May 2010


Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern, NYPL Digital Gallery Image ID: TH-26107

Not so much around here, but maybe where you are.

Time is running out to catch the 42nd Street Moon staging of the Jerome Kern – Oscar Hammerstein II musical, Very Warm for May (1939).  Although the show boasts a great score (including the standard, “All the things your are”),  it eked out a run of only 59 performances on Broadway.

The San Francisco company also announced recently that it had received a grant from the NEA to restore the script and score from another Kern-Hammerstein rarity, Three Sisters (1934).

If you can’t make it to the Bay Area now, pencil in a trip for the future.  If you do find yourself in San Francisco this weekend, scurry over to the Eureka Theater, where Very Warm for May runs through May 23.

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I don’t mean to harp on ballet, but it is rare these days that I get to see something in advance of New York.  Last night I had a chance to watch a preview of the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Balanchine’s Petipa lecture demonstration, which will be presented as part of the Guggenheim Museum’s Works and Process series this weekend.  The program, which examines the influence of Marius Petipa and the Imperial Ballet tradition on the work of George Balanchine, pairs choreography by Petipa and his associates with that of the 20th century master.  Much of the Petipa choreography has been reconstructed using the Stepanov notation documents from the Nikolai Sergeev dance notations and music scores for ballets at the Harvard Theatre Collection. So yay for performing arts archives and archivists!  There’s even a shout out (OK, a credit)  for the HTC in the program!  Harvard’s online finding aid includes some digital images of material from the Sergeev collection, such as the above page, which illustrates part of the Paquita coda.

The program, while a little heavy on the male variations (several of the Balanchine ballets, not too surprisingly,  drew on the former NYCB rep of current PNB director, Peter Boal) was well-paced and compelling.  Especially interesting was the reconstructed “Kingdom of the Shades” pas de deux from La Bayadère which featured a lift described in the notation that proved to be impossible to reconstruct in an aesthetically pleasing fashion; a compromise lift was substituted.  Also instructive was the consecutive presentation of three different variations performed to the same music, the first by Petipa for a ballerina in the original production of Raymonda (1898), another version for a female soloist from Balanchine’s 1946 production of the ballet for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo (restaged by the stalwart Frederic Franklin, who is expected to be in attendance at the New York event), and the more familiar  male variation still performed in Balanchine’s Raymonda Variations (1961).  And it is always nice to get to see something from the too-infrequently-performed Divertimento from Le Baiser de la Fée (in this case, the demanding male solo Balanchine created for Helgi Tomasson for the 1972 Stravinsky Festival season).

The Friday program at the Guggenheim is sold out, but there are still tickets available for Saturday (you could see NYBT on Friday instead and make a full weekend of it).

Maybe one of these days someone will post about American Ballet Theatre’s 70th anniversary festivities.

Happy (belated) birthday!

A few odds and ends from the world of ballet to (hopefully) brighten your day.

The first has nothing to do directly with archives, but I just felt compelled to remark that the special Doodle that was used by Google to celebrate Tchaikovsky’s 170th birthday last week was very cute:

You can watch a video about the collaboration between San Francisco Ballet and Jennifer Hom of Google in creating the birthday tribute on the SFB Website.

In other news, the Atlanta Ballet celebrated its 80th anniversary over the weekend with a special program, Sheer Exhilaration,  which also included an extensive display of archival materials at the theater.  You can read about the exhibit in this post by Howard Pousner on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s blog.  As reported in the article, both the Atlanta History Center and Emory University Libraries’ Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Book Library (MARBL) hold important Atlanta Ballet materials.  Kudos to both institutions for partnering with the Atlanta Ballet to preserve its history.  I did a quick check and was reassured to find that the collections have been cataloged by their respective repositories (yay for catalogers!), but a little saddened that they did not have online finding aids.  On the whole, AHC’s catalog was a little easier to find (although I’m not sure how I feel about the name, “Terminus”), while getting to Emory’s Euclid catalog from its Web site seemed to take a few more clicks.  As always, the message is pretty clear that dance materials seldom are a priority in most large collecting institutions (well, I guess Salman Rushdie’s first flash drive is more interesting), but at least the stuff is there and somewhat accessible!

Finally, lucky New Yorkers still have a chance to catch the final performances of the invaluable New York Theatre Ballet’s well-reviewed Signatures 10 program on May 14 and 15!