Theatre

PERFORMING WARRIORS THEATRE SELECTIONS!

Judi Cox Frazier writes:

Sylvie, had been considering eliminating girl dancers. Claude was against the idea and created this number for us girls. (ed: the above video is a cut version) It is the pen-ultimate ballet of her career. The productions Claude Thompson created for Sylvie from 1976, through 1984, are perceived today as her golden era.

The dancers seen here are:
Kevyn Morrow, Jim Thompson, Truett Wright, Redha Benteifour, Phil Phillips, Alain Freulon, Derek Almanza, Jean-Marc Chastel, Vicki Ally, Judi Cox, Veronica Newth, Lin Tyson.

The singers are:
Joniece Jamison, Debbie Davis, Jeanette Jamison.

The former
“MASON OPERA HOUSE”, Los Angeles

Built in the early 1900s and demolished in the 1950s, this theatre on the West Coast of America presented the talents of Isadora Duncan, Sarah Bernhardt and Ruth St. Denis in its day.

This lovingly created video allows a glimpse at its former glories.

Welcome to the theatre,

Most of the words on this page are from writers featured in editions of the website newsletter.

The video clips below are my own selection and I have tried in all instances to give essential credits (not always easy). They reflect my view that theatre is not always a performance played out under a proscenium arch (much as I enjoy it) and that highly trained actors and dancers are not the only holders of the title performer.

Links to English Language/Speaking Theatre Companies in continental Europe are at the foot of this page.

Enjoy!

JACK MOORE ON CLASSICAL TRAINING:
I think classical training (at least then, I don’t know about now), is the greatest training for life. The discipline – precisely how to turn at the barre for heaven’s sake, applauding the teacher at the end, no talking or giggling (of course, Juliet Prowse and I used to giggle a lot and have fun in Eugene Loring’s classes and he was not a humorous man. But this was a professional class in Hollywood and a tad more relaxed than company class in New York or Chicago.

LEON DRAPER ON LIFE AT THE BARRE:
We had the services of Nancy Ivanova from the Lousillio Spanish company to teach us the Spanish style: an English dancer who had to change her name to a Russian name to work with the Diaghilev company. She was wonderful, and I well remember when taking a class, her saying “boys face upstage – we were told later, that the elastic in her bloomer had snapped..dropped to her ankles…and she walked out of them…stooped and picked them up…then placed them in her handbag and carried on with her class….what a woman!

DEBRA STEFAN ON CLASS IN HOLLYWOOD:
On the subject of dance studios in Hollywood: who remembers the “Falcon” Studio? I attended a variety of classes there while a resident instructor for the Integral Yoga Institute. Of course, I was soon advised of the conflict of interest toward my worldly pursuit and the austerity of ashram life. After two years of pursuing the evasive spiritual enlightenment available through the indentured servitude benefiting only the swami, I headed for Vegas and the big production shows. There, I was told, my stature would be advantageous. In those days a tall dancer found little work in LA. From yogini to Follies Bergere showgirl…

BOB TURK ON ETHNIC DANCE:
Falcon Studio’s? I would go up there quite often if there was a visiting teacher who taught some form of character dance, such as Spanish etc. It always seemed terribly antiquated but the moment one walked in, you were in a temple of dance, whatever style, or kind. If I remember, all famous teachers would stop there if they were on tour or if they spent the summer/winter in Hollywood. The word would get around that “so and so” was giving class and away we would go.

I found Spanish dance to be the most difficult to learn as most of the good teachers had learned it by being around other spanish dancers who would pass it on to the next generation. If you asked a very specific question regarding a count or an exact placement of the arms, you were given a “sort of” type answer.

I was a very close friend of Ernie Flatt who not only choreographed many, many, television shows, but taught a form of free-style dance at Loring’s. He would call me and say to meet him there for some ethnic class like dances of the British Isles etc. And we were always confused by not being able to really break it down in counts but, rather by osmosis!!! Of course we were never there long enough to accomplish this. Great great fun!

LESLEY ANNE BANDY ON GREEK DANCE:
Ah, the Greek dancing – I remember a “Pandora’s Box” in competition at about age 11-mmmm, drama- danced to “The Unfinished Symphony”! Crikey!!

LIZ ELLIOTT LIEBERMAN ON DANCE COMPETITIONS:
I loved Greek and actually won a cup in some dreadful dance competition in St. Albans, Herts. I had never had a Greek dance lesson in my life, but it was basically ballet without the turn out! I think I was called ‘Ruth Meets Boaz at The Well’…or was that my Character piece? It was very Isadora Duncan and great fun!

“THE HAKA”

If this isn’t theatre on the rugby field, what is? Another depiction of the haka from the land of the Kiwi in a stylish black and white film.

A personal note: one of the guys on this website felled a former member of the All Blacks in a school “old boys” rugby match back in the 1960s. His classmates then gave him the nickname, Killer, after the All Black was rushed to hospital.

Killer later went on to perfect his dance skills at the Royal Ballet School. Was there fear at the barre? It remains a mystery.

RONALDO NAVARRO ON ISADORA’S INFLUENCE:
My first contact with Isadora Duncan was about 17 years ago when I read her biography ” My life “. I was still in the ballet school in Sao Paulo. I read the book once again when I was already working as a ballet dancer in Germany exactly when I was unhappy with my career and asking many questions about it? To know her life, her thoughts, and the way she danced, helped me quite a lot to open my mind. She became a kind of idol for me at that time…but I think dancers who are against classical ballet have minds as closed and blocked as those who think that the only pure dance is the classical one.

I love Pina Bausch! I love Mats Ek! I so enjoy working with Kresnik (a very eccentric, politic, aggressive, choreographer and director) and yesterday I watched Vladimir Malakhov dancing Swan Lake at the Saatsoper in Berlin. And I loved it!!!

LEON DRAPER ON PIROUETTES OF OLD:
After sixty years of still learning I am amazed how satisfying it is to learn something everyday. The humble pirouette (to turn) for example in the early Bournonville era was not considered a successful turn unless a double, was finished en-face (facing the front) on the demi-point (ball of the foot) and held in balance in the retire(withdrawn) position.

JACK MOORE ON NEW YORK AUDITIONS:
New York auditions in the late 50s were super because the great choreographers like Jack Cole, Jerry Robbins and Bobby Fosse gave master classes as auditions, something we couldn’t have afforded if they gave them! And they always began with ballet. If one couldn’t pass that, one never got to the jazz part. Jerry Robbins walked along beside you making corrections while you danced; Fosse coached from the orchestra pit, Jack Cole taught his basic jazz step.

JEFFREY SCOTT ADAIR ON AUDITIONING IN LAS VEGAS:
For this little 20yr old…lifting topless women, who in heels were taller than him…well…can we say intimidation??? The girls also knew how to torture the new boys! I remember when I was hired for the show, I had no idea what it was about really…other than it was terribly glamorous. I was 20, so I had not seen it. My first night in the light booth watching after signing my contract…you should have seen my eyes! I went to Fluff (the company manager) and told her that my mother would not let me appear in a show like this with no clothes on. Ha! Can you imagine…?

JULIA PARKER ON THE GIPSY LIFE:
Dancing paid for me to see the world, it opened doors to other cultures. You would think years of travelling, adapting to new situations, countries, choreographers, stages and cast members, would leave one tired or jaded? I never was. I lived life in awe, always excited. I danced professionally from 75 – 92 I believe the discipline that was instilled in me during the years from R.A.D Grade One Ballet to the last show I performed in, is the core of my strength today.

When I first came to the States, Shirley MacLaine (just her and about 6 dancers, no special lights, no multi million dollar sets) & Sammy Davis, Jr. did special late night performances (no charge) for the other gipsies……. Magical events. I am thankful I experienced “old school” show business.

LESLEY ANNE BANDY ON BALLET EXAMS OF YORE:
The terrific thing about the ancient RAD exams was the knowledge absorbed about moving in various periods because of the clothing that restricted you or held you in different ways. And the character dances gave one an insight as to the whys, and hows, differing styles arose in differing regions of the world?

LARRY BILLMAN ON DISCIPLINE IN DANCE:
What role models do our kids have today? Words come in bytes rather than full essays. We can receive [often incorrect] information on the Web in a minute. Contemporary Fame is generated by questionable behavior, breaking the laws or a natural talent in music or sports that is exploited and then cast aside. How many “Where Are They Now?” TV shows feature performers or media-stars who were at their height of fame only 5 years ago? “Chicago” could not be more pertinent. We are never shown Roxie or Velma in class. They simply “want” – so they “get.”

And it is no different in dance. Work is much more plentiful for the Hip Hop dancer with the rock and roll tours than a ballet company. Music videos eat ’em up and spit ’em out by the hundreds. There are no major summer stock venues, no vaudeville, no female Star acts in night-clubs across the country which employed the “Here She Is!” Boys, no movie musicals that required studio contract dancers, no musical variety TV series. That is where previous generations learned that technique and adaptability were the key to success. We were so lucky.

It is only when the culture demands discipline that the young will understand – or when one teacher strikes a chord in one student to seek and learn and refine their natural gifts with discipline. Or when one parent realizes that a scholastic achievement is greater than throwing the ball through the hoop and hearing the crowd cheer.

As James Kirkwood so beautifully wrote “There’s Got to be a Pony,”…We can make a difference!

ERIC BRANDT NIELSEN ON DANCE CRITICISM:
I feel the natural dancer does exist but…it is only through discipline and training does this type of dancer come into full view as a performer. As an educator, director/choreographer and a former dancer, what troubles me the most is the attitude of this generation of natural and/or unnatural dancers.

I was always aware, in my performing years, that criticism always surpassed the compliments… it was part of the beast of showbusiness. The dancers I worked with in ‘Hello Hollywood Hello’ and other US ballet companies, understood that criticism, took it, rolled with it and grew into better performers because of it. There is a new breed of performer today who not only demands immediate gratification but would rather quit on you than take the constructive criticism. I have shared this with other directors/choreographers and they all have come across this unsettling situation.

ADRIAN LE PELTIER ON NATURAL DANCE:
Just a thought about natural Dancers. Yes, they exist. It’s part of man’s inherent nature to move to rhythm. Not necessarily to the rhythms he creates but to the rhythms he hears and the rhythms that course through his body and invite him to move. Let’s look at man’s first steps at dance. There was no training. Dance came out of Man’s need to express himself. Then came rules, regulations and styles. There was someone who excelled, and then he/she was noted and people wanted to copy, and I am sure they taught and created the various dance languages that are practised today…it is this thinking that brought technique and discipline.

PETE PURDY ON TECHNIQUE:
Technical display is a dead end you cannot put in what God left out you must submerge all of you into the activity of Dance. To be with your movement at all times, to cradle it as important as breath alone. To be whole and complete.

I choose to Dance, I am the Dance. Radiate in all directions and fill the space with honesty and true emotion. Taste the Dance, add your own spice and flavour. Only then can we experience Dance as a universal moment for all to do and all to watch. Lets applaud it all.

JACK MOORE ON AN AGNES DE MILLE PREMIERE:
I recall seeing, at the old Metropolitan Opera House the premiere of an Agnes de Mille ballet. (Name and ballet mercifully forgotten – De Mille did have an occasional flop!) The dancers were running around the stage breathlessly but audibly counting “one hundred and three-two-three-four, one hundred and four-two-three-four” and an occasional, as one dancer jeted by another going in the opposite direction, “What’s the count?”…

ALAN BIRD ON LA MONNAIE, THE BRUSSELS OPERA HOUSE:
A beautiful opera house absolutely ruined by having the square in which it stood demolished – and a monstrous glass skyscraper erected directly opposite it. Oh, what horrors the masters of Brussels have allowed – anyone whoever performed there years ago will appreciate what I am saying.

Incidentally, I remember seeing a ballet there called ‘Gretna Green’ in which all the male parts were danced by ladies en travesti. These rather large bosomed ladies embracing less physically developed members of their sex; this must have given young audiences a very weird idea of why couples ran off to Gretna Green?

LEON DRAPER ON BERIOSOVA AND SWAN LAKE:
I remember well Poul Gnatt(founder of the Royal New Zealand Ballet) talking about the time that he danced with Beriosova in Swan Lake at a time she was suffering severe flatulence, and every time she was lifted (you know that part with the devlope lift, place and pirouette>>>>da dum de da,de,da de da) there was a non orchestrated note at the top of the lift…well they way he storied it, in his wonderful Anglo/Danish language…still brings a smile.

NANCY DI LULLO
“SHOW DAZE”

Yesterday, we shared a space
A glittering, neon fantasy place
Smiling at the sun
Until it would fade
Night after night of accolade
Top hats and champagne bubbles
We had no troubles
Wearing satin dresses
And jewelled tresses
Tapping those treasures over burning sands
We cooled our pleasure with plum´ed fans…
It seemed to be, that time stood still
As we laughed, and loved
And danced our fill
Oh, those dreams!…
They all came true
But, I’m still me
And you’re still you
Recalling moments
Divinely chosen
Woven from memories
Sweetly frozen
Forever young
Alive in that place
Where you and I
Once shared some space.

Nancy Di Lullo
Written for the 40th year reunion of
“Le Folies Bergere”
Tropicana, Las Vegas

DV8 PHYSICAL THEATRE
I love the productions of this company (devised under the direction of Lloyd Newsom). Some years ago I auditioned for them when they wanted actors, aged over 40, who could move (still?)for a production entitled, MSM.

Obviously, at the time, I did not move enough! Or perhaps making love to the leg of a chair in the impro session was a mistake. But auditions at the BBC were never like this. No one there had ever asked me to talk for three minutes about any sexual experience I’d ever had. And then timed me with a stop watch.

DV8’s productions are always brave, controversial and brilliant. No dainty little feet, let’s go for a beautiful line with this lot. They sweat with attitude and inspire their audience. And I’m a fan.

Austria:

In Vienna:
VIENNA’S ENGLISH THEATRE
The oldest English language theatre on the continent. Currently under the artistic direction of Julia Schafranek, daughter of the Austrian director, Franz Schafranek, and his wife, the American actress, Ruth Brinkmann, who both founded the company. Many illustrious names have graced the stage: including in the past, Tennessee William’s directing the world premiere of his play, The Red Battery Sign.

Denmark

In Copenhagen:
THE LONDON TOAST THEATRE
The English Theatre of Copenhagen was founded in 1982 by Soren Hall and Vivienne McKee and is the largest English speaking theatre in northern Europe. The ever popular Crazy Christmas Cabaret which has become a regular event on the Scandinavian theatrical scene has featured some unusual titles; including in 1999: James Bond in Never Say Bondage Is Not Enough!.

Germany:

In Frankfurt:
THE ENGLISH THEATRE OF FRANKFURT
The largest English speaking theatre on the continent. It appears well supported by many of the international financial institutions that are based in Frankfurt.

In Hamburg:
THE ENGLISH THEATRE OF HAMBURG
With the aim to present English and American drama in its original language this theatre was founded in 1976 by Robert Rumph and Clifford Dean. They present a varied repertoire each season ranging from the classics through to Noel Coward and Neil Simon.

In Berlin:
FRIENDS OF ITALIAN OPERA
The English Theatre in Berlin was founded in 1990 with a name taken from Billy Wilder’s classic comedy film, Some Like It Hot. Their repertoire ranges from the classics to comedy through to physical theatre.

Italy:

In Florence:
FLORENCE INTERNATIONAL THEATRE COMPANY
With Producing Artistic Director, Bari Hochwald, at the helm, this English language theatre company in one of Italy’s most beautiful cities goes into its fourth season in 2009.

In Rome:
THE MIRACLE PLAYERS
Based in Rome, this English speaking theatre company was founded by Eric Bassanesi in the 1990s. Popular comic adaptations are their speciality; amongst their repertoire is a piece entitled, The History of Rome with Romulus and Remus, Nero and his fiddle and the actual fall of the empire. All the good bits retained in 40 minutes playing time! Sounds fun.

A thought for tonight…
Dance is our only refuge, awareness of our body of our thoughts feelings and actions becomes a focus for our lives. Dance into the night of old age and recognise the importance of staying in touch with our bodies.
Pete Purdy, 2003