WRITERS ON THEATRE & FILM

IAN ROBERTSON
I was interested in all things Russian and she was curious about all things foreign.
(on his friend and mentor, the late legendary Russian ballerina, Natalia Dudinskya)

BOB TURK
I know I’m sticking my neck out but— in my experiences many ballet trained dancers were either a bit short of contemporary rhythms or there was an inability to dance “into the floor” as is often part of the style of contemporary dance

JEFFREY SCOTT ADAIR
When I started at the MGM in Hallelujah Hollywood in 1978, I was in the short group. I’m 6’2″.

‘SHORTIE’ BARRAT
I was the shortest man on stage. I know what it is like to lift a woman who’s waist is higher than your own.
(on MGM’s ‘Hallelujah Hollywood’)

JEFFREY SCOTT ADAIR
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.
(on ‘Hallelujah Hollywood’)

ALAN BIRD
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.

WENDY THORNLEY DAVIES
In a way, in the line, we were all brainwashed not to be individuals.

BOB TURK
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’.
(writing about the American choreographer, Jack Cole)

DEBRA STEFAN
I was soon advised of the conflict of interest toward my worldly pursuit and the austerity of ashram life. After 2 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 … From yogini to Follies Bergere showgirl…
(writing on her personal journey from yoga disciple to Vegas dancer)

RODFORD BARRAT
The theatrical profession (and the dance world in particular) was robbed far too early by the deaths of a large number of (mainly gay) men due to AIDS. An entire generation was depleted of talented performers long before their natural time.

…every time, we as artists, retired or still performing, keep alive the enthusiasm, the comradeship, the sheer thrill and excitement of the physical performing arts, we also keep close the talent and spirit of those early deaths beside us. Their place in history is ours too.

BOB TURK
Quite truthfully, any dance as long as it was dance, gave me a thrill way deep inside! Rhythm, music, expression accompanied by a surge of bald face passion, sent me through the roof!!! Thank God for dance!!

LIZ ELLIOTT LIEBERMAN
My teachers were always trying to get me to “tuck under.” In order, to do so I would have had to walk about like the Hunchback of Notre Dame!

LARRY BILLMAN
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.
(on Breakdance and Hip Hop)

LEON DRAPER
When I left New Zealand in 1962 to study at The Royal Ballet School, it was a six week journey by sea and daily classes were on a rolling deck…

ADRIAN LE PELTIER
…having been brought up as a boarder in a Jesuit school where discipline was the rule of thumb, I appreciated the discipline in dance class even more.

LARRY BILLMAN
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.

JULIA PARKER
There were no questions about performing when sick, no questions about what was fair, no questions about bleeding in new toe shoes? It just was.
(on training as a child)

JACK MOORE
Margot Fonteyn said, in an interview, that most dancers are not musical.. in my experience, she was quite right.

LESLEY ANNE BANDY
Okay, so the penche no longer penches to the split…..but I can still move!

DIANE MACDONALD COULSON
…Oh, the church halls I have known…..
(on dance competitions as a child in the North of England)

LARRY BILLMAN
Had a 9:00 a.m. call and cannot remember trying to look stunning so early since I played a Waiter for the “Rich Man’s Frug” in the film “Sweet Charity.
(on being interviewed for a dance documentary)

LEON DRAPER
There is so much crap out there that is anti-classical.

LARRY BILLMAN
But when we get to “Dirty Dancing” all of the girls sit up straight. That film is the “Red Shoes” of their generation…
(on lecturing on dance in film; Larry Billman is the founder of ‘The Academy of Dance on Film’, based in Hollywood, California)

ALAN BIRD
How do we cope with the Gollywog’s Cakewalk (Claude Debussy)? But of course it was demeaning to black people. Similarly the ‘Egyptian sand dancers’ who used to appear in night shirts and fezzes entertaining theatre queues in London. They were buskers, I know, and trying to earn a respectable penny, but did anyone ever consider Arab susceptibilities in those days (or today?). Is the sensible attitude to recognise that such things occurred and were part of yesterday’s sensibilities, but that we have moved on – without, however, imprisoning everyday language and usage or forcing them into taboo areas?
(on political correctness in the media)

JACK MOORE
The night before the world premiere of the ballet in Chicago the lighting crew stayed up all night changing all of the regular stage lighting to “Markova Pink”…
(on Alicia Markova dancing in Chicago)

LIZ ELLIOTT LIEBERMAN
When will people realize the theatre is NOT a democracy?

JACK MOORE
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?”
(on an Agnes De Mille premiere)

ROSITA KORDA
We know not all stories are happy stories so the Bunions and I want to tell you that everyone is welcome to this reunion even the handicapped ones, the desperate ones, the divorced one, the injured ones, the sick ones, the ones with unsolvable problems, the depressed ones. You name it. None of us are the way we were, we are not doing what we were then and some of us are in a desperate situation. This reunion is not an event to put people on trial but one to hug, kiss and support our friends and co-workers, and we will welcome you with open arms.
(The invitation for the ‘Hello, Hollywood, Hello’ reunion in Reno in June, 2003)

LIZ ELLIOTT LIEBERMAN
Unfortunately, I am adding a new dancer to the list of those who have passed away. Mitch Hrushowy died peacefully in his sleep on Monday evening. He was a wonderful adagio partner and dedicated follower of Ron Lewis and Jack Cole…

LEON DRAPER
Went to the Royal New Zealand Ballet, ‘fifty year anniversary’ last week-end … the greatest pleasure was that the dream was now a reality fifty years on.

KEVIN RICHMOND
I actually did a production for Terry at Pinewood. It was some kind of medieval (Knights of the Round Table) thing and had dancers in all the ballroom/banquet scenes. I remember he called the troupe ‘Gilbert’s Follies’.
(on the late British dancer and choreographer, Terry Gilbert)

NEIL REYNOLDS
He was a breath of fresh air.
(on Terry Gilbert)

JACK MOORE
Nora (as Juliet) was waiting for her entrance. Darrell Notara fell dead across the wing where she was to enter, Nora, no Method actress she, kept poking him with her toeshoe (from offstage) and saying in her inimitable New Yawk dialect, “Darrell, you doyed (died) in the wrong place, you doyed in the wrong place” … Then she daintily stepped over him and tragically bouirred across the stage!
(on the late American ballerina, Nora Kaye in ‘Romeo and Juliet’)

BOB TURK
“Honey, when you have to earn a living, just pick up your skirt over your head and shake your t***!”
(Nora Kaye’s attributed remarks, spoken to Bob Turk, backstage at the Ice Capades)

JEFFREY SCOTT ADAIR
I remember him screaming at us to kick our legs up and down in like half a count…easy when your legs are 2ft long…
(on a named choreographer)

ALAN BIRD
What had the male swans of the all-male version been in their previous life? (ed: truckers?)
(on Mathew Bourne’s brilliant and innovative, ‘Swan Lake’)

ADRIAN LE PELTIER
I am not a nay sayer to ideas. But am – once they are mounted and it doesn’t boil my kettle!

LARRY BILLMAN
…the sight of male dancers portraying House Movers, in completely transparent plastic overalls with only hot pink G-strings keeping them from being “sent to prison” was so ahead of its time that it was revolutionary.
(on Jayne Mansfield’s ‘House of Love’ in Las Vegas)

LARRY BILLMAN
…Jayne herself, being spun by one arm and one leg by her Mr. Universe husband Mickey Hargitay…painted gold, no less…is high on my list of “Show Business Moments.” As she whirled in a dizzying circle, one of her famous breasts flew out of her dress. The “Lift” concluded, Mickey placed her (rather shakily) onto her feet, she lovingly slipped the wayward breast back into its cradle and stage-whispered “God Bless You…and Goodnight!” And Blackout. That may be the first time that “God” and Breasts appeared together on a Las Vegas stage.
(on, Jayne Mansfield’s ‘House of Love’)

JOCELYN CASSIA
Ron and I used to have to go into the bushes after work and hose each other’s body make up off with the gardener’s hose. Happy Days! We got amoebic dysentery and lost loads of weight…
(on dancing in Egypt)

JEFFREY SCOTT ADAIR
Getting fired in just your g-string in front of several hundred people…sound like fun?
(on Donn Arden terminating a contract in Las Vegas)

DAVID ALDER
The audition started, and it was f+++++g RIVERDANCE in Style!!! AAaghhh! … several people have since paid a fortune at the osteopaths!
(on a London audition in 2003)

JACK MOORE
And to stand in the wings each night at the end of the show when Judy did her Olio, and hear her sing whatever she wanted with Gordon Jenkins and a fifty piece band, Weeeeellllll!
(on working with Judy Garland)

ERIC BRANDT NIELSEN
I attended my first Vegas cattle call for Don Arden’s ‘Hallelujah Hollywood’ in 1979. I was one of 60 guys … the dance captain had us do two peke turns and two chaine turns on a straight line across the stage (it was like crossing a football field!).

…During the physique evaluation Don had the other dancer and I turn around and face upstage in our dance belts. I couldn’t understand why we were standing there for what seemed like hours. Evidently, when we turned around Don got a phone call and went out of the showroom to answer it, leaving us literally hanging there.

LIZ ELLIOTT LIEBERMAN
Their ‘old school’ ethics set a standard which seems to be slowly eroding here in Las Vegas.
(on the magicians, Siegfried and Roy)

LESLEY ANNE BANDY
…thank goodness for coming from strong, good old peasant stock!
(on the prerequisite for entry to the Royal Ballet School)

ERIC BRANDT NIELSEN
There are just seven dancers in the world and they just keep switching places.

RONALDO NAVARRO
…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.
(on ageism in the theatre)

LEON DRAPER
Unfortunately by the time I reached thirty in the late “sixties” we were written off…

PETE PURDY
Time waits for no Choreographer, but we do.

ALAN BIRD
Have just missed 3 performances of the National Ballet of Bolivia. Since most everybody gasps for air here, I don’t know how they get their feet off the ground.
(on a cultural climb in South America)

JACK MOORE
A professional ballet class is every bit the work out as say a football player goes through.

LIZ ELLIOTT LIEBERMAN
Wrapped in ice at present trying to prepare the bod for Florida Follies….eek!

LIZ ELLIOTT LIEBERMAN
…Stuntmen not doing any stunts, dancers not dancing, (other than the odd sultry writhing) and a sword fight that looked like a high school production. No, sorry, that’s an insult to high school productions. It was SOOOOO bad!
(on a Las Vegas production in 2003)

LARRY BILLMAN
One other thing that Donn said I have never forgotten. He asked not to be called a “Choreographer” and said: “Anyone can think up a dance step. I prefer to be called a ‘Dance Director”.” There is great food-for-thought (and discussion) in that statement.
(on interviewing the late Donn Arden)

JACK MOORE
…when I’d answer Onna’s (Onna White) phone and hear that well modulated voice saying, “Jack dear, it’s Ginger” I always melted. Finally figured out why. She was in the first movie I saw, “Swing Time'” and there as an adult I was five or six years old again, and the pretty lady on the silver screen was talking to ME!
(on conversations with Ginger Rogers)

ALAN BIRD
Serge Lifar would have done so in public at the drop of a hat, assuming he’d lost a few stones in weight.
(on males dancing en pointe)

LEON DRAPER
There was also a New Zealand soldier who was a female impersonator and a member of the Kiwi Concert Party (WW 11) who was so good he could have spent the rest of his life outdoing Fonteyn at the Garden…you could hardly tell the difference, except he didn’t have a sickled foot in retire or develope.
(men en pointe, again)

JACK MOORE
I asked her why she was working so soon after Errol’s death and she answered, “Honey, there are bills and a yacht in Majorca with a crew to be paid.”
(on working with Patrice Wymore – a Warner Brothers star, and the eight week widow of Errol Flynn)

RUSSELL MARTIN
Parisian-style cabaret has always been corporate-run … and those rocking the proverbial boat have always been ousted.

ANGIE CURTIS
…striding majestically down Portobello Road wearing an ankle length fur coat and a Russian fur hat and fantastic long, brown leather boots. His coat flapped as he walked and he looked about 7ft. tall. I think it’s called presence.
(on Rudolf Nureyev)

LEON DRAPER
…I later went on to be what was known as a fancy dancer.
(on the classical ballet life in New Zealand)

LIZ ELLIOTT LIEBERMAN
We are all so happy, sad, scared and exhausted. Every time I want to complain I just tell myself that this is a gift and I’ve got to enjoy every minute of it.
(on coming back as a dancer, aged 50+, in ‘The Florida Follies’)

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