Transcript:

Speaker Basically, my primary reason for coming to America was West Side Story. No, that's not true. The primary reason for wanting to come to America like I came to America under completely different circumstances. But it was, you know, I have to go through, had to figure out math. How old was I when I saw West Side Story? It just came out, probably hit Denmark three years later. That takes that long. Anyway, I was 15, 14, 15, something that I couldn't believe when I saw. It's actually what's interesting about it. This is what it's what I had imagined America like. I had this image of America and there was and and it just captured all my dreams. This is not only did I want to be a dancer like that as opposed to a ballet dancer, I want to live in that city. I want to wear the clothes. That's that's how I wanted to spend my life go down West 64 Street, whatever was little did I know that I'm sitting on a west sixty third street now for all these years.

Speaker Sort of ironic isn't it. No that was it. West Side Story caught my fancy, no pun intended, but that was it.

Speaker You were in your dancing career, thought of primarily as a Balanchine dancer, but if I'm correct, I think actually Jerry made your first two roles when you were at New York City Ballet, correct?

Speaker I was not a happenstance for many reasons. He didn't like the way I danced. I don't think he didn't care much for me. We never had any personal encounter or talks or when I was a dancer, there was never any interaction between you and I. He chose me for a few roles, I suppose, you know, out of necessity, there was nobody else. So I was tall enough to dance with somebody I don't know. Who knows. I didn't much matter to me. And, you know, I went through the same problems as everybody else went through, you know, your cultural rehearsal. He choreographs and he dismisses you or he doesn't let you know whether you're dancing on that until, you know, the last minute that you don't usually.

Speaker But I had the good fortune of being the first, if you will. Good fortune depends on what you consider good fortune. I was the first one, Suzanne Farrell. We were the first cast premiere of Engager and the Ravell Festival. And I remember him knocking on my door after the premiere, which incidentally, this is sort of a matter of of fact, it was an enormous success. Go figure. Huge success. They wouldn't stop. They wouldn't stop, especially after the second movement. And I remember the curtain went down when somebody knocked on my door. It was Jerry who just opened the door. And he said, How many times have I told you that your entrance is one attitude? Turn not to. I said, Jerry, I was on. He said, I don't want you to be on. I wanted one slow one and you did two. Don't ever do it again. And he slammed the door and I said, Oh, how gracious you are, man. I was like, Go.

Speaker But anyway, those are the early days then we sort of had many, many good times subsequently.

Speaker Well, I'm going to go back a little bit in time because before a G major hit you and I think you were first cast in the night, were you not? Yes. Tell me about that.

Speaker In the night I was first cast.

Speaker With second movement, I have never spent so many hours rehearsing such a short little patter ever. It drove me crazy. I just said to myself, Peter, be patient. You see, I was used to used to be I mean, balance and make a ballet in two rehearsals in the practice room. I was like for two months in the main hall with your left and please, I couldn't do it, but I did. And I was. Yes, Jerry. Yes. You know, now why am I talking about all the bad experiences? Because there were many, many good ones.

Speaker Before we get on tonight, tell me a little bit about the ballet. It's Chopin, like at Regathering, but it's very, very different. Me.

Speaker In the night, I often when he was choreographing in the night, I used to say to myself, why is he doing that? Why doesn't he do this? Because I question sometimes his choices, which, of course, I inevitably used to be. And why am I compare him to be? It's so unfair. But one does since the you know, there were no in the night was everybody experience with Jerry was in many ways more painful than pleasurable. You could argue that the end result when you finally got on stage, that it finally gave you some pleasure, I suppose. But for the most part, the process and arriving there, you wanted to wring his neck. You just wanted to say, enough, please, enough, let let me be me, let me breathe, let me be me.

Speaker Don't tell me that move that that was my experience.

Speaker The worst was fancy free. And of course, I was one of my favorite bodies to do was fancy free. And he finally put me in it with me. So we had a great time doing it, not rehearsing it. And Champi, I was in it and I just one day I said to myself, I don't ever, ever want to rehearse this ballet again, ever. I can't rehearse, you know, for the third month I'm exaggerating. And finally he took me out. He was not happy with me. So that was sort of a blessing in disguise that you danced the role he made for himself. Yes, I danced. Yeah, I did.

Speaker The the sexy one, I suppose.

Speaker Tell me about that. What was it like when he was coaching? What are the things that were important?

Speaker He would coach you in a solo and you would you know, you would do one step and you would go into the top. Fine, that's OK. Once or twice or three times. But you have to understand, a dancer needs to sort of, you know, give him or her a little more before you stop again, you know, maybe seven seconds before you stop again. Not three seconds. Stop, OK, what was I doing wrong now? And the whole red purse and fancy free. I think he spent a day and a half on how I took that red purse. So I almost said to him, Jerry, get somebody else to take the red purse. I can't I don't want to take the red person. But he took me out, luckily. Well, yeah, but you hated the process.

Speaker Oh, yeah, and he always said something awful to think.

Speaker And then when I was very sorry that then when you were the best part, I think after a while I loved Dancing Fancifully is just I love the idea of being a sailor on leave in New York City and flirting with the girls and having a beer with the guys. I just loved it. But I was always not petrified because nothing ever petrified me. But I didn't appreciate if Jerry was there watching, I thought, OK, he's got to come backstage and scream. So when somebody left word Jerry wasn't he's not here tonight, you know, it was heaven. You just I just did my stuff. And who knows, maybe he would have liked that better. He intimidated people, as we know, to the point where he'd stifle you. You know, it's like micro manage. I think it's the term you might use doesn't work to micromanage.

Speaker And.

Speaker It's true that, um, I understand also that he was prone to making different versions of ballets in addition to having different tasks.

Speaker Did you have that experience with.

Speaker I would say with respect to different versions of ballets. My experience with Gerri was that he had one version one and he had five or six or seven up to the premier. And then once the curtain went up and the premiere took place and the reviews were in and it was heralded as a masterpiece or whatever you want to call it, then that version remained intact, in my view. As opposed appears to be sort of quite the opposite. Didn't matter what they wrote and he changed it all the time. He changed batteries all the time, depending on who danced. So they were so different about that. No, Jerry, it was sort of it was sealed and cemented in many ways, which was part of the problem. I felt there was no leeway.

Speaker There was no room to evolve the. Boxton. That was his way.

Speaker You know, it's strange because I was just going to say that you quoted you as saying that while Balanchine always wanted more during would tell you to take it easy, which in a funny way, it seems like it's contradictory to what you're saying, but not really.

Speaker Can you explain that Jerry liked when you mocked the ballet? He didn't like to dance full out. Well, I mean, I don't want to generalize, but often anyway, easy, boy, easy, easy, easy, easy, easy, baby.

Speaker As Mr. Musayev, why are you taking it easy, baby? He didn't say baby.

Speaker So it was they were completely opposing views about dance. It was a fascinating and we live that every day, all of us, we lived it. So, you know, in many ways the dress rehearsals were physically easy but mentally hideous and balance and rehearsals were mentally delightful and physically nightmarish. Sort of so interesting that I never thought about it in those terms. But that's really what it was like. I mean, I was looking forward to be in a room about to be in a room with Mr. B, not because he was a genius. We didn't think like that. He was just so pleasant to be around. And Jerry, what is he going to scream is you're not going to scream.

Speaker You knew Mr. B was going to whisper and Jerry would scream. Funny, isn't it? How were they different?

Speaker I don't think I've ever met two people more different than Jay Roberts and George. I can't think of two men in this world of mine, glowers that were more opposite in every way.

Speaker The insecurity, the insecurity was astounding, balance and trust in himself was overwhelming. It was just and you saw it, it was right there.

Speaker It was displayed in front of us every day, you know, balance and calmness, insightful analysis, his dealing with people, whether they were principal dancer, Stagehand's and Jerry, snapping at everybody.

Speaker And yet they were both working and making wonderful stuff.

Speaker Jury returned to New York City and. A time of upheaval for Baloji. Tell me what you remember about that and how important was it at that time in the company's history?

Speaker The jury came back, I think it was 1969, a to eight jury came back on Broadway or something like that, that that was the gathering. I happened to have been lucky enough to have been around. I was I remember him choreographing, gathering, and he'd call me in every once in a while. And I remember he started up had to do with Melissa Hayden. And I said, of course, it didn't take long before he dismissed us both. In retrospect, I can see how and why. And it was it was a difficult time because, well, I don't have a difficult time, Mr. B was not well in those days. I seem to remember tired and I don't know when he had his his operation. That was later. And Suzanne, I believe left right after that.

Speaker In 69, 70. Yes. Somewhere that I before I think it happened right before the susann left.

Speaker Right at that time it was it was no Mr. B and I never saw energy. I talk to each other. I mean, they always try to always avoid each other. So it was it was a tense I mean, that's when I first joined the company in late, late 60s. Early 70s.

Speaker It was it was always tense. A lot of old people, retirement age, snapping at each other, nobody ever spoke to each other. All the principal dancers looked, never looked at each other. They never talk to each other. It's just so unpleasant.

Speaker It really was. Do you remember when Jerry came back?

Speaker I remember Jerry coming, but I wasn't sure. I mean, I didn't really know whether he came back.

Speaker I mean, I had just arrived myself, but I understood that he came back from some sort of sort of a lengthy hiatus and and there was an excitement around. But but it was the lengthy process of his rehearsing that, oh, I have another three hour with Jerry.

Speaker People would say that was tiresome. OK, well, keeping on the same theme, what do you remember that is making Goldberg Variations on you? Goldberg variation. It took five years, in my view, probably didn't, but it took forever. He was the first day of rehearsal.

Speaker Do I remember the first day of rehearsal of Goldberg? I most certainly do not remember the first day, but I remember the premiere in the supposed premiere in Saratoga Springs where he he he wouldn't make it a premiere. So he sat himself in front of the stage. He put himself in the on the stage, the up and down here, just above the orchestra pit. And he sat and watched the whole ballet because he wanted to to convey to the audience that this was a rehearsal. You want to play it safe. It's like a preview on Broadway. You know, his view of badly of of our world at the state theater was so different from Slopy, I remember he was to be just saying to me once he said, no sitarist.

Speaker Jeremy's uptight. He wants to be perfect, couldn't goes up. It has to be perfect. I think I once went to Mr. B and I complained so much to be I can't do it anymore. I just can't. He's killing me not physically only, but my spirit. And he would say, you have to understand he's a different breed. He comes from Broadway. You have six weeks of previews and then critics come in and they write. And by the time critic, the reviewer comes in, it's ballet is perfect here. It's never like that. Never like that. And here we fast and we change. And and he said, be patient with Jerry.

Speaker And I became very patient with Jerry.

Speaker Do you remember the first day of Gullberg, apparently there's a story where you went to rehearsal with him and might have been just you, you and somebody else, and he was very depressed. Doesn't sound familiar to you?

Speaker I have no memory about certain things. So you want to refresh my memory about sometimes I block them off.

Speaker No, I think you blocked it out. Come back over to that. Can you talk about it? I don't know it very well.

Speaker I think it's monumental in so many ways, it's it's it's I mean, the whole idea of making a ballet to go variations, I think is unbelievably gutsy. What a task to set yourself. To try to sort of match or equal or better or whatever term you want to use to make a visual counterpart, and I think in my view, most of my reviewing is ballet now. I mean, I don't want to review other people's ballet, you know, but I think it has moments that are quite extraordinary. The length, of course, has always been an issue. I it's very hard for me to schedule it as a director because if I put it last, people will leave. If I put it first, people will come late. So it's a it's an impractical thing, but it obviously deserves a place and it has a place and it will continue to have one.

Speaker Um, tell me about the day where he made for you and his energy major. How did he use by that time?

Speaker You know, the irony is it sort of some of the stuff, some of the material in dancers at a gathering was choreographed on me. And of course, I never did the premiere. Most of the material in Major that Suzanne and I premiered was not done on us. So Jerry was funny that way. It's sort of I wouldn't say it didn't matter who whom he had in his room, it did matter. But in a way, he had a very set. Picture an idea what he wanted and whether it was this guy or that person or this person, he'd he'd get us to do it as opposed to sort of almost the other way around. Oh, I have this dance. Oh, now I can do that. And, you know, I was different that way. So you sometimes felt sort of dispensable. Could be anybody. I mean, most of it was choreographed, I believe, on Bertka. And to Sally. But Suzanne and I ended up doing it good for us.

Speaker Did you enjoy what? Did you enjoy that? It's a lovely duet. What did you enjoy?

Speaker I didn't enjoy much about it because.

Speaker It was my back that it was in those days when my back was bad and he wanted me to Dirac's resign in a split across the floor and I went, oh, my God, it's just as painful. But I did it and I paid a price. And no, I liked fancy free. Fancy free with my sailor outfit when I didn't have to drag a woman around, that was fun that I loved, but it was short lived.

Speaker Gerry wrote that he got stuck when he was making I guess it must have been the last movement of four seasons and that you helped him and that he was very grateful to you. Do you remember that?

Speaker Can I help you, Jerome Robbins?

Speaker I can't fathom. How could I have possibly helped him? No. I remember Mr. Balanchine coming to me and saying to me point blank when he choreographed that was Pumla Times. I've told you the story. He came an hour late to a rehearsal and there was Jack there was an Adam Luders and myself and Anderson and Suzanne found came in and kind. And who am I forgetting, Heather? We all sat there and waited. It seemed like an hour. It may have been 40 minutes or so. And he walked in white in his face and he said he called me over and he said, you know what? This is a nice little dance. A lot of people can be a dance, be a dance, make it be that I don't feel very well. I came from Doctor, can you choreograph? And I said, Mr. V. I'm not going to choreograph your daddy's Fullerton's. He said, just a little nothing. Make a little boys going in and out and girls come in. You see, you'll know exactly what to do if I don't like my change. But you make it. And I said, I'm not going to do it. And he went and he went downstairs and everybody said, what was that about? And I told them and they. Oh, he's not. One minute balancing showed up in his little character's shoes, equally white, and he said, OK, let's do it now. Why am I telling you this story? Because Balance and asked me a number of times to choreograph something. Jerry has never asked me my assistance in anything. So I can't I have no recollection.

Speaker I don't I can't tell you specifically what it was because he didn't write that. But it was in four seasons. It must have been the last movie because that's what you were in. And he said that he got stuck on that you helped him very graciously and he was grateful. But anyway, um, what do you tell me about making Four Seasons? That was unusual because you knew he was making it for two casts. You're right.

Speaker That was the only Four Seasons was the only time that I had seen two versions of something he did a version. Well, that's not entirely true. Patty and Patty McBride and excuse me, and Marcia first cast and sat on a second cast. And we all we both couples did the same Parado. But the male variation with the two men, they were different. And now that I think of it, I can imagine why it was Baryshnikov. So I couldn't possibly do what he did or maybe did. And he just made two different variations for us, which was sort of nice. It's very personable, very rare for Jerry.

Speaker I understand that there's a new production that you're making now, Four Seasons, which must mean that you have some regard for that. I would like to talk about the.

Speaker I have some regard for the ballet. I have tremendous regard for Jerry. I have tremendous regard for Jerry's IRV, his repertoire, his legacy. It's his house. It's his house. I said, is Mr. B's? Obviously, it is first and foremost Mr. B's. Jerry has been there for all equally actually as long, perhaps in a different capacity. I think we are lucky that we are the custodian, if you will, of his output. I'm about to mount 30 of his ballets in the spring season of eight. Actually, to be precise, 33. That's a pretty impressive output has only equaled or actually bettered by, you know, just to be. So I think it's important that we invest and preserve his work and try to make them alive for today's audiences and today's dancers. And I think we have a pretty good team who who does that very thing. So I think I mean, if I were Jerry, if I, I, I don't call him as often as I call Mr. B, but he should be happy. He should be happy. We are taking care of him in so many ways. So a lot of respect for him.

Speaker I'm Debbie Jowett, wrote something in her book, I wonder if you would comment on she said that Jerry didn't want the mechanics to show in his ballot, no matter how difficult, whereas Balanchine often wanted to reveal what could be done and how without compromising his profound musicality.

Speaker You know what she's talking about.

Speaker Did you comment on that and maybe give me something she did not want mechanics and as bad as this is probably true. He wanted. He wanted.

Speaker The obvious weather comes to mind is sort of the humanity, if you will, the everyday aspect of human beings he wanted.

Speaker He wanted the audience to be able to touch the performer and identify and and sort of get up there, whereas I think to balance it was perfectly happy to make a nice separation. This is what we do. You watch and you appreciate. It's a whole different thinking. Again, another reason why they're so different, you know, and balance and loved the idea of showing that the the mechanics, if you will, because he was he was very profoundly mechanical, if that's the right word. In many ways. He was not that he wasn't, you know, all the other things, too. That goes without saying. But he was he took great pride in showing how things worked mechanically. He liked that. He talked about it like a Swiss watch, like a Mercedes-Benz engine. You know, it's like, you know, we all we've all heard him talk about, you know, craft. I mean, he loved the idea that the craft was what you saw. And if you had a little more ability, you might see something beyond the craft. But the craft was for the obvious first enjoyment.

Speaker So speaking as a dancer, then what how different was it to dance this? Do you describe in two completely different aesthetics how different was it for you to dance both of those things?

Speaker It was for me as a dancer. I preferred to dance Balanchine's ballets for the simple reason, regardless of what they were classical, neoclassical, modern, romantic, whatever that they would, I would never feel that that he would come and be displeased or scold you, condemn you or tell you don't do that way. Do it this way. It was there was always this level of, you know what, I may have done the steps in the 40s and the 60s or whenever of on you, but you're dancing now.

Speaker It has to be you. You have to feel comfortable.

Speaker And he would accommodate. So there was always this great pleasure, this confident you you felt confident that that the master trusted you and you felt. All the opposite things were Jerry was always this, am I going to please, am I going to get yelled at? Am I going to get scolded now? I mean, we all know why that was. Jerry was very insecure.

Speaker You know, and that's partly what made him great.

Speaker It's partly what made him great striving. He kept striving. He wanted to be means to be. And I think in many ways, every once in a while, he and I talked about Mr. B.. When we were stuck with each other in an elevator. He certainly didn't seek me out, nor did I see him out, but you know what's ironic about I mean, having said all the things I've said here, I actually grew to watch the very, very end. I grew tremendously fond of Jerry and the.

Speaker Was his insecurity. It was endearing.

Speaker If that makes any sense, a man of such accomplishment and such wealth and such richness and, you know, when you went to his house, you know, if you were lucky to get a glass of water, you looked at all these Oscars and Tonys and but there was something endearing about him. There was something very touching and earnest and honest about Jerry that I didn't really see when I was a dancer. But I began to appreciate later on.

Speaker Could you talk a little bit about his use of men at New York City Ballet, because that was in a way, I think important, given how Balanchine used that.

Speaker Well, how he used men, male dancers, I mean.

Speaker Oh, I mean, he's done some wonderful stuff for male dancers, of course, um, but I don't really nothing comes to mind particularly.

Speaker Um, excuse me one second. Is this OK? Just moved into that and she moved right back. It's all right. You sure? Yeah, it's OK. Um.

Speaker Just give me a sec. Oh, yeah, you know what? Talk to me about, um, Jerry's power of observation, his eye for detail.

Speaker Did you experience that with him?

Speaker Oh, please, yes, detail. I mean, he was so detail oriented, he drove everybody crazy. On the other hand, nobody but Jerry could bring his own ballet to life. And I suppose that goes with anybody. But there were fascinating times when he would put a ballet on stage and somehow bring the magic out.

Speaker Know, he had that touch. He really had that touch.

Speaker And so he inspired in it not obvious ways. He inspired in different ways, perhaps by fear, perhaps by intimidation. But he he could bring out fantastic performances and people he could.

Speaker You choose music.

Speaker Well, of course, I don't know, I mean, I I know what music is hijos sometimes I wondered but that but that's all a matter of, you know, personal taste.

Speaker We all know the music he liked and it worked for him. That's what matters, you know.

Speaker And and the same with balancing any other choreography. I mean, you know, I mean I could never choreograph to see, I could not ever I wouldn't know what to do to Debussy. I mean that is great, right? I mean, practically reinventing the wheel at a certain point in time. And I it has never, ever appealed to me. Now, I say that only because I reported it to them, you know, so he somehow got it. So it's so individual. You can't you can't begin to sort of second guess. Why do people use your playing and why why didn't balance and not do Beethoven?

Speaker You know, you wrote again in the autobiography is about Jerry Hughes is a supreme theatrical sensibility and he understands the American public.

Speaker Can you give me some examples of what you meant by that?

Speaker Jerry understood the American public. I said that he said this is a supreme theatrical sensibility and he understands the American public.

Speaker Well, I guess what I what I mean by by saying that jury understood the American public sensibility is sort of most often got it right. You have to understand, when I joined in New York City Ballet in 1969, I ate most ballets at that point, from that point on until the death of Mr. Balanchine, or rather, for the most part, the ballets that were huge successes, which I robbins's that balances balances were sort of being premier and polite and sometimes a polite review. And Jerry's and I'm not just talking about dancers together gathering, I'm talking about other by the ballets. So I entered the company, went to Owen Robbins, was heralded as being, you know, the the future and balance and was sort of OK, pack your back, George. It's time. And so Jerry had this uncanny of canny ability to sort of even a lesser goodbye. This is one of Jerry's geniuses, one of Jerry's gifts. What you want to describe it is that sometimes about it wouldn't be very up to his standard, but he would find a way to make it look. Like a push either by lightning or some little element or a gimmick or something, and it worked most often for the public, was very it was accessible in many ways, much more than used to be. So and I think he was very, very, very whatever the word is very astute about what people want right now.

Speaker I don't think must be cared much about what people want right now, what it means to be able to say, you know, we're going to have to ask you first, are we going to have a Ravell festival and have a Czajkowski festival? And I mean, I wasn't privy to this. I'm I'm assuming the policy would go to him as you. No, dear. You have to choose some Czajkowski. What would you like to do as opposed to somebody like myself?

Speaker People just hand me a score. You do winter dreams and I say, what's been the dreams? So I'm sure Jerry was not treated that way. And but I always felt them. Is that the Jerry? When I look at his work today, I think his best work is when when when he chose the music or the subject and then as opposed to an assignment that often that's not the case with other people. It's interesting.

Speaker Anyway, what did you.

Speaker What did I learn from Jerry Robbins? I mean, you know, I'm still learning from Tony Robbins. Isn't that interesting? I think one of the well, I learned many sort of. Humane things, perhaps. But aside from that politically, choreographically, Jerry had I think he had a he had many, many, obviously many gifts, but there was that he had this gift of simplicity on stage in the theater.

Speaker He had this sense of knowing when, again, it goes back to the audience when to do nothing. I think Jerry was very good at that. You know, right now you've seen plenty to do, nothing to stand there or do something simple, and there's something about his ballets, I think for the most part that that conveys that to this day.

Speaker There's this ironic I said earlier that he was very insecure. But there's there's this there's this security in himself that he he is not afraid to do to show that no no activity for some moments. That takes guts. That takes understanding. That takes a gift. He had he had that big time. Now, of course, every time I say something like this, I think when Mr. B when of course he had to I mean, there wasn't one give balance he didn't have, but he didn't use it as much balancing because the danger, of course, when you when you use this device of stillness, that it can become trite.

Speaker So it has to be used very. Sparingly, so there were sparingly all these years, I can't speak English, but Geria directed that he got it.

Speaker That's part of his theatrical sensibility, that is his that is a big part of his ability to create theater on that high level, whether it's a musical or a ballet or whatever, this big gift.

Speaker Tell me how you learned who would succeed Balanchine, a company.

Speaker I mean, how I learned that I was going to run the ballet company after it's it's I can give you a long story, which I'm sure you don't want. And I gave you a short version, which I'm sure you would like it. It was one of those odd things that was never being talked about.

Speaker It was never being talked about. It just happened.

Speaker Manison and I talked endlessly about things. And only once did we only one time did. He asked me if I wanted to do it and I said yes.

Speaker And he said, good, that was it. But that was. Eight years before he died, it wasn't when he was carried to the hospital. So almost 10 years before, do you remember the circumstances of that conversation? I most certainly do of him asking me, oh, but that's not about Jerry Robbins. I mean, we're here to talk about Jerry.

Speaker No, you know what? I think this has to do with Jerry.

Speaker Jerry was not interested in running the company, much more interesting, I think, in relation to the running of the New York City Ballet. Jerry and I were co directors obviously for a few years, for some years. And what I liked about first of all, Jerry came up with those silly titles I like to get on the go on the record as having said that ballet master in chief. That was not my idea. It was nobody else's idea but Jerry's idea.

Speaker And I remember saying, Jerry, this is crazy, but imagine if you can have two chiefs who said, well, that's what it's going to be.

Speaker And I said, if you want ballet master and chiefs, you will have ballet masters in chiefs. And then the question became, you know, alphabetically or not, it was just a nightmare. Anyway, he got what he wanted. And he said to me, I may have said this before, but he said to me, you know what, I don't mind you sitting in the driver's seat and drive. You can drive the car, but I ain't sitting in the backseat. I'm in the passenger seat. Get it, boy. I said, I got it, Jerry. And then we would laugh. So that was obviously very symbolic. He had no interest in running the day to day operation of the New York City Ballet. And why should he? That wasn't what he was about. But he also didn't want to be left out in decision making. And I would say for the most part, I defer to Jerry completely. I felt it was vitally important for the company having just lost balancing that we don't have Jerome Robbins storm out in a fit of anger or upset or a few, you know, so it was my priority number one was to keep Jerry around. And I remember I got I got blamed, blamed. Those people complained to me. Why do we allow Jerry? Why do you allow Jerry? Why do you give Jerry? Why are you allowed to do this? And I in the beginning, I would defend myself. But after a while I would I would just say whatever. Nobody really got it. I decided that it was it was of utmost importance that he remained and that not only that he remained, that he feel that he would that he felt not second to anybody, that he was the the the the he was actually balanced his true air, in his view, because he admired him so much.

Speaker And he obviously was the choreographer that that that without Mr. B would be. You know, rising to the top and it was his moment and he sort of had it.

Speaker I found it so curious always that I could have gone to any ballet company, basically run it, but he chose to go to New York City Ballet. He asked to work with grownups and do what do you attribute that?

Speaker I mean, he asked to be in a place where you could never be the top person.

Speaker You see, that's the other reason I like Jerry, but I wasn't aware of that as much as I was a dancer. But the whole idea of him choosing to work with Balanchine, somebody whom he clearly admired and somebody whom he thought was better than him, that said a lot about Jerry. That's that's that's humility.

Speaker That is that's impressive.

Speaker That's impressive that he would subject himself to be compared to the greatest continuously two or three times a year. But he wanted to learn from him. He was he was no different. Ironically, Jerry was no different from anyone from any one of us. We all, including Jerry, admired, used to be and looked up to him and wanted to draw in all that wealth of all that knowledge and want to be around it, because ultimately he probably thought he'd be better off. That's probably the ultimate truth, which we all thought, how could it not how could it not rub off in some way?

Speaker So you don't want to tell me how you learned, you don't remember or your conversation with Balaji or how you learned you were going to take the company, that's for another conversation.

Speaker Surely that's one of the one you've already told it to me. And I have. So why would I say it again?

Speaker Well, because now you're in a different city in a different context. I say you've heard it. I can't use it from before because first of all, you're right. You both of us have aged a lot.

Speaker You know, it's you know, it's not important, actually. It's really not important.

Speaker Um, and I guess it was 1990 and finally announced his retirement from the company, and then you made a festival for him. Do you remember that? Tell me about.

Speaker I we made a festival for Jerry, all his ballets at the time. And I remember making programs and I remember him not liking them. And I think it was a two week festival.

Speaker I forget how many miles. It's not like we are about to do now. Thirty three was a lot less and he didn't like them. And I said, Jerry, look at them, take a careful look at them, take them home. And I said, it's obviously your values. You can do you can put them in any which way, which way you want. But this is just a suggestion I said to him, because I think it gives it a nice arc. And and, you know, and I said, Jerry, we all know you have a lot of piano. Balis, let's be practical. I have to separate them. I mean, this is not just a vision I have. It's you know, and I know who's dancing, what. I know the casting. So my way, I think, is going to address all of this in a positive way. And I think you can have a problem casting. People are let me look at it now. I don't like this with that. Wouldn't you take it home? You take it home. And he'd come back a day or two later and he said, no, Robert, let me think about it. I said, Jerry, you can think about it. You've thought about it. But what would you like to make better? Because they've got I got a print, OK, print, and I'm doing the same thing now. Spring of 08, which is really pretty comprehensive retrospective his entire work. And it's I have to say, it's it's actually impressive. And I think I've come up with some real, very excellent programs that gives his valley some real context, both musically and and and sort of dramatically, you see.

Speaker It was two weeks ago, it was July 27. So while you were preparing the festival, I think that the timing is correct. Jerry had an accident. And then what happened? Can you tell me why?

Speaker I think Jerry actually had a bicycle in Central Park. He fell over. And I all I know is that I didn't see him for a long time.

Speaker That's what I recall.

Speaker Um, what about, uh, the issue of aging in general? How did he react to it?

Speaker You know, I don't know how Jerry reacted to many things in life, because you have to understand, I I didn't know Jerry. I didn't really know him. You know, I would hear stories, but I. I did not know the man. And in many ways, it bothered me a little bit. You know, I wasn't in his circle. On the other hand, I didn't have this huge curiosity, so I didn't lose sleep over it. So I can't say much about Jerry other than through his work. And that was the man I knew. And, you know, that is whom we all are. Isn't it? What we do is really ultimately who we are. And as I said before, he as I grew older and he grew older, my admiration for him increased.

Speaker I find it curious that for all the talk about how Balanchine's values are dancing differently now, don't share that with regard to Jerry's values, why do you think?

Speaker You don't want me to answer that question? Well.

Speaker George Balance and said to me once, he said, Dear, when I die, I will become like the Messiah. They're going to put a statue up of me next to Richard Tucker. And I said, the Messiah next to Richard Tucker. And he said, well, there's probably no better rooms. And they'll put me next to Tucker and you will see what will happen. He said to me.

Speaker I said, What will happen? He said, I will I can do no wrong.

Speaker And I said, I know that's what isn't that normally what happens when people die and he says it's going to happen big time with me. And you know what? It it did, and it was not perfect, but he got pretty damn close. And Jerry, I'm not answering your question. I don't know if I have an answer to this because. First of all, balancing in was the founder, it was his company and all of those of us, those of us, but I in particular, who are sort of who've spent 30 years destroying it, I mean, think of it. If you spent 30 years destroying something, you think that'll get destroyed a little sooner than 30 years. Sort of ironic, isn't it? Jerry was much more the individual. I mean, when it's like he was his own man, he didn't represent sort of this earth of this this American icon in the way there is to be. This was Mr. B's company was his he established the policy of of I'm not sure. I never thought of this actually much. Why have there not done this? But Jerry maybe haven't gotten around to it yet.

Speaker Maybe it'll happen as head of the company now. What are the values that you most value and why of Jerry's.

Speaker Time is a frightening thing. Time has no mercy.

Speaker I mean, we call it as time passed, but you call it. Time is not kind of fun and some Jeri's ballet, some balance and balance, obviously, some are faring better than others.

Speaker And it pains me, it pains me deeply when I see works of other than when I go, oh, this is not this is not really pertinent anymore. I wonder whether there's a place for this particular ballet.

Speaker And then I would say, well, let's take it away, because often what happens is you can take a ballet away and all of a sudden it has this resurgence and a good ballet in point. I remember when I wanted to do OCA's jazz, which was never done for the New York City Ballet, and I I really wanted to do it. And then I was discussing it with some people who went, Peter, it's very much like West Side Story that I started. And I went, listen, first of all, he's gone. Jerry is gone. So we have to keep an interest. And the only way we have an interest is that the only way. But one of the ways is to to resurrect, if you will. And it had a huge renaissance, if you will. It had a real resurgence. And dancers, the dancers loved doing it. It's very much of its time.

Speaker Clearly, it's a film from a certain period, but it is better than anything that anybody else did at that period. And it's it is unmistakably Jerome Robbins. Only Jerry would have done this ballet. And I look at it. I mean, I hardly miss a performance because of that. It's Jerry at his best, in my view. It's just it's and I'm thrilled that I forced it through, you know, and it's going to have a life it has a it's going to have a real life here on and off. Some ballets I can't predict, but some ballets I, I worry about, just as I do in Mississippi. And that's just the natural course of events.

Speaker What are the other ballets that you really. Just a few.

Speaker Well, I value many, but Dance's comes to mind and but I have some problems with dancers because I think Tempy so important, you know, and it's important to have the choreographer around to say, hey, that's too fast to slow, too fast, too slow. And we can all remember what we think. But the steps of the steps.

Speaker But Tempest's, for instance, think of it, the pace of a ballet, the length of the whole experience.

Speaker This is just dragging on. This is too fast. That is key.

Speaker There are so many works of Jerry that I mean that I go only Jerry, only Jerry could only Jerry. I mean, you know, the other day that the other part of this circus, Paul, I mean, it sounds ridiculous to say circus, but little circus polka, what? Four minutes long children in pink and green and blue with a guy in a wet with a whip. I have never seen that ballet and not simply gone. Jerry, I bowed you up out of you. It is so brilliant. I don't think it'll ever not be brilliant sometimes. And he purportedly didn't like children. I mean, it is just incredible. So there are Jerry, there there are parts of Jerry that I admire more than other parts. You know, there are some ballets that that people regard as great, deep masterwork that I particularly don't care much about. So it's all a matter of taste.

Speaker It's not true that he didn't like children who like children. Did you like to hear the.

Speaker Um, how do you where would you sort of place in the history of certainly American choreography of choreography itself?

Speaker Well, he is unmistakably, in my view, the greatest American choreographer's that ever lived, without a doubt, American born. There's no question in my mind.

Speaker Now, you could argue that there haven't been that many, but Jerry had a hunger for learning. And that's partly why and as we talked about earlier, about why would he subject himself to working under the tutelage of George Balanchine? Well, because he knew he knew his theatrical world better than anybody.

Speaker He was the greatest Broadway choreographer probably that ever lived. And he was a very good ballet choreographer, but he wanted to be better. And how do you get better?

Speaker So, no, I don't know whether there is who knows what will happen. But up till now, he's the greatest.

Speaker Um, is there something that you would like to talk about, but I haven't asked in relation to chair.

Speaker He stood once in my office, which was his office once it was once his name is the peace office shared, and he came into my office once and I remember him standing up and, you know, at my windows are this big in my office and they face Jersey, New Jersey. They're like Philip Johnson. I said once to Philip Johnson said, Philip, I can't even get my head the word. I know I have a big head, but I mean, couldn't you have added an inch, for heaven's sake? So I can. And he. Never mind. That's Philip Johnson. That's another story. So Jerry stood up in my office and he looked at the window, that window to the left, and it's and it faced New Jersey. I forget the town. He's from himself.

Speaker And he went, you know.

Speaker You know, Peter, I mean I mean, I'm practically quoting him. He said, you know, I'm looking over there. I said, what are you looking at here? He said, I'm looking at New Jersey. That's where I was born. It's amazing to think how far I've come here. Some little Jewish boy from New Jersey and look how far I've come. Go figure.

Speaker Anyway, I've got to go home. And I first thought I at first I was like, you know, do this to yourself. But I thought it was so touching because it was sort of there was something genuine about it.

Speaker So.

Speaker I think he is very lucky now that we are taking care of him like this, very lucky, but he deserves it.

Peter Martins
Interview Date:
2007-06-15
Runtime:
1:02:41
Keywords:
None
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-3j3901zz0f
MLA CITATIONS:
"Peter Martins, Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 15 Jun. 2007, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1000
APA CITATIONS:
(2007, June 15). Peter Martins, Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1000
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Peter Martins, Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). June 15, 2007. Accessed January 19, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1000

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