaire musicals, not only were they entertaining with wonderful and unique dance routines but they also provided an insight into society, lifestyles and attitudes at that time, a little time capsule in a way.

All that Fred Astaire brought to film (requesting that he be filmed full figure and in one take) is lost on contemporary audiences.

The oldest woman dancer is 86 years old! Or should I say young?
(on The Palm Springs Follies)

I had to lie down in a darkened room to recover. I was a mere Husk!
(on watching Acosta and Cojocaru in rehearsal at Covent Garden, and quoting form the musical: ‘Salad Days’)

SERIOUS art forms? Sculpture, Architecture, Painting, the Novel, Symphonic Music, classic Dance. Those seem to transcend time. Ethel Merman in “Call Me Madam” will not – and should not.

…oral history on the page…
(ed: on the writers’ memories in the newsletter)


Larry Billman in Japan
On the theatre scene in Tokyo!

Leon Draper in New Zealand
His strong views on classical ballet in Oceania!

Judi Cox Frazier in the U.S.A.
On stage with French star, Sylvie Vartan!

Our Correspondent in Tokyo:

4th February 2005
A production of “Never Gonna Dance,” the Broadway musical based on the Astaire/Rogers film “Shall We Dance?” opens next week in Tokyo. The original star, Noah Racey, will be recreating Jerry Mitchell’s choreography for the Japanese Cast.

Adam Cooper’s new ballet “Les Liaisons Dangereuses” began its Japanese tour in Tokyo on January 22 and will also visit Nagoya, Nagano, Kobe and Osaka. Because of heavy demand, additional performances have been added in Tokyo in which Simon Cooper (Adam’s brother) will perform the role of “Valmont.” The cast includes Sarah Wildor, Sarah Baron, Yolande Yorke-Edgell, Marilyn Cutts, Wendy Woodbridge, Helen Dixon, Natasha Dutton, Damion Jackson, Daniel Davidson, Richard Curto and Barnaby Ingram. Co-director with Adam – and the remarkable design – is Lez Brotherston with music composed by Philip Feeney.

Warner Bros is in the process of creating an elaborate (and long-awaited) 5-DVD “Astaire/Rogers” set, to include “Top Hat,” “Follow the Fleet,” “Swingtime,” “Shall We Dance?” and “The Barkleys of Broadway.” The filming for the “Extras” and documentaries for each film are in progress. Interviewees include Ava Astaire McKenzie (Astaire’s daughter), Barrie Chase (Astaire’s last partner), Michael Feinstein, Noah Racey, John Mueller, Leonard Maltin, Astaire-archivist supreme Michael Russell and Larry Billman.

Our Correspondent in Auckland:

4th February 2005
All dance studios started their schools for the year this week in New Zealand.

Classical dance is alive and well, but fees are being undercut by unqualified teachers.

Our Dance Ministries are only contemporary orientated and only two scholarships of major importance…These have even been awarded to, and by, members of the panel in some cases!

We have a tour from “YES” The Imperial Russian Ballet doing “Swan Lake”.

Most of our University Dance Program Professors have other qualifications and only teach contemporary or some obscure ethnic dancing for majors.

(Leon Draper has danced with Ballet Rambert, Tanzkompanie Staatstheater Oldenburg and The Royal New Zealand Ballet, and can be contacted direct by e-mail from his entry on The Men’s page)

Our Correspondent in Los Angeles:

4th February 2005
Backing Sylvie Vartan!
The Domino Effect: The decor for the finale of Palais des Congres 1977 (Hurricane from The Wiz) consisted of platforms on different levels. I was one of 3 or 4 girls on the top platform stage right. To arrive at the platform from the wings, there was a ramp which was on a 60 degree incline and covered in reflective mirrored paper. Essential for the lighting but not very practical for running up. During one of the first performances, the lead girl slipped and fell. She tried her best to get back up – in a long dress, carrying an umbrella, wearing a mask and headdress. The rest of us ran right into her, boom, boom, boom, and went down as well. Then, we all slid to the bottom of the ramp in one big tangled mess of arms, legs and unbrellas! It was one of those moments where you laugh so hard that for several seconds, you become paralyzed. There was nothing we could have done differently, and we screamed with laughter until we cried. We did make it up to the platform very quickly but still very late musically. Choreographer, Claude Thompson was not pleased. From then on, we took a running start before hitting that ramp!

It’s Raining… Teeth?:
Also at Palais des Congres in 1983, one night Veronica Newth, a.k.a. Conky, and I were waiting to go onstage for ‘It’s Raining Men.’ The very second before our entrance, the cap on Conky’s front tooth came off! This was one number where we had the opportunity to sing so we danced with mikes and if we didn’t sing, at least we were supposed to move our lips to the words. Poor Conky spent the entire ballet in a permanent smile, with top and bottom teeth together to keep the tooth in place. Every time I looked at her, I’d lose it. Incapable of singing, I just moved my lips with tears streaming down my face.

Chaos in Liege!
N’y a Pas le Feu… (Where’s the Fire?): There’s a lovely little old theater in Liege, Belgium, that we played on many tours. On one occasion, during intermission, the smoke machine was started to produce the desired smoke effect for the prologue of the second half. The curtain was closed and the only thing the audience saw was smoke coming from under the curtain. We heard one lady screamed, “FIRE!!” and people started running for the door. Sylvie Vartan’s secretary, Hubert, ran onstage to calm things down.

The security for this theater was done by military guards. That very same night, impressario Jean Claude Camus arrived during the second half of the show from Paris to join the tour. Because he didn’t have a ticket, he was told by what appeared to be an 18 year old guard that he could not go in. He got very angry and started yelling at this young man. The kid also became agitated and Camus found himself staring down the barrel of a machine gun!

Everyone backstage said, “Only in Belgium!”


Would you like to see more older performers dancing on the professional stage?







I don’t quite understand the premise of the question. In ballet companies of yore, older dancers played the character parts. Even Lucia Chase, who ran Ballet Theatre, toured with them and played the mother in one or two ballets. If appropriate, why not? Does the question posit that older dancers are not dancing now. They certainly are in the Palm Springs Follies altho there is a lot of walking to music but that’s OK. And there was an 85 year old woman who did the splits! So, sure if it is appropriate.

Thanks for commenting, Anon. You are correct, the poll question is not clear. I did not mean older dancers in place of younger ones, but that older performers, in general, are not given enough opportunities to continue performing (and this is not only applicable to the dancing field) and would everyone like to see more of them – or not?

The Palm Springs Follies is admirable and a couple of artistes who recently appeared in The Florida Follies (which is similar) are on our newsletter list (see News Page and e-mail me if you want). Again, thanks for the feedback.

Extracts from our newsletter:

reviewed in Japan
19th September 2004

Larry Billman writes from Tokyo

The opening was sensational! Girls in abbreviated gold beaded mini dresses and boys in skin-tight trousers and open-to-the-waist shirts wiggling their asses and whatever else might shake. Like a tribute to the guilty pleasures of “Solid Gold” or “Dance Fever” (two successful US disco-era TV shows), they boogied and writhed with a wonderful vengeance. The crowd (including myself) went wild! Disco paradise…bring on the Village People.

And then it went downhill…

The format is a laundry-list of ballroom dances, first introduced by a music box couple slowly turning and a female voice inviting “Do you wanna dance with me?” That premise quickly disappeared and we were shown non-stop numbers based on the Waltz, Swing/Jitterbug, Latin Salsa, a salute to Astaire and Rogers and lots o’ dance-club disco. Their attempts at Hip Hop, Breakdance and more contemporary social dances were laugh-out-loud (at least by me!). In the first act, a group of men in baggy pants (threatening to slide off and show us taut, firm buttocks), torn shirts or bare chests with 6-pack abs and alluring dimples just above their hips glistening with sweat enter to stalk a single female. That outdated “rape fantasy” which I think should be banned from our entertainment options. They attempt to Hip Hop and break dance, but with only one male dancer with acrobatic abilities, the “floor” moves are questionable. In the second act, another group of stalking males (in black leather this time, I believe) slinked on and I said “They’re BAACK!” and had a good guffaw to myself. The single female in this piece was in torn T-shirt, bad punk wig and torn black opera hose – but, of course, wearing the regulation ballroom sandal-stiletto high heels. These are ballroom kids, not urban African-American dance gangstahs!

The 36 dancers are young, highly-energetic, taut, beautiful, multi-national and award-winning ballroom competition couples, so there were only attempts made at ballet, tap, jazz. When the couples did their featured partner work they were “spot on.” In an ensemble, their idea of counts and unified movement would send Fluff (ed: Fluff La Coque, a legendary Las Vegas company manager) to the office to get a gun! And the costumes are all slightly sleazy, threatening to expose breasts, asses and every so often, pubic areas. Shades of Chippendales, Vegas lounge shows, bad Cruise line shows and (of course) ballroom competitions. In a Flamenco sequence, titled “Apassionata,” the female dancer became attracted to a shaved-head-but-with-pony-tail, tattooed and buffed stud lounging near the guitarist. Her lust makes her ask the other Spaniards [sic] to rip off her Flamenco gown and reveal a teensy black bra and black fringe skirt – just as all Flamenco dancers do. I feared a pole-and-lap-dance “Showgirls” tribute was to follow. No such luck.

Another problem for me is that the staging and lighting was born in the arena, and not enough of it has been reshaped and refocused for a proscenium. As most big numbers contain all 36 dancers, it was most often like watching a crowded dance floor. They all danced their asses off, but after 30 minutes, I was numbed. The Japanese female audience loved most of it. At the “Finale,” they performed their choreography and clapped along and jumped and writhed like Disco demons.

(ed: Larry Billman is the author of ‘Film Choreographers and Dance Directors’, MacFarland & Co)

From Reno, Nevada, USA:

re: Review ‘Burn the Floor’ in Japan
If anyone gets a chance to see the original ‘Burn the Floor’ ( out on Video) you will see that one of it’s best features is the lighting and arena setting ( not forgetting great looking people)and I know that the show has gone through many incarnations, but the original was quite something, some naf moments granted, but on the whole pretty good …I think it stayed closer to the ballroom dancing roots….There is also a “Making of Burn the Floor” which is really fun.

Trivia..the idea came from Elton John’s 50th Birthday party where 9 ballroom couples performed for 20 minutes and brought the guests to their feet. Anthony Van Laast thought they were onto something..if Elton John’s world weary guests could get a excited by Cha-Chas and Rumba’s they might have a show!

The rest is history…..

(ed: Diane MacDonald danced at Le Lido in Paris; the Moulin Rouge; Sun City in South Africa, and was lead dancer, in the USA, for the choreographer, Ron Lewis, for six years.)

AGED 94,

Liz Elliott Lieberman writes from Las Vegas, Nevada

Sad to report that ‘Miss’ Bluebell (the founder of The Bluebell Girls) has passed away at age 94. She had not been in the greatest of health for sometime, although I did hear that she never gave up puffing away on her ciggies! What a wonderful woman she was, and what a character. In France she is an icon, not only for her contribution to the art of Le Cabaret, but for her staunch opposition to the Nazi invasion of France and her heroism in hiding her Jewish husband over the course of several years. Her life story was serialized on the BBC several years back but I think it was quite sanitized! Vivian Pickles, who portrayed her, looked uncannily like her.

There are so many stories about Blue, but one of my favorite ones was when she was presented to the Queen on receiving her OBE. The Queen said “how nice” it was to meet her and Miss replied, somewhat tersely, that they HAD met before (at the Royal Command), and that furthermore she was Irish, and a Catholic, to which the Queen replied, “How nice” and moved on. Florence, Bluebell’s daughter, who was standing next to her in the receiving line was on the verge of collapse listening to her mother!

Another time a very good friend of mine was in an elevator with Bluebell when ‘Miss’ emitted a rather loud fart! He didn’t know where to look or how to react until, utterly poker faced, she said, “Well, everyone does it you know!”

She didn’t suffer fools and she was well known for her economizing ways. I bumped into her on the Metro one evening on her way into the Lido and she always rushed out to catch the last train home, even though she could well afford taxis. She did try her hand at driving I believe, but that all came to an abrupt end when she tried to negotiate Etoile. She got out the car, left it where it was, and never drove again. M. Clerico was left to sort out the gendarmes and the ensuing lawsuit! She was much better standing up to rude German soldiers on her bike than driving a car!

Many of us owe much of our dance career to her, and I will always be grateful for the many happy years I had working for her and Donn Arden. She gave us the opportunity to travel and have exciting careers, and yet still managed to take care of us all in her own inimitable way. Nobody got the better of her and her tours were always well organized with reputable clients. I know there must be endless stories from other Kelly boys and Bluebells, and I look forward to reading some of them!


(ed: Liz Elliott Lieberman was principal dancer at London’s Talk of the Town in the 1970s; she subsequently danced in Hong Kong, Reno and Las Vegas and in 2004 made a comeback in The Florida Follies at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida)

From Reno, Nevada:

Oh dear, what sad, sad news.
…Will she have a tribute?
…I can’t stop crying writing these words.
She was such a strong, fair and loving woman.
…What a huge loss!
Is there anything we can do from so far, I am sure there is but my mind is in a total cramp right now?

(ed: Rosita Korda is a former Bluebell Girl and danced at the Lido in Paris and in ‘Hello Hollywood Hello’ in Reno. Rosita was one of the main organisers of the HHH Reunion for cast and crew in Reno last year which was such a success. Rosita’s website link is on Artistes.)

From Los Angeles, California:

So sad to learn of Miss Bluebell passing away. She auditioned me at the Lido once as a solo ice skating act to fill in for Iris and Gunner Toddy. She sent me a wonderful letter telling me how much she loved my work but they only ever employ adagio skaters. It was a great experience to meet her and to skate sections of All that Jazz on such a tiny elevated ice surface (thank god I didn’t fly off). She lived a long time and had a wonderful life. I still have her lovely letter and will always keep it.
God bless her.

(ed: Lorna Brown is a former World Professional Ice Skating Champion and has coached the Danish Olympic team)

Writing from Hungary:

To all of you, who – like me – loved Miss Bluebell:
Remember what a great human being she was. I will keep the memories of her in a warm place at my heart!

(ed: amongst Janos Korda’s credits he danced at the Lido in Paris and the Deutsche Oper in Berlin; he has an entry on the Old Boys’ List and his website link is on Artistes)

Shea New, the Founder/Artistic Director of The Dance Under The Stars Choreography Festival in Palm Desert, California, writes:

I just wanted to let you know that we will be honouring Carmen de Lavallade with the Dance Under The Stars Lifetime Achievement Award for outstanding contribution to dance at the professional performance on November 6.

Carmen has appeared 17 times at Jacob’s Pillow -more than Ted Shawn!! …is still dancing (with Gus Solomons Jr. and Dudley Williams in the dance company Paradigm) and is currently doing a play in Connecticut. She studied ballet with Carmelita Maracci, danced for Lester Horton, partnered with Donald McKayle collaborated with Alvin Ailey, hobknobs at the White House and won the coveted Dance Magazine Award (’66) for her contribution to the art of dance. She is an amazing human being!

Background highlights on this amazing woman:

Geoffrey Holder and Carmen were married in 1955 after meeting in the Broadway musical House of Flowers in which Holder choreographed. She succeeded her cousin Janet Collins as prima ballerina of the Metropolitan Opera in 1956. Lena Horne introduced her at 17 to 20th Century Fox and appeared in 4 movies from 52 to 55 including Carmen Jones. She recently appeared in The Hours with Nicole Kidman as Clarissa’s neighbour.


Larry Billman reports from Tokyo:

I saw Matthew Bourne’s “Play Without Words” two days ago – and will not ever be quite the same because of it. Based on the ’60s film “The Servant,” it is a miracle of conceptual innovation. Each character is played by 3 different actors/actresses and Bourne manages to show the audience 3 different “takes” on the same action simultaneously. There is a period of adjustment as the show begins and multiple characters enter and begin enacting the story through continual movement (not really “dance,” as the dance portions are saved for the scenes that call for them). The actors/actresses each possess different emotional and physical specifics, so we are shown nuance in each character. Sometimes it is the same action viewed from different angles, or on different “beats” and in one sensational scene – in which the Servant dresses the Young Master – we see it in “real time” and also in “reverse.” At intermission, I had to help my wife sort it all out. I tried to reassure her that, as a great “film” director, Bourne makes certain that we see all of the important and proper nuance and story points. The collaboration of the scenic and lighting designers assures that we view the things we need to see. The second act was easier for her.

The final confrontation as the Servant becomes the Master is almost a “Rashomon” vision: three slightly different versions of the story’s resolution. The audience is left to sort the details out for themselves. It is the most innovative stage piece that I have ever seen. The cast is brilliant and will define a new breed of acting dancers.

Entertaining? I’m not certain for the audience must do lots of work. But I happen to feel that is the essence of “theater.” Provocative, insightful, sensational? Yes. The subtexts of the ’60s struggles of class, status, sexual lifestyles and politics are heady stuff for a “Breezy afternoon at the theatre.” The simultaneous seduction of the up-tight Master by the free-living Maid on the kitchen table and the near-rape of the very proper Girlfriend by the prowling Sexual Animal performed on a dirty mattress in various nooks – all done in triplicate – is the sexiest thing I have ever seen in non-porn theater.

The Japanese audience sat dumbfounded and respectfully silent. Since the humorous sequences are based on very Western concepts: a game of “Charades” performed by a outlandish group of artsy-fartsy guests at a party, a satirical look at ’60s TV choreography, etc., there is no laughter. The final applause was only generated when an up-tempo tune was played that they could clap along to. After the emotionally devastating resolution and slow fade to black, the cast seemed almost embarrassed to take “Cheerful/Smiling” bows as the audience all clapped along in rhythm…but this is something that needs to be added to any non-Japanese piece which plays in Japan. Without the “Clap-Along,” Japanese people do not applaud.

I encourage any and all to rush out to see “Play Without Words” should it come to your neighborhood. A theatrical landmark. Mr. Bourne and his cast make the “innovations” of others seem like piffle.

(ed: Larry Billman is the founder of The Academy of Dance on Film in Los Angeles and is currently in Japan for the Disney Corporation)

Liz Elliott Lieberman reports from Las Vegas:

Have to report that I just spent the last two weeks in June with……..Ron Lewis! Oh my God. He is in fine form and he learned, (in less than one hour), and subsequently rehearsed approximately 24 of us old ‘Vegas’ gypsies in the Will Rogers Follies ‘Favorite Son’ number!

It was a hoot, but terrifying as the old brain had to work again. Standing ovaries from the audience.

For any of you out there who remember some of these names from Bare Touch of Vegas, and other memorable Vegas shows……Emmelina, Tulsa, Cinnamon Steen, Cary La Spina, (looking lovely by the way!), Jerry Jackson, Maria Poggi, Jillian Hrushowy, Rene De Haven (83 years old!), Pat McCecknie, Pat Gill, David Wright, Sal Angelica, Robin Soli, Aiko, Suzi Saxe, (Melinda’s sister), Mistinguett, Jim Hogan, Diane Day and myself were all part of the number. Ron was very intense, but I feel that he had a great time. If only some of todays dancers could experience his remarkable talent.

It was for the Golden Rainbow show, the big Aids benefit here in Vegas that has been going for about fifteen years. I also did Hot Honey Rag from Chicago with one of the girls from Florida Follies (as ‘The Over-the-Hill-ton Sisters’!). All in all a great deal of fun!

The highlight, however, were the the dancers from Celine Dion’s show. They were extraordinary and performed a piece that was profoundly moving and appropriate. Very modern stylistically, but with so much feeling. Not a dry eye in the house. I love this show because it always proves that Las Vegas dancers are first rate from both technical and performance standards.

The woman I did Hot Honey with, was Lynn Martin (now Fouce), and I think she was in Beirut with Charlie Henchis. She and I look alike so our number works!

(ed: Liz Elliott Lieberman formally danced in London, Hong Kong, Reno and Las Vegas, and made a recent come-back in The Florida Follies.)

From Tokyo, Japan:
LARRY BILLMAN reviews in the May Newsletter:
“ON YOUR TOES” in Tokyo

…a couple of nights ago, my wife and I saw the recent London revival of “On Your Toes” starring and choreographed by Adam Cooper. Like Matthew Bourne, Mr. Cooper has been embraced and raised to “Idol” status in Japan. In early 2005, he will premiere his dance version of “Les Liaisons Dangereuse” in Tokyo and I am lucky enough to be here for that. We also purchased tickets that night to see Mr. Bourne’s “Play Without Words” in July.

I loved “On Your Toes” and sat there overwhelmed with its history. Oh sure, the book creaks and the characters are shallow, but the Big Idea in the show still resonates. Nowadays, everyone wants to take the credit for being an “innovator,” but, as I watched this show move along, I once again have to take my hat off to George Balanchine – a true innovator. 70 years ago this man imagined that he could combine ballet and musical comedy. The show contains two full-blown ballets and the English cast who performed it were wonderful. The tap dancers really tapped and the ballet artists truly “Ballet-ed.” Mr. Cooper has re-envisioned much of it, with the “Overture” used as a dance prologue – introducing the characters and the fact that in 1933 the Russian Ballet made its first appearance in New York – an event that changed popular culture forever.

The roles of the temperamental Russian Ballerina (which made Vera Zorina a major American star) and the choreographer (portrayed in this version by Ivan Cavallari, an Italian dancer and choreographer who trained at the Teatro alla Scala and Bolshoi) require that these folks have to dance and act…although neither of them have songs to sing. The ballerina was portrayed by Sarah Wildor, a former Royal Ballet star and this chick rocked! She was attractive, funny, sexy, fiery and when she danced…she danced.

Adam Cooper was lovely as a song-and-dance man. He easily took control of the stage, playing well the former child star vaudevillian who becomes a meek music teacher and then gets involved with the Russian Ballet as one of his students has written “Slaughter on 10th Ave.” and Adam’s character proposes the piece to the Russian Ballet director (think Diaghilev).

Adam was vulnerable, endearing, strong and sang well enough. When he danced, he did the tap sections very well – much better than Baryshnikov was ever able to capture a jazz and free-style sense. And he truly dances the “Slaughter on 10th Ave. Ballet,” partnering Ms. Wildor with incredible strength and technique. Knowing that the show was originally written for Fred Astaire – who could not get out of his RKO contract to do it – and originally performed by Ray Bolger, we all got our “Dance-money’s” worth from Mr. Cooper.

Adam shows butt in the first ballet “Princess Zenobia.” The plot device is that one of the male corps is unable to perform, so they ask Cooper’s character to dance it. His role is one of 4 Eunuchs – with faces and bodies painted blue. As they throw off their capes, we realize that Adam has not painted his torso, so his lily white skin is a shocker. As he tries to perform the choreography, his Arabian pants fall to around his ankles and he ends the ballet – and the first act – in only a dance belt. An obvious “nod” to his fame as the barely clothed Male Swan in “Swan Lake,” a contemporary “extra” and a thrill for the flesh-lovers in the audience. Nice butt, Mr. Cooper.

As choreographer, Cooper added a dance section to nearly all of the songs, so the show “dances” more than it ever did. His choreographic and staging triumph is the song “On Your Toes.” The premise for the terrific Rodgers and Hart song is that he invites the Russian impresario to observe his classes, along with the Russian dancers. The students are jazzy, hot 1930s kids. As they begin to sing and tap to the song, the Ballet dancers approach with great interest as to what the tap dancers are doing. The number segues into the students exiting and re-entering dressed as “Freds and Gingers” in top hat, white tie and tails and the ladies in pale blue flowing Ginger gowns – with a huge photo of Fred Astaire descending on one side of the stage. The Russians begin entering in bright red tights and tutus, adding classical pirouettes and formations surrounding the tap dancers – as a huge photo of George Balanchine fills the other side of the back wall….along with floor-to-ceiling American and Russian flags unfurling at the climax. I cried my eyes out!

In the program, there is a long interview with Adam about his love of – and inspiration from – Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and the American Movie Musical and that his next stage piece will be “Singin’ in the Rain” – which also includes a ballet. I hope he will go on to theatricalize “An American in Paris,” as he is the only “Triple Threat” on the horizon, now that Tommy Tune and Tommy Steele have moved into the “Grand Old Man” category.

I was very impressed! He even does a spot on American accent. So, here’s to you Adam Cooper. May you continue to explore and be rewarded for your bravery.

…Members of the first “West Side Story” tour in the early ’60s still gush about how they were treated here in Japan. So I hope they praise and adore all of the dancers. They deserve it.

(ed: Larry Billman is the author of ‘Film Choreographers and Dance Directors’, published by MacFarland & Co; the founder and President of the Academy of Dance on Film in Hollywood; he is presently, Entertainment Director for Disney in Japan at Tokyo DisneySEA)


Who will make the better President for the performing arts in America?

George W. Bush

John Kerry

Neither, it’s 50/50

Poll Comments:
I’m just guessing because of his wife and their education and upbringing. They’ve probably been to an opera and ballet and read a book

Please vote on this issue:
Dancers on the professional stage
are often referred to as “the boys and girls”.
Is this demeaning and outdated?




Excerpts from our newsletter
on various topics:

From England:
recalls the late RONALD EMBLEN, who died in 2003:

Just to add regarding Ronald (Emblen):

I trained at the London Contemporary Dance School 1981 -84.

Ronnie was our ballet teacher for 3 years, he was an amazing sharer of knowledge who taught us “the contemporary bunch” to have fun with ballet. He would always share his career stories with us and we would laugh with him to such an extent class would stop as it was more interesting to listen. He would spin and jump around playing his roles of the past with such speed and precision he was amazing to watch.

As contemporary dancers at the time we all wore our baggies and torn tights, no leotards into his class, and at times he would throw us out. He hated scruffy dancers or he would ask us to go and change. One time all the men got together before class and as a joke we all decided to wear baggies to see if Ronnie would throw us all out but Ronnie being Ronnie and his humour made us all strip down to our jockeys and for our own embarrassment made us stand in front and in-between the girls at the barre. ‘doing forward stretches was never the same again’ He spent the whole class pulling us up by using the hairs on our legs and other regions. It was a painful but great class. I will always remember that.


(Ed: This artist who teaches Limon-based technique is a choreographer and director of contemporary dance; view his website on Artistes)

From Wales:
writes about an illuminating review in the British newspaper, The Times: written by the dance critic, Donald Hutera on “a mesmerisingly erotic version of Jean Genet’s The Maids” created for Theaterhaus Stuttgart by Yoshi Oida:

…have you read The Times today? There is a review of what seems to be an extremely intriguing show. Genet wrote his THE MAIDS for men to perform, but I have only seen (and produced) the female version which is equally effective – the all-male version may distract from the central message of subservience, envy, revolt – but this is a ballet with two (three ?) men based on THE MAIDS and presented in an extraordinary but fascinating way…

(Ed: This artist has appeared on the British stage, television and films for several decades)

From England:
replies to the above:

This sounds really good – I’d love to go too. Genet wrote the play about an actual criminal case, that of the Papin sisters, who in the late 20s/early 30s killed their mistress and her daughter. Both went to prison (in the play, 1 kills herself) and one was clearly psychotic. There was massive coverage of this case in the French press. Not only was it a rather exaggerated instance of the ‘servant problem’ which hit the European bourgeoisie after WW1; it was also more generally taken as a sign of class conflicts in Europe at that time, and Left discourse -and people like Sartre, whom Genet knew very well – referred to the case for many years. The psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan wrote about the case in the early 1930s, when exploring female psychology – specifically, paranoia. Then when Genet’s version of the case was first staged in 1947 – with female actors – the New Yorker said, ‘all the poison and impotence of contemporary Europe’ was expressed in it (!) and Sartre in the Intro declared that it was of course a play about men not women – ‘only the necessities of public performance oblige him to disguise his thought.’ But because it’s about doubles, and ‘othering,’ and what Wilde called ‘the truth of masks,’ it is, I think, like the case – and like the review says – capable of representing a lot of different conflicts. Maybe dance makes that fluidity a bit more apparent.

(Ed: Dr. Corinne Squire is the author of: ‘Significant Differences’ 1989; and co-author of ‘Morality USA’ 1998, amongst other books)

From the USA:
writes about the virtuosic British dancer, Wayne Sleep:

I was so interested to hear about Wayne Sleep. He used to come to Matt Mattox’s class at the Dance Centre in Covent Garden…

He once did the most amazing performance at Drury Lane (a gala fundraiser) back in the early 70’s. He had a terrible ‘flu bug at the time, but went on and sang “I am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General” danced incredibly hard finishing with a series of fast turns, went back into the song, got a standing ovation, and then promptly ran into the wings to throw up!

I know this because my boyfriend at the time was stage manager at Drury Lane. Side note…he was doing Billy (based on Billy Liar) with the then little-known Michael Crawford. I believe Oona White choreographed it. He told me she had a dog called Effoff. Imagine calling the poor thing? “Come here, eff off!” On that silly note, back to the barre…

(Ed: This artist was Principal Dancer at London’s, Talk of the Town, before a career in Las Vegas and Reno)

From the USA:
writes about Hollywood reunions:

I find, more and more, that most of us who have been in the business for a long time feel a special bond – even if we never worked together, sort of like an extended family. I went to a wonderful luncheon in Hollywood a couple of Sundays ago with Russell Arms, the only remaining star from the TV version of “Your Hit Parade”. He’s 80 and drove – very well. We were in one summer stock show together in 1955. The lunch was a once a year reunion for Universal Studios (and now others) people. Among those present were Ann Rutherford (“Gone With The Wind”) and Margaret O’Brien. At our table was a 97 year old producer with his daughter and son-in-law and a young caregiver. A.C. Lyles, a producer 80 plus years old, looks great. Still actively producing at Paramount where he spent his whole career. We were all individually introduced at our seats. Had badges with pictures of how we looked back whenever – mine 42 years ago. Only saw one person I actually know but that didn’t matter. Among the crowd were child stars of the 1930s and Peggy Ryan who danced with Donald O’Connor in the early 1940s. She and some gals she teaches in Las Vegas danced a bit. Just a great feeling to be among the fraternity of people who know what one is talking about – and were there and did it years ago – the ‘reel’ ghosts of Hollywood, frozen on film (and now tape) at whatever age we were – still singing, dancing, acting all of these years later.

I was so glad that some where on the website you mention dancers and athletes as one and the same. I’m always explaining that to people. A professional ballet class is every bit the work out as say a football player goes through…

(Ed: This artist danced in a number of iconic Hollywood musicals; see his entry in The Old Boys’ List)

From Tokyo, Japan:
LARRY BILLMAN writing in the March website newsletter on Oscars for dance:

As a researcher/achivist, I have information about Oscars being given to Dance Directors and choreographers that I would like to share with you and our other readers:

The Academy Award for Dance Direction was awarded in only three years, 1935-1937. Four “Special Awards” were given later.

In 1935 two musical numbers were cited per nomination and a certificate, rather than an “Oscar” statuette, was given. The nominees were: Busby Berkeley for “Lullaby of Broadway” and “The Words Are in My Heart” from Gold Diggers of 1935.
Dave Gould for “I’ve Got a Feeling You’re Fooling” from Broadway Melody of 1936 (winner) and “Straw Hat” from Folies Bergere.
Bobby Connolly for “Latin From Manhattan” from Go Into Your Dance and “Playboy From Paree” from Broadway Hostess.
Sammy Lee for “Lovely Lady” and “Too Good to Be True” from King of Burlesque.
Hermes Pan for “The Piccolino” and “Top Hat” from Top Hat.
LeRoy Prinz for “Elephant Number – It’s the Animal in Me” from The Big Broadcast of 1936 and “Viennese Waltz” from All the King’s Men.
Bejamin Zemach for “Hall of Kings” from She and “Roman Party” from The Last Days of Pompeii.

In 1936, only one number was cited per nomination, and Oscar statuettes were given. The nominees were:

Seymour Felix for “A Pretty Girl is Like a Melody” from The Great Ziegfeld (winner)
Busby Berkeley for “Love and War” from Gold Diggers of 1937
Bobby Connolly for “1000 Love Songs” from Cain and Mabel
Dave Gould for “Swingin’ the Jinx” from Born To Dance
Jack Haskell for “Skating Ensemble” from One in a Million
Russell Lewis for “The Finale” from Dancing Pirate
Hermes Pan for “Bojangles of Harlem” from Swing Time .

1n 1937, the nominees were:

Busby Berkeley for “Finale” from Varsity Show.
Bobby Connolly for “Too Marvelous For Words” from Ready, Willing and Able.
Dave Gould for “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm” from A Day at the Races.
Hermes Pan for “Fun House Number” from Damsel in Distress (Winner)
Sammy Lewis for “Swing is Here to Stay” from Ali Baba Goes to Town.
Harry Lossee for “Prince Igor” from Thin Ice.
LeRoy Prinz for “Luau” from Waikiki Wedding.

Special Oscars:
1951 – Gene Kelly “In appreciation of his versatility as an actor, director and dancer, and specifically for his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film”
1961 – Jerome Robbins was honored for West Side Story: “For his brilliant achievements in the art of choreography on film.”
1968 – Onna White for Oliver! “Outstanding achievement in choreography.”
199? – Michael Kidd (I do not have the details on hand: year, inscription, etc.)

In 1949 Fred Astaire was given “A special award for his unique artistry and contributions to the technique of motion pictures” (which does not mention “choreography” or “dance.”)
And Stanley Donen was also given a Special Award in 200? which might have mentioned choreography, but was more specifically for Direction.

So, Sorry Aida Broadbent, George Balanchine and the rest. Looking over the 1935-1937 winners, it is hard to believe that Busby Berkeley was not recognized for “Lullaby of Broadway” – which has been deemed his best number ever…or Hermes Pan (and Astaire) for “Top Hat” – a film/dance classic…or Dave Gould for “All God’s Chillun Got Rhythm”…which is one of the best swing/jitterbug numbers ever filmed. But that is the danger of “contests” of any kind. The Best Man does not always win. Only Father Time bestows the genuine honors on artists.

The strangest “Academy Award” I ever read was in the mammoth, multi-volume Oxford International Encyclopedia of Dance (which should know better.) In Ludmilla Tcherina’s profile, they mention her “Oscar-winning performance in The Tales of Hoffman.” Huh?

Thanks for reading.

Excerpts from our current newsletters
on the topic of musicals:

writes from Wales:
Ronaldo Navarro is right. Some ‘musicals’ are empty nothingnesses, others are wonderful. But what is a musical? Last century, and a bit beyond, there were musical comedies that were enormously successful with tremendous runs. Were the Gilbert & Sullivans musical comedies or operettas? But the great successes of New York and London were things like ‘Miss Hook of Holland’, ‘San Toy’, ‘Chu Chin Chow’, ‘The Maid of the Mountains’, ‘The Arcadians’, with stars like Edna May, Lily Elsie, Billie Burke and lots of others; some of them married into the aristocracy and some of them survived to appear in later shows such as ‘My Fair Lady’. Now, were they musicals or musical comedies and what’s the difference?

For instance, Noel Coward’s ‘Cavalcade’ and Ivor Novello’s ‘The Dancing Years’ and ‘Glamorous Nights’, were tremendous hits because of the music as much as anything – and they still have some of the greatest melodies heard in the theatre. But what then of ‘My Fair Lady’, which is a great play in its own right as ‘Pygmalian’, but then was given songs, had all the Shavian satire and class war wrung out of it and was a great success? Was it a musical?

And what about ‘Oklahoma’ and ‘Annie Get Your Gun’, to say nothing of ‘South Pacific’? Are they musicals? They certainly introduced a new kind of singing where the emphasis is on belting it out rather than on semi-operatic singing as in ‘The Merry Widow’ or ‘The White Horse Inn’.

Is it a new form, largely American, or is it a development of the traditional (for a while) musical comedy where the emphasis was on the comedy of the dialogue, as much as on the singing, and does it have to have dancing? I’m lost!
(Alan Bird is a British based actor)

writes from Germany:
Re: “can the musical be an art form?”
Of course! But it depends on the Musical. Some of them, especially the new ones are really pure empty entertainment. I have nothing against them. I have learned the difference between “just good entertainment”, “bad entertainment” and “a piece of art”. Very expensive productions are just commercial and no more than that. But I think they don’t have any intention to be more than that!

Musicals such as Cabaret, West Side Story, Anatevka (ed: Fiddler on the Roof) and many others, don’t have only beautiful music, but also a strong content. And, of course, they depend also on the director and the stage and costume designer. When these Musicals are performed, in my opinion, they can really be an art form (but unfortunately, it is also in the director’s hands to make of them only pure commercial entertainment, as well…).
(Ronaldo Navarro is currently performing with Johann Kresnik’s company in Bonn, Germany; he has also appeared during his career in five musicals on the German stage.)

writes from Wales:
My contribution to your question can the musical be an art form? Yes, it can be in the same way that a spade or a piece of rhyming verse or a whistled tune can be an art form. In other words the musical has the potential to be an art form. But would anyone describe The Phantom of the Opera as a piece of musical art? I believe most tourists sleep through it.
(Alan Bird is a British actor)

writes from the USA:
…the top ten dance numbers on film! How about throwing this out to everyone and seeing what we all come up with? I’d love to see the result? (I’m talking dance sequences in a musical film, not full length ballets, although thank goodness we have some of those recorded on film).
(Ed: Liz Elliott Lieberman is currently in rehearsal with The Florida Follies at Fort Lauderdale, Florida)


writes from England:
Donald O’Connor in ‘What Chance Have I?’ in the film of Call Me Madam;
‘Lonesome Polecat’ from Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (how did they manage not to fall over?);
Russ Tamblyn in anything;
the opening sequence of Forty-Second Street when the curtain goes up revealing all those tapping feet;
and any Busby Berkeley number.
(Ed: Angie Curtis wrote a column in Running Review Magazine in the 1980s.)

writes from England:
I always look for George Chakiris, who was dancing in several films before West Side Story, I think White Christmas is one of them. I agreed with the minstrel number in that film that featured Vera Ellen, but I love the number Choreography, performed by Danny Kaye, which is a bit of a send up of the Martha Graham Style.

I also enjoy the Marian number in Music Man that’s danced in the library, to me it’s a gem, and another favourite is Dolores Gray in It’s Always Fair Weather doing “Thanks, but no thanks.”

In the film, Deep In My Heart (about Sigmund Romberg) There is a plethora of stars doing numbers, particularly Tamara Toumanova sending up, Softly as in a Morning Sunrise!
(Ed: David Alder is currently appearing in Dick Whittington and his Cat in Potters Bar, UK)

writes from England:
Donald O’Connor. Make ‘Em Laugh. From Singin’ in the Rain.
(Ed: Kevin Richmond is currently appearing in The Nutcracker with English National Ballet)

writes from The Academy of Dance on Film, Hollywood:
10 Favorite Dance Movies? Boy, you really know how to pull a guy’s chain.

Okay, here goes – and the operative word is “Movies” (meaning dance created SPECIFICALLY for commercial movies, not “adapted for the camera” like “Oklahoma!,” “The Turning Point,” “West Side Story,” “Sweet Charity,” etc.) Sorry Mr. Fosse, Mr. Robbins, Ms. DeMille. Mr. Ashton, etc.

My personal favorites – In alphabetical order:
An American in Paris
The Band Wagon
The “I Don’t Care” Girl
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Silk Stockings
Swing Time
Three for the Show
Tonight and Every Night
White Nights

writes from the USA:
Here are my (tentative) top ten favorites:

1) Singing in the Rain (“Gotta Dance Ballet” with Cyd Charisse and Gene Kelly and/or “Moses Supposes” with Donald O’Connor and Gene Kelly)
2) West Side Story (“Opening Number” and/or “Gym Dance” are favorites)
3) Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (“Barn Raising Dance”)
4) King and I (“Uncle Tom’s Cabin Ballet”)
5) White Christmas (“Choreography” number and/or “Minstrel Show”)
6) American in Paris (Ballet sequence)
7) Pajama Game – (“Steam Heat”)
9) Finian’s Rainbow – (Fred Astaire in “Idle Rich”)
10) Can Can – (“Adam and Eve Ballet”) with Shirley MacLaine as Eve and Juliet Prowse as the snake)

Singin’ In The Rain (I choose Gene Kelly kicking up a storm while manhandling his umbrella – sheer joie de vivre in the gutter.)

Rosalie (1937 and Eleanor Powell spinning like a top on that glass floor in, I think, the finale, on a grand Hollywood set. Bags of atmosphere. Always remembered it.)

And my favourite film of all time. It seems to be forgotten a bit but if anyone has not seen this and it appears on late night TV – watch! Its:

Directed by the Ettore Scola in 1983. It won awards at Cannes and Berlin, and was nominated for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars.It has no dialogue. It uses dance, music and mime and is set in a Paris Dance Hall. Stunning physical theatre on the silver screen. There have been too few moments in my life when I have watched a performance and wanted to be part of it. When I sat in the cinema watching this, it was one.

writes from the USA:
…10 dance movies, huh? Well, in no particular order……

  1. “Tonight and Every Night” where Marc Platt dances on the risers to Hitler’s speech on the radio.
  2. “Kiss Me, Kate” if only for Bobby Fosse and Carol Haney in their section of “From This Moment On”.
  3. Any one with early Gwen Verdon (Gwyneth Verdun in some early cast listings.) How about “On The Riviera”?
  4. “Three For The Show” with the big Jack Cole duel ballet to “Swan Lake”.
  5. Have to include my first picture, “The Music Man”, which was Onna White’s first as a film choreographer. We did a helluva lot of dancing in it – difficult dancing. Onna was not known for danceable steps but for her great ability to move numbers of people on the screen. In “76 Trombones” the boys are there at one spot doing fouettes while playing imaginary trombones. And swinging in on rings from the top row of the bleachers and dropping down to the gym floor (no wonder I have a bad lower back) and then doing the next step flopping our heads back and forth like demented horses. (So there went the neck too!). ‘Tis I there on the screen – audience right – doing the latter. We rehearsed six weeks before shooting a foot of film.
  6. Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth doing “The Shorty George” in “You Were Never Lovelier”.
  7. Mr. Astaire and Ginger in one, can’t remember which, she’s in a street length full skirted looks like black velvet dress with a big white collar and they dance all over the place (what else?)
  8. Yeah, “Westside Story”.
  9. I’ll buy Ken LeRoy, Carol Haney and Buzz Miller doing “Steam Heat” in “Pajama Game”.
  10. Any Mitzi Gaynor, Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth or Marilyn Monroe movie where Jack Cole did the choreography and Matt Maddox and Buzz Miller (“No Business Like Show Business”) or Rod Alexander and Bobby Hamilton (“Down To Earth” with Rita) are among the boys. And, of course, “Singin’ in the Rain” with the fast tap with Debbie, Gene and Donald O’Connor. And Mr. O’Connor’s “Make ‘Em Laugh” number. And, and – almost ANYTHING with Gene Kelly! (His dance, tearing the newspaper, in “Summer Stock” for instance, or the “Alter Ego” dance with his reflection in the store window in “Cover Girl”) And, of course, Rita Hayworth in technicolor in the same movie, running down that long, long ramp. Gorgeous, oh yes!

writes from the USA:
Okay, here’s mine in no particular order:

Can Can (Adam and Eve Ballet)
Singing in the Rain (Gotta Dance)
White Christmas (Minstrel Show)
Chicago (He Had it Coming)
Oklahoma (Dream Ballet)
American In Paris (Dream Ballet)
Seven Brides…(Barn Raising)
West Side Story (Opening sequence)
Sweet Charity ( There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This)
Moulin Rouge (Tango Segment)

Good heavens, television is something you appear on, you don’t watch.
Noel Coward

Excerpts below from our newsletter:

From Germany:
writes about ageism in dance:

In the company where I am working (in Bonn, with Johann Kresnik) some dancers are over 40. The oldest is 46. Three years ago, two dancers were over 50. Our director should be a good example for the others. In our company the dancers ages are between 25 and 50 and everybody has the chance to work according to his/her conditions, experiences, technique. Well, actually the work is not light, but our “elderly dancers” are able to do it very well.

Another wonderful example is the Dutch company “Nederlands Dans Theater Nr. 3”

I don’t mean that all choreographers/directors should do the same. Of course not. For a classical ballet company like the Staatsoper Berlin the dancer should be young. That is the opportunity for them – young dancers, like in many other companies. But I am happy to see that more and more choreographers are interested in “elderly dancers”. The old mentality from the classical ballet (dancers aged 30 should be finishing their career) is changing.

(Ed: this artist is currently appearing in Bonn, Germany. His website link is on Artistes)

From the USA:
writes about the late Winston Dewitt Hemsley:

I remember going to Winston’s funeral in Vegas. It was in a Buddhist Temple, the first time I was ever exposed to that culture and religion. Very interesting and enlightening. Winston was an amazing energy and very sad how he died. He was murdered in his own home, probably by a homeless man he had taken in to help him with his struggle. I remember also at that time he was choreographing for Gladys Knight and she sang a very moving tribute to him. There was a memorial party after the temple in typical “Vegas style” at Paul Anka’s “Jubilation” disco. This is the nightclub depicted in “Casino” when Robert De Niro is “holding court” with the goodfellas…

(Ed: This artist’s career spanned the Atlantic – from Munich in Germany to Metro Goldwyn Mayer in Las Vegas; view his entry in The Old Boys’ List)

From the USA:
writes also about the late Winston Dewitt Hemsley:

Winston’s name coming up again is wonderful, I did so love him. He choreographed a piece for me before he was killed…he wanted to do a modern piece on pointe having never worked choreog with a ballerina before ( we did perform our version of the Royal’s Elite Syncopations piece with the tall girl and the small chap, and had an awful lot of fun doing so!) So anyway, I’d try anything he suggested trying (wonder I didn’t do any damage…thank goodness for coming from strong, good old peasant stock !) and we finished our collaboration with “Genevieve”, an interesting lady whose personalities changed when she moved into picture frames all around her. I loved this dance, and did it at Winston’s memorial perf at Ham Hall in Vegas, when all sorts of fabulous dancers and choreographers came in from LA and NY to celebrate his life and work…

(Ed: This artist made her debut with the Royal Opera Ballet at Covent Garden before appearing at the Paris Lido; see her entry on The Old Girls’ List and view her websites on Artistes)

From New Zealand:
writes about Ballet Rambert in the 60s:

I was trained at the Royal Ballet in 1962 as an expatriate New Zealander and went on to perform as one of Rambert’s dancers(1963-64) and well remember being in two of her Sadler’s Well Galas and performing in the first productions of Norman Morris’s “Conflicts” and “Travellers” and “Don Quixote” while at the “Garden” the Bolshoi was doing the same. However they didn’t have a Lucette Aldous and we had the rave reviews ……(Rule Britannia and all that!!!!)

(Ed: This artist appeared with Ballet Rambert in the 1960s; see his entry in The Old Boys’ List)

From England:
writes it is never too late…:

The mind is like a time bomb,
a vast store house of ideas,
it matures with age.

Dance gives itself no age
you are either it or not.

Express yourself through it
allow the child inside to reappear.
Age allows us to visit our life dictionary
which is full of creative spice and flavour
for us to continue to develop ourselves as richer performers.

It is never too late.
Time waits for no Choreographer but we do.

(Ed: This artist who teaches Limon-based technique is a choreographer and director of contemporary dance; view his website on Artistes)

From the USA:
writes about the late David Doyle:

During rehearsals (in Reno) David read about a disco competition that was being held in a local disco (this was 1978) and the prize money was $500.00. We were finding it hard going on our pittance of rehearsal pay, so decided it was a piece of cake! One day Winston Dewitt Hemsley caught us rehearsing behind a piece of scenery and never said a word to anyone! On the big night we drew ecstatic applause at our technical prowess and big lifts! We knew were going to win….and then……some rat squealed. Not fair, they said. Professional dancers shouldn’t be competing against amateurs. We were devastated when we were handed our 2nd place prize….. a free dance lesson at Arthur Murray’s! S***!! I will never forget David spitting epithets in the car park as we dejectedly left the club! He was a wonderfully talented man, great fun and a wonderful friend. I still miss him.

(Ed: This artist was Principal Dancer at London’s, Talk of the Town, before a career in Las Vegas and Reno)

From the USA:
writes about the late Rod Alexander:

ROD ALEXANDER was a member of Jack Cole’s original dance company at Columbia Studios which eventually included other future dance innovators such as Carol Haney, Matt Mattox, Alex Romero, Gwen Verdon and Paul Steffan. He began choreographing, including the films “Carousel” and “The Best Things in Life Are Free” and gained his greatest recognition choreographing and dancing with his (then) wife Bambi Linn on “Your Show of Shows” and “Max Liebman Presents” on American TV. He also created a wonderful dance company called Rod Alexander’s Dance Jubilee which toured internationally.


BOB TURK writes:
I wish to add my two cents to the problematical question regarding “the natural dancer”.

First of all I would like to say that the question is not specific enough. In my experience in the dance/skating/musical/ world there are male and females who because of their body proportions, their musicality, their balance, their flair for moving through space, their sensitivity level, etc., can be, and often are referred to as natural gifted people.

As an example, Sammy Davis Jr. Now of course he wasn’t dancing a classical style of dance such as ballet or modern dance. He really didn’t dance a codified style of tap for that matter. But, his natural rhythm and sense of performing was excellent in his own field.

In today’s style of dance such as the “rock show”, the dancers can be taught these very athletic routines without having a classical or even jazz background. They do require having natural rhythm and an athletic ability of sorts. Many dancers in Vegas (at least from my experience) were not really trained dancers. Some started as singers, and to make more money, chose to learn the routines and perform them with a certain amount of skill. The trained eye would be able, in most cases, to spot one of these natural dancers. Also–some of the original “showgirls” way back when, learned to dance the routines of a show and eventually worked almost exclusively as dancers.

I guess I have really put my foot into it?? Controversy can be a learning tool, don’t you agree??

I do. And I love a bit of controversy. Pleased you sent this, Bob. I think there may be a few classical dancers though, who may now be thinking most Las Vegas dancers were/are untrained. This was definitely not my experience. Anyone want to comment?

My thinking behind the original question (which is not specific enough – no one could turn up to audition for a classical ballet company with the belief they could get through it as they had natural ability! – although, at an audition for a TV commercial, I once saw someone (not a trained dancer) attempt ‘grand jete en tournant’ in four inch heels, and full showgirl make-up) was that I didn’t think anyone without some form of training could get through any sort of audition – even one with few technical demands. Can I just add that this does not apply to acting – but here I am going to open up a whole can of worms!

ALAN BIRD writes:
The comments are interesting. I think lots of ballet dancers don’t have the natural rhythm or sense of beat (ed note: Dear God, Alan, where are you going with this?) that variety (exact word?) artists have.

Ludovic Kennedy said that when he first met Moira Shearer (Red Shoes, Aurora…) she apologised that she couldn’t dance on a dance floor and he found out to his cost that she was absolutely hopeless doing ordinary dance steps on a ballroom floor. Diaghilev who knew a thing or two about ballet argued that Spessivtseva was a greater dancer than Pavlova – he said that they were both halves of an apple but that Spessivtseva was the half that had been in the sun. He argued, too, that she represented ‘pure dance’. His reasoning was interesting.

Spessivtseva hadn’t the least sense of music, neither of rhythm nor of melody. She didn’t need either. Once she had learned the steps and movements she went through them automatically. Therefore her dancing was pure dance – absolutely purity of movement.

Now could any dancer in a show get away with that? Incidentally Spessivtseva has recently been the subject of a ballet – not a very good one, according to the critics.

Oh, and let me add another thought. Vaslav Nijinsky is often described as a moron in real life but a god on the stage, especially when he could obliterate his own personality and assume in totality another character – that of the character he was dancing, of course. But at the first performance of Le Sacre, which he choreographed, the audience was shouting its head off with disapproval and the dancers could not hear the orchestra so he stood in the wings shouting out the time or the beats. That seems very sophisticated to me – I can’t imagine many dancers could read the score of Le Sacre, let alone work out the rhythms bar by bar. But I’m ignorant of dance and it may all be a lot easier than I think.

BOB TURK writes:
These observations are based more on “show dancing” including movie/television. Not Dance Company’s nor ballet/modern works being created, but rather commercial dance.

In order to understand the present, I think we need to know the past, as to professional dancer and the demands made upon them. When I was a young dancer, (yes, there was dancing way back then) most of the choreography had more to do with youthful, clean movement, with a dash of boy/girl performing, with a clean cut american kids having a good time lots of smiling etc..

Now please remember I am speaking of movie dancing, television and to a degree, “live” revue type shows, and also the early days of Las Vegas. The gambling town atmosphere required a certain degree of sexy girls who tempted the male viewer with her sensuous hip gyrations and a “come hither” attitude in her facial expressions. Looking back, it was rather naive’. Boys lusting after the girls with provocative suggestive movements were always injected somewhere within the choreography.

The sexual dances in today’s shows are far bolder “in your face” type of dances. Aggressive woman who unashamedly throw themselves to the male dancer with a certain amount of raw sex and innuendo. So be it!!!

At present, I don’t see any naiveté’ in the dances that are considered “in”. Our society at this point in time, is angry, aggressive and explosive. That is echoed in the dance created for rock shows and the like. Artists of the dance are beginning to explore this style of expression and are bringing some of these elements into “works” they are creating. This is not new! In order to keep up with the times, choreographers are required to get out in the mix of society and experience what is happening in the real world. I think this development is very exciting for the young “up and coming” choreographers/dancers who will be required to perform these works.…

SHEA NEW writes:
When I first came to Vegas, there was a dancer Cinamon who danced in Bare Touch of Vegas (Ron Lewis) who was referred to as a natural dancer – meaning not trained – and she handled Lewis’ style very well as it was back backs, head rolls, etc. She won Dancer of the Year a couple of times and she was truly the exception….I don’t think it could happen today…but then…I turn on the tv and there on BET the gangsta videos change my mind.

That’s right about Cinnamon being the quintessential natural dancer in Vegas during the 70’s. Remember the Ronnie Lewis facial grin that all the dancers in “Touch” wore?

ALAN BIRD writes:
It occurs to me that Isadora Duncan was a natural dancer, untrained, who relied on her instinctive reactions to music, although I have read that she did rehearse, and when she got her school going and all the children appeared on stage with her she must have rehearsed movements and groupings.

Some critics say she was wonderful, the spirit of ancient Greece incarnate – but ancient Greece didn’t have Beethoven symphonies and Chopin waltzes did it? I reckon it was the vision of this all-American girl, blonde and buxom, throwing herself around the stage in flimsy clothes with a boob occasionally popping out that really entranced European audiences. But that’s a far cry from men who danced – but it inspired Fokine and he was a dancer in his day.

Regarding the comment about Isadora Duncan being “this all American girl etc.”, I think she deserves far more credit than that! After all, the Europeans were sophisticated and urbane, they would not have been phased by nudity and flimsy clothes. My view is that they were discerning enough to recognise a new and groundbreaking expression of dance and appreciated her avant garde interpretation of it.

Anyway, be that as it may, I have been pondering this question of “the natural dancer”. There is a dichotomy here between the ballet world and the world of commercial dance. In ballet, essentially you need a natural talent for dance but you also need a formal and highly specialised training in order to reach the standard expected in a ballet company. In the commercial dance world, there is much more room for individual expression and free and natural movement. In fact, there is a theory that too much training can destroy the natural expression of dance. Many famous dancers were definitely not highly trained, Fred Astaire springs to mind and how about Bo Jangles!! When one sees such talent, it makes one realise that “training” would have ruined these dancers. Granted, they were solo dancers which allowed them more license. It can be a different story when you are in the line and you are subject to the requirements of the choreographer’s need for a certain standard and uniformity of style, “individuality” is not appreciated, in fact it is sometimes actively discouraged!! In a way, in the line, we were all brainwashed not to be individuals. To understand what dance is all about, you only have to watch the sheer pleasure of young children moving to music, a wonderful example of how innate, free and expressive dance can be in its natural state.

BOB TURK writes:
Bravo Wendy on your “take” on the natural dancer. Your comments are succinct and obviously you have worked as a professional dancer.

Ron Lewis & Jack Cole as an example wanted their dancers to move in a style that was strictly their own. Jack Cole was almost vicious in his demands. I took several classes with him during his movie career period and during that same period he would occasionally teach class at Eugene Loring’s American School of the Dance. He was strict in the way the students would dance and execute – even 1 count of “8”! – could take an hour before he was satisfied with the way the students danced his choreography.

His dancers all learned to move in his unique style and they suffered in later years because of the demands on their bodies, particularly their knees, from so many knee hinges, and the constant moves made in demi plie’.

Because I was raised in Hollywood, I also took class with Ruth St. Denis (in her later years), and also the great and kind, Charles Weidman who would recreate some of his famous works. What great memories. The classes cost about $4 dollars! We were then invited to attend a project in which he would teach his famous works such as Aaesops Fables and a very dramatic lynching scene drawn from his early recollections of the south. Thought I would throw that into the mix!

Getting back to the Old arguments re-natural born dancers and classical Vs modern this has no argument point, as all dance is significant in its own right when it can hold an audience spellbound for two and a half hours. The so called born dancer I feel sorry for, as all is so easy until that day comes when old father time catches up and they cannot help ALL student towards dance harmony and correction. Because they have never had to think how they do anything.

I want to comment on the natural dancer debate and can only speak from experience! Doesn’t it depend on the style of dance we are talking about? I agree with Bob Turk’s (Hi Bob!) assessment that Sammy Davis was a natural dancer. Many of todays hip-hop dancers are also able to execute and ‘feel’ the style of their origins. The inner-city street style is a creative outlet for a natural dancer. (I’m sure most of my age group reading this are now rolling their eyes going yuk, I hate rap and hip hop!). I, too thought that, until I began working with some of these young (mostly male) dancers, and I love these brave, young, ‘at risk’ kids, who dare to try anything. Any of you seen those kids from Las Vegas on ‘America’s Most Talented Kids’?…oh my god, even on my best day I could not have done half of what they do. No training or technique per se, as we would call it, but a lot of hard work and ‘natural’ ability.

What fun to have a discourse on this topic.

Natural dancers:
In a class I teach on “Dance in Film” at Universities, I use the statement “We ARE what we DANCE,” which seems to resonate with the students. I have come to the conclusion that Natural dancers have an incredible personal physical voice. Their body uses a physical dialogue to express their emotions that is unique. As we look through the dance which has been captured on commercial film, the natural dancers begin to take shape: including Fred Astaire, Elvis Presley, James Brown, Michael Jackson and John Travolta. None of these men (oddly enough) had much classical training but were able to express their unique physical voice – which impacted dance world-wide. I have left out Gene Kelly as he had extensive dance training background, operating his own dance school as a teenager. His “Style” is unique, but he learned codified dance techniques which defined and perhaps restricted (?) his natural instincts. Any trained dancer can look back at their childhood and remember dancing around the living room. Parents recognize that “need” to dance – and off the kid goes to dance school, to learn the positions, exercises and discipline of organized dance styles and techniques. Many of those styles are not organic.

In looking at the men I named, they all saw – and were influenced by – other dancers. Astaire spent many years studying other dancers who appeared on the bill with him and his sister, Adele, when they performed in vaudeville. Vaudeville was a sensational training ground for many greats: the Nicholas Brothers, Eleanor Powell, Ann Miller and others who have talked about asking Bill Robinson to show them a step or observing another dancer or team performing a step or combination that excited them. They then tried to recreate that in their dressing room or hotel room. The new step was translated by their individual physical vocabulary, however. The early days of the Apollo Theater influenced the great African-American tap dancers and Rock performers, as well as Elvis.

In discussing John Travolta with choreographers who worked with him, they say that his dance education is limited. Although he trained for a long time with disco coaches for “Saturday Night Fever,” it is his compelling physical confidence that makes the dances powerful. This is a man in control of his physicality and sensuality that burns the screen. The steps and combinations are just that. The moving body is what we are compelled to watch. The same has been said of Michael Jackson by choreographers Michael Peters and Vincent Paterson. They could only give him details about the spots where he would “do his thing” in the choreography. When he got there, it is “his thing” that mesmerises us.

Like a person who has a natural ability for languages, a natural dancer can translate bits and pieces of lots of dance styles. Astaire could inhabit Spanish Dance (as he does in the Raincoat dance in “Funny Face”) and Jazz (the “Girl Hunt Ballet” in “The Band Wagon.”) Ballet was a “stretch” for him, as it requires teaching the body a restrictive and unnatural way of moving.

To bring this to a conclusion, I have to add Marilyn Monroe and Renee Zellwegger to the list of Naturals. Neither of them can be classified as the “originals” that I listed above, but we are all very comfortable watching them “move.” Marilyn was very comfortable with her physicality. Although she rehearsed endlessly so that she could remember the choreography, she brought a unique physical language to the dancing. Renee Zellwegger (who many of us were very worried about) does the same in “Chicago.” What a gorgeous, graceful, sexy torso! She relishes in her own sensuality as Marilyn did.

I have to agree with LIZ LIEBERMAN about the power of Hip-Hop and Breakdance. These kids work endlessly at defying gravity and finding new ways for the body to express itself. They all have to begin with natural abilities and physical confidence and what they are creating is redefining future dance – both social and theatrical, much like the way tap did. They are what they dance.


I’m not too sure what the Poll is saying, but I don’t think I would like to watch myself (in live performance) as I am very critical, and it would shake my confidence. I have a six minute scene in Ken Loach’s film, ‘Riff-Raff’, and when I look at it, I keep thinking of what I should have done. Then when I listen to recordings, I’m either amazed that I did it, or cringe at all the mistakes. The other film I did was Steven Berkoff’s ‘Decadence’, and I am fascinated by all the camera work and how the camera sees the performer.

I was a singer/dancer in the Mike Yarwood show, and we did a great ‘Preacher Man’ sequence, which was a very stylised piece, and I used to think afterwards “How did I do that?” Because it was difficult and I sailed through it. I think it was the selling persona that took over. I did the Strauss Gala tour that still goes on by Raymond Gubbay, and I have fond euphoric feelings of performing at the Albert Hall and dancing the Emperor Waltz with a forty piece orchestra. It was a similar feeling singing with a seventy piece orchestra at the BBC. It wasn’t self indulgence, but the excitement of being a beacon of energy, courtesy of all the wonderful components making the magic.

HATE watching myself!!! especially when I was younger and skinny! I was soooooo skinny when I started in Vegas. But I agree with some who say…How did I do that? I sometimes hear myself sing on a recording and think..Is that really me? Wow! I always tear apart what I see and reanalyse. I’m my own worst audience!

Just to say, as a choreographer, it is like watching yourself all the time in so many different bodies when your work is on show. You do cringe when it sometimes goes wrong, but what can you do when you’re stuck in the wings.

The following discussion took place during the above poll:


“That Showbiz Ingredient!”

In musicals during the 60’s and 70’s Although I was booked as a singer/actor, but was often required to dance with the dancers. I wasn’t great technically, but I knew how to sell a number and got away with it.
Today, when I see incredible dancers with fantastic physiques, and incredible technique, and I’ve had a very dull evening, I realise that the “Showbiz” ingredient is missing, and in England most dancers are extremely young and lack experience. At least in the U.S. the older dancer is appreciated, especially in Las Vegas.
I cringe when a leading lady of mature years is only surrounded by dancers who have barely left their teens, instead of guys with style and class between 30-40.

Yes, technique isn’t everything. It’s the very weakness in technique, and the way some dancers overcome it, which makes them the more interesting.

I totally agree with David about the dancers not “performing” anymore.

David, I second your sentiments! AS much as I admire the athleticism of the performance I do not find an emotional connection to a lot of the young dancers today. This is a shared sentiment. I dare say there is a strong appreciation of the style of dance and choreography today. Tastes are individual yet common. The commonness gives us the like and dislike factors that are shared. Also, we grow up schooled in a certain method of appreciation for what is considered to be the best in our time. That appreciation is affected by change. Change is the driving factor of life. Entertainment is at the forefront of change. As much as most of us hate change, it is inevitable. Remember when we were once the mewling puking baby and now we are the wheezing, whining adult!

As someone who (among other costume monstrosities) has danced in a nazi helmet (which must have been made of iron) and needed chiropractic work on my neck for weeks after – I think designers often have no conception of the movement their design concepts will have to support; nor how ridiculous they sometime make the dancer look!

The voice of the people is the voice of God

I think that the dieting is over when the curtain comes down…

Here is our comment, which not a lot of dancers may like….sorry!
Dancers should NOT be fat.
To be a performer requires to be able to adhere to certain rules, one of them being the vision of a prince (in traditional repertory) to be able to fit into the fairy tale that ballet offers as plot.
Moreover, the stressful training needs healthy condition. The heart can be overstressed on its own in a person overweight, let aside the difficulties of a daily 8 hours schedule.
Our opinion can seem unpleasant, and maybe it is. But it is honest,and of course, just an opinion.

How about fat male belly dancers? At least they would have something to work with.

I know nothing about oriental dance (belly dancing) but surely, even here, only the fit should survive…sorry, I mean perform?

Quite agree that no male performer should look overweight.
Anon commented: that after the curtain comes down, the dieting stops. Fine, but don’t ever let the curtain come up until the fat comes off.
Dancing kept me thin. Dieting to me was eating all I could. Now that I’ve stopped dancing, I find it hard to stop eating.

when i took it up i thought it was…i had to overcome a fair amount of opposition from my family who felt i was not cut out for it. they may have been right, funny thing is though i’ve never regretted dancing for one moment. i’d be proud for my son to do it if he wanted to and give him all the encouragement i could. he is, however much more interested in skateboarding!!!!!ah well.

In society today it is an act of courage to stand out and be different. Male dancing as a career tends to stand out as there are so few opportunities to dance for a living. I have always found that when people discover that I have been a professional dancer for ten years they can’t quite believe it. It is very much a huge achievement that I am very proud of, but I wouldn’t put it down to courage. I’d say it’s more talent and luck.

Ten years on the professional stage is, I agree, an achievement, with or without courage!