Transcript:

Speaker I first met Jerry Robbins in. Not not at our ballet school, we had a we had an audition. Jerry had an audition. And he we all knew of Jerry Robbins because of West Side Story. I'm talking about us, the student at the School of American Ballet. That's where I was a student at the time. And all of my friends decided that they wanted to go and audition for this brilliant choreographer who we also knew was a ballet choreographer. And so we all traipsed down to one of the Broadway theaters where he was having an open audition and. He was in the audience most of the time, but he would come up on stage and show a few steps, and since there were I mean, you'd be in a group of 30 or 40 people and I kind of you know, I never thought that I would. Ever dance in his company? I don't think I even realized that it was a company that he was auditioning for, we were auditioning for. We just all went down to see what he was like and to get an experience of an audition, but mainly to see what Jerry was like. And we didn't see him that much. But I remember first of all, we had some jazz steps which I had studied jazz so I could do probably not too well. But the ballet audition came along and the steps were not that difficult. And, you know, I was much more self-assured with that. And so I guess after being at the audition for quite a while, he just sort of said, well, you and you, I'd like your phone numbers and whatever. And and he took my someone took my phone number down. After that, I got a call at home and they said that Mr. Robbins would like to see me again. Now. I was in high school and I was at the School of American Ballet as a student, I thought it would be kind of interesting and he wanted to he wanted me to take a class. And the class was taught by Jerry. We were at Carnegie Hall and there were probably about 12 people in the class. And I certainly got to know, Jerry, I think I had about, oh, probably about eight. Classes, it was a class, and then he would teach us afternoon of a faun or some things from Interplay and it was. It was fascinating, he was very patient, sometimes he had someone, sometimes a Mr. Vilsack would teach class for us, and he was very, very similar to our Russian teachers that we had at our school. So I felt at home and I knew that these were auditions. But Jerry kept calling them classes. And once I learned forn, I just I first of all, the music and then and then the ballet was just so extraordinary that I, I realized that, oh, I really would like to do this at again. At first it was well yes sure. I went to the audition but I'm never going to get in. And then I realized that his ballet was something I wanted to dance and I would come home every day and my mother would say, well, what happened? I'd say, well, I'm going tomorrow again. And finally, I guess he made up his mind about who he wanted in the company. And he asked us all. And I had to go and ask if Mr. Balanchine would allow me to go to study to to dance with Jerry. And I was an apprentice at City Ballet at the time, but we weren't used because there was not enough money at City Ballet to have the apprentices being used. So Mr. Balanchine said, yes, that's fine, as long as you come back to the school after the summer. It was a summer tour. And I said, of course, I mean, I never spoke to him. This was just all through the different Russians at our school and. Wee wee wee rehearsed probably about well, I guess it was about two, two and a half months before we went on tour and we were rehearsing at a ÉDITH studio space in the 70s on the Upper East Side. And Jerry would teach class or Mr Vilsack would teach class and we'd have rehearsal from 12 to six or 11 to six. And you would you would wait outside the rehearsal room, you'd sit and read a book or get a sandwich after class. And when Jerry wanted to work with you, you'd work with him or he'd say, well, you have an hour off. Come back in an hour. I was thrilled with this because I didn't have to go to school, academic school, I and. I I had never been at rehearsals like this before, I'd been in Nutcracker, in Mr. Balanchine's Nutcracker when I was a child, but otherwise I'd never had any professional man work with me and. Jerry was choreographing a new ballet, which was events, we were rehearsing Interplay. We were rehearsing the Cage Afternoon of a Faun. The New York Opas Jazz, he was choreographing a ballet called events that he he did for that company, and then he was working a little bit on a ballet with some Chopin music.

Speaker I'm just going to stop you sure. Back a little bit, if I might. You've referred to the company, but let let me ask you, what was the company and tell me a little bit about the character of. It's the definition of the company.

Speaker Yes, the the company that that Jerry Robbins was putting together for a second time was called Ballies, USA. He had that same company a year or two before. And then it disbanded and he decided to have a second company called Ballies, USA again, which was going on a European tour during the summer months. And that's the company that I auditioned for and got into.

Speaker And how would you describe the company in terms of its character was quite different from, for example, New York City Ballet. What distinguished.

Speaker All right.

Speaker Ballards USA was made up, the second company that I was in was made up of ballet dancers and jazz dancers. We had a couple of very classically trained ballet dancers. All of them were ballet dancers, but some were much more involved with jazz. And they had been in West Side Story with Jerry and had done the movie and had done the play. And the the rest of us were more classical ballet dancers. And we had we had Glenn Tetley, Scott Douglas, Veronica La, Susan Borey. And that were that were more classic classical dancers and. It was it was definitely a mix so that when we would start rehearsing something like The Cage, you had some dancers who, you know, it was a little bit more difficult to do the things on point the jury was asking for and the rest of us could do that could do the steps, not always the way with with the with the intensity that he wanted. I mean, being 15, you know, he would show me his step or all of us a step. And I would do it in a very sort of classically trained way. And then he said, no, baby, that's not it. You know, this is the way and energy and and attack more attack. So. And he was he was. Incredibly patient with me, he never raised his voice, he was, I would say, things that he would laugh. I don't think they were very funny, but he did. And he was just the he was wonderful to me. He was very difficult with some of the other people in the company and they were older. I think that that's one of the main reasons. You know, I was just sort of just still a student, really a student. He also, you know, his his working method, his the working ethic that he had was so. So complete he you the doors closed and there was no looking around, you just concentrated 100 percent on what he was doing with you. But one of the things that he kept doing to me, especially when he was choreographing, would be he'd apologize to me because he wasn't working as quickly as Mr. Balanchine. I had never worked with Mr. Balanchine at that point except as a child when I was nine years old. And, you know, I sort of looked and thought to myself, this man is choreographing and I've seen his ballets and he's brilliant. He should not you know, I should apologize to him if I can't keep up with it. But he. You know, after I grew to know him better and understand him, I realized what great respect he had for Balanchine and I think sometimes that took its toll on Jerry. You know, if he just could have put that totally out of his mind and just worked as he worked and not not had Balanchine looming over him, in a way, it would have been easier for him, but he couldn't.

Speaker He yeah.

Speaker Talked a little bit before about afternoon of a fun, let's talk about that a little bit, because there's a recording of you with Jon Jones. First of all, tell me what those rehearsals were like when Jerry taught you the ballet. What was important to him?

Speaker It was four four afternoon of a fawn when he taught me the potato with John Jones. He first of all, again, the concentration was of utmost importance that you you knew that. You knew the character you were playing, he would. He went into great explanation of, you know, you you've left your bag in the other room, you you've dressed for the class. You've you're coming into class like you always do. And you're very involved in yourself. And you're very natural, you're not acting, you're looking at yourself, as everybody does in class, and he would go on and on with that, reminding you, reminding you of that. But then there was the fact that you did notice that there was somebody else in the classroom and how after a while you didn't want to look, but you would you felt their presence. He didn't want acting, he wanted it to be so subliminal that you that you're there, but you're the student that you are, you're not you're not a ballet dancer on stage. When when he would rehearse us. It would often just be John and I. Other people did it, did the ballet, but he would take us often separately. And when I first danced it in Paris, he had he wouldn't allow anyone in the wings to watch it. He said he didn't want me to to be at all involved with what was going on and and worried about other dancers watching. So I remember he said this for the opening night. No, nobody's going to be allowed to watch, which, you know, when I thought of it afterwards, it was a very warming that he was watching over me so carefully. And. You know, I felt that he did that throughout my career. He at one point, Lucia Chase asked me if I would like to join abt American Ballet Theatre. And I was dancing in New York City Ballet, and I loved it. I. Probably wanted to dance more at the time, but I still felt very honored to be dancing there. And I remember my mother said, we'll call Mr. Robbins and find out what he thinks, he wasn't with New York City Ballet at the time. And I called him and I went over to his apartment at his house and. I told him what had happened and he said, you have to stay with New York City Ballet, you're working with Balanchine, you understand who you're working with. I said, I absolutely do. But I felt that I needed somebodies advice. It's just me wondering whether I should do this or not. I certainly wouldn't speak to Mr. Balanchine about it. And Jerry said, you know, you're in the right place. And boy, was he right. He was absolutely right. So and then he came to New York City Ballet and started working on dancers at a gathering.

Speaker Now, before we get to ask you about this, Jerry was sort of at the forefront of people who choreographer's who used both black and white dancers on the stage, and that was quite early, that recording of one of you and John. And I'm wondering on that tour, first of all, tell me where you went on the tour and also, were there any repercussions or was it just taken for granted?

Speaker The tour that we went on for Bally's, USA, that summer went almost all over Europe. We were in we were in Paris. We were in London. We were in Berlin the day the wall closed, literally the day the wall closed. We were in Copenhagen. We went to. We were in Sweden and Norway, Sweden, we were in Sweden, we. We were in Spoleto, we started out in Spoleto. It was a it was state in every city about probably a week we were in Salzburg and we'd be danced everywhere and it was the first time I'd ever been to Europe. And it was great. I'd never been on a plane before. So it was really exciting. I danced afternoon of a fawn with John Jones, who was an extraordinarily beautiful ballet dancer and jazz dancer and happened to be black and. It was very early on that it was 1961, so at that time there were not that many black dancers dancing. And of course, this was a very the afternoon of a fawn was a very intimate ballet. I never heard of any repercussions in Europe or in the U.S. There could have been. But in those days, I think the world was opening up, at least the art world and the arts were opening and. I think in the end, dance and music. It didn't matter so much at that time we did. I know President Kennedy took us had us come to the White House and we danced afternoon before there. And I thought, what a what an extraordinary thing. Not just danced it there, but then Johnnie John Jones being there, dancing on it. It made you feel that always was right with the world.

Speaker Um, you spoke a little bit about events before. I wonder if you can tell me about that, because Jerry didn't often make valleys that you could call topical. From what I understand, of course, I've never seen events because it was never revived. But from what I understand, it was rather topical. There were allusions to the bomb. There was a sort of racial we kind of you know what I'm talking. Yes, that's actually. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Speaker I don't remember much, but I'll I'll talk a little bit about it. I really don't remember much about it because, you know, it went and then it and then it went. Yeah.

Speaker Wonder why that was.

Speaker And Jerry choreographed the ballet event, and it was.

Speaker It went over, I think, very well in Europe, although I think when people came to see his company, this was the second time that company, Valet's USA, was in Europe and everybody loved New York, Opas, Jazz, Jerry doing events really turned a different corner. And it was it the ballet delved into into the bomb, into there was a very violent scene with a girl being attacked. The part that I had at the end, I was on crutches and being held up by a by a group of dancers sort of looking at. Maybe a god, it had a lot of meanings in it, there was not as much dancing as far as I can remember, and I think people. Came to see Robin's doing Opas Jazz, which this wasn't. Robbins, West Side Story, Opas, jazz interplay. It was sort of it was everybody was cool in those days. Events was not that events was a very serious piece and. It it was accepted well. But not with it wasn't something that people, I think wanted to see again. And they certainly didn't think I have a feeling that it was what Jerry Robbins was about, although they didn't know what he was about choreographically and it came up in the years to follow with so many extraordinarily good values, but. I think they were looking often for something else. What was the reception to the Europe, the reception to the company in Europe was was overwhelmingly one of we're glad you're back and we are so excited that you're here every night, really every night. And of course, the programming was. Was interesting because of of having modern having jazz having. Really classical ballet, which was fine, having the cage, having interplay, it was a little bit for everybody to see and it was a lot of it was young people, very enthusiastic, good young dancers and. I think Jerry, really. Chose his dancers very well for his ballet. So. People people loved it.

Speaker I mean, he was right in who he had dancing them and as a young person traveling with him through Europe, did he try to expose you to any of you? Did he take you to museums or tell you to go to museums or.

Speaker No, because we were working. You know, what he said was, you know, we had we had one day off excuse me.

Speaker And otherwise we were in the theater. You were there every every day to take class, to rehearse. There was no let up. There was not much of as much as I can remember. We had our day off and that's when you'd go sightseeing. And it was.

Speaker Jerry wanted everybody to be in good shape, and I did get sick the first week of the tour, I got sick and Spoleto, I had food poisoning and I couldn't dance in Spoleto at all. And that's what I was supposed to dance after Raffone. And so I danced the first Forn in Paris. And you just wanted to make sure that you were there for the rest of the tour, that you didn't get sick, didn't get injured.

Speaker Did you talk to you at all about representing the U.S. and the importance of representing the country? No. OK, now, you talked a little before about is there anything else you want to say about Families USA, where we.

Speaker I don't think so, you know, with your questions, at least I know where we're going, but it was a long time ago I was.

Speaker Did you perform his birthday at Madison Square Garden? Yes.

Speaker A Bally's, USA did perform the night of President Kennedy's birthday at Madison Square Garden. It was I remember I almost missed the performance because you could barely get there. There were so many people in the street and the traffic was bad and people were it was it was it was such a big evening. We were in the old Madison Square Garden. And I think the day before the circus had been there and the the place smelled the stage wasn't very good. Everything was delayed because everybody was waiting for Marilyn Monroe to appear. And she was late. But it was it was very exciting. You could not see a thing. You only they bring you up to dance and then you had to go right back. And it was it was not very exciting for us because we didn't get a chance to see or hear anybody. But I know that the evening was quite a success, but I wasn't really involved with it. We danced a section from Opus Jazz.

Speaker Let's talk a little bit about Jerry's return to the company in 69, if you could just sort of set the stage for me. What was what was happening in the company and what was the feeling among the dancers about the return of this guy who had now such a big name on Broadway?

Speaker When Jerry returned to the New York City Ballet in 1969. We were all very much. Involved with Mr. Balanchine, he taught us class every day he.

Speaker He was someone that knew us very, very well. He most of us came from from the School of American Ballet and then were brought into the company by by Mr. Balanchine, and when he choreographed, he was very quick and knew really what people could do well. When Jerry came into the company. He started working with Pat McBride and Eddie Villella at first. And. I think that it was a little it was so different than Balanchine. Because. He didn't know the dance dancers and. He did not work quickly, but again, he was so very involved and and I think he was having a good time. I know he was having a good time. So his enthusiasm and his work ethic were one that we all recognized. He started adding sections to the part that he worked on with Pat and Eddie, and more of us got involved. And Balanchine let him work as many hours as he wanted. I was used to his rehearsal schedules. I think it really took a lot of people by surprise. And Mr. Balanchine said, you can rehearse as long as you want. So, you know, we'd be in there for hours and hours a day and not rehearsing other ballets. And he would he would do what he did in Ballies, USA, which was teach for people the same. Are variations. And it was it was very exciting. But towards the end of the rehearsals, it got to be very tedious because we all knew all the ballet and he would have one day he'd come in with a schedule. I don't know if there were there were about 18 different sections of it. And one day he'd come in with a schedule of somebody doing this and someone doing that. The next day, it would be totally changed. And the order of the ballet would be changed and we'd we'd have been rehearsing it for. Months. And so everybody got very tired again, because we were so used to working with Balanchine, who? He choreograph it would be done and that was it, and. He would never tell us.

Speaker How to you know, where to look, how to.

Speaker How to hold our hand so specifically as Jerry. And I I do believe it's because balancing, as I said before, because Balanchine knew so well, Jerry didn't know the dancers as well and didn't trust the dancers as much. So he he also had a very specific way. He had he had it in his mind that he wanted his ballet to look. So it made for a much more difficult way of of working, a longer way of working. The end result was extraordinary. And I think all of us realized when after months and even even before the ballet went, that the couple of days before it went. We would have different notes up on the side of the of the of the wings with the order, then the next day the order would be changed. Sometimes people would be running backstage saying what's next? And they were on the wrong side of the stage. So and that went up until almost the opening night. It was it was very, very hard work for everyone, but when the curtain went up opening night and we danced and the curtain came down and we were all thrilled that that we got through it and then it went up and the audience was just. I mean, they were just they were jumping out of their seats because they adored it so much and, you know, we hope we all thought, wow, it's 55 minutes long.

Speaker Is anybody going to, you know, stay?

Speaker I think everyone realized that all the hard work paid off and that. We were very happy for us and for Jerry.

Speaker How was dance's regathering different than anything any other Balli that you've learned?

Speaker Dance's.

Speaker At about Dantas, that is it, a gathering was different from the other ballets that I'd learned. And most of them were by Balanchine, the other ballets that I'd learned. Insofar as.

Speaker How Jerry had it in his mind that he wanted the Ballies to look. And if you deviated from it.

Speaker He.

Speaker He would tell, you know, you did it this way before. This is the way I'd like you do it again with Balanchine. One night you could dance a ballet and you could say, well, I'm going to bend my neck tonight this way or I'm going to attack it a little differently. And it was fine with Balanchine. He just sort of you want to do a port abroad differently. He again, he trusted he trusted the dancers very much with Jerry, and he never came backstage and told me, I don't want you to do it this way or that way. He let me do it the the way I liked. But he didn't want it changed. He really he he wanted it that way.

Speaker And he wanted to see it perform the same way most of the time. He also.

Speaker Wanted the same dancers in the ballet's consistently and with Balanchine who did that too. But but Jerry, you know, it took a long time to finally let other people do dances at the gathering, which was a great it was wonderful for us. But after a while, sometimes you had other ballets to dance and you couldn't get out of the ballets or you had to dance something in and dances at a gathering. And it he just he again, he had it in his mind and he wanted that group of dancers to stay together, which was flattering. But sometimes, you know, you knew that it had to be passed on and so it could be difficult.

Speaker Did he talk to you at all about what the ballet was about?

Speaker Not not at. Jerry really didn't talk to me about his ideas for the ballet. It was more you would dance the ballet. He would in dance. Is it a gathering? It he again, sort of seemed to want you to be a person who was dancing, not a ballet dancer. If he felt you were pushing too hard, he'd tell you to take it easy. If he felt that you were being too theatrical, he didn't want that. It was there was a waltz that, you know, OK, just you're listening to the music and you're going to move and you're coming up with these ideas and you don't know what's going to come next, which was very different than Balanchine, who, you know, you had you had the music, you had the timing, you had the the energy and the attack and the quickness and not that Balanchine wanted you to be. Theatrical, but he you had those parts of the ballet and you were a ballet dancer who was dancing these parts, Jerry was not to Jerry, especially with something like dances regathering. You were a person before you were a dancer. And he didn't go into great explanation as far as what I was dancing in it, I think when it was something like the variation that Vialet danced with three or four different suitors and there was a little story to it. I'm sure he went into that with Vialet Varity. There was a part with Pat McBride and Sally Leland and I, and we all walked on stage together and danced. And then the two girls went off and I had somebody who just came by and lifted me and we did a little Partito together and the girls were in the back and I was dancing up front with the with the partner. But he he just he just sort of said, well, Pat and Sally, you know, you're back there and you're talking and you're walking and you're dancing with this young man. It didn't he didn't delve deeply into anything for us. It wasn't it wasn't like Anthony tutor who. Would we? We danced dim luster for tutor Mr. Tudor and, you know, you turned your back and he wanted your back to tell your the audience what was going on. It was I. I never got that from Jerry for me, but he certainly in dances, didn't want you to be a ballet dancer. You were a person who happened to be dancing. Jerry danced a lot in rehearsal. By the time I knew him, he was a little bit older than that. And then the dancer he was as a young young man. I mean, he but. If he didn't jump as hired and turn as much, didn't matter because he would become exactly what he was telling you to become the man, the woman. The the essence was right there, and all you had to do is look and you'd understand he didn't have to talk, he would just, you know, in fun, you know, putting the hand to the cheek and how he did it. And it wasn't it wasn't affected. It was exactly what he wanted. And you had to look and watch and it would teach he would teach you with that. So he was a he was an incredible dancer, but he wasn't doing this and which I know he could do when he was a younger man. But he was he he just knew how to move a. I never saw him dance on the stage, but I heard that Lincoln Kirstein said he was the most extraordinary prodigal son that he'd ever seen. And I certainly trust Lincoln to be accurate about that. So I'm sorry I missed him, but I would have loved to have seen Jerry.

Speaker But you've got a pretty good taste of it, I think, in rehearsal. Yes, we we certainly did it just a little bit more about dances together. I think it's important. I mean, you've watched countless Cassin's ballet now.

Speaker And, um, can you sort of.

Speaker Somehow I don't even know how to really tell you the truth. See if you can tell me something about its importance in the context of the ballet repertoire.

Speaker There wasn't, I don't think anything quite like it before it spawned a whole category of follies, but can you talk about that a little bit?

Speaker Mm hmm.

Speaker Dances at a gathering coming into the repertoire for New York City Ballet had a profound effect on the dancers and the audience, but the dancers because. When we danced Balanchine ballets, we.

Speaker Were.

Speaker Ballet dancers dancing. To the music. But in in Balanchine's aesthetic.

Speaker And. When you danced. Robbins, you were.

Speaker You were moving to the music you had steps to do, but the steps in a way weren't as important as the. As the essence of of it, you weren't acting, but you were moving to the music. And as as Jerry said, you know, think of the steps as you're just making them up now, you're no one has choreographed these for you. You are you're a dancer on the stage, but you're by yourself and you're. You're involved with yourself, not the audience, not at all the audience, you don't care if if you could kick your foot up to your head, you're lifting your leg. You know, it was a different way of of thinking of dancing for all of us. And very interesting to be able to be in a company dancing Balanchine. And Robbins would, because of their different ways of looking at at ballet dancing. Of course, Jerry choreographed other wonderful ballets that would move more into the classical idiom and then other ballets like in the night that were.

Speaker We're very different. Again, that was very different than the dances at a gathering. But he he always.

Speaker Looked more into how the dancer was feeling or how the dancers should be feeling, and that rather than the technique of the steps, he didn't want the technique to be seen, you know. And yet the technique in dance is a gathering. It's very hard ballet, but yet, you know, for for the male dancer, any Villella doing some of the turn, turn, turn, turn and then slowly come out of it and very hard. But it's not supposed to look hard and it's supposed to look like you're just, you know, falling out of it. Well, to learn to fall out of it is not easy. So. It was fun, it was fun dancing Agon one night of Balanchine's and then going into dances and a gathering, it was they were very different.

Speaker I'm gonna ask you about a little bit of company history here. I understand the jury went backstage the opening night of dance, the gathering to say good luck to everybody. And I think it was a gala or something that the balance premiered on and walked into.

Speaker Apparently, there was a whole backstage drama going on. Do you know what I'm talking about having to do with Mr. Balanchine and Suzanne? And it was about company history was about to change that now in two ways and dances together was only one of them.

Speaker Well, that was the same night that that happened, you know, because we did visit. Because was on the program, but Suzanne danced it that night then. No, I did not. I had to do before, Suzanne, I didn't dance at the same night as dances.

Speaker Oh, then history is wrong.

Speaker I was what I read is wrong because I had to go into second movement for Suzanne, but it was not the same night as dances together.

Speaker I would have I would have known that.

Speaker But Dance is premiered. There was the premiere. But then there was also a gala and it was the gala night that Dances Dances premiered for the first time on a gala. And then it had its sort of official premiere. You know how that done? Yes. Yeah. And the research that I read said that the event I'm talking about happened on the gala night.

Speaker Is it possible that.

Speaker That's you know what I I do know, but, you know, what might have happened was the fact that they were having the argument at the time and that. That that Paul was not going to be dancing third movement or whatever it was, a third movement symphony in C and perhaps A, I know the story that I read goes Eddie asked out of Beezy.

Speaker He was supposed to dance third movement. He asked out because it was dances. Which left me here to dance third movement, and and then he wasn't going to be dancing at.

Speaker If any of this is what it is, but I don't because he I went in for her, I went into dance symphony in C for Suzanne and I learned it, you know it well, I was starting to learn it before that, but.

Speaker It you know, we have. I can't I I am sure I didn't do it on that same night, the night I had. Dancers from.

Speaker Let's we spoke a little bit about in the night, let's talk about that a little bit in the night is tell me about it. It's a little bit of a darker valley. It's also a shepherd valley. But some people say that it's sort of.

Speaker An advance chapter, a more the people are more mature than they are in dances at a gathering. Can you talk about them? You were in the original cast. What were the rehearsals like? Talk about the value of.

Speaker When Jerry started rehearsing in the night. It was. He he seemed to work fairly quickly, at least for the positive that that he worked on with Tony Bluhm, Anthony Flammini and. It's funny, but I think and I. I can't be absolutely certain, but when I was in Ballies, USA, that. This was the piece that he was starting and trying to work on in Ballies, USA, and that he started it and he never he couldn't get through it. So he put it aside and. In the night was we didn't rehearse half as much as we did for dances at a gathering, of course it was a smaller group of people, but by that time he knew the dancers and there weren't, you know, three or four people learning one role and changing like they did in dances. At a gathering we had Tony and I were called.

Speaker And.

Speaker We learned the Partida and he worked fairly quickly, and then he had Vialet and Pat McBride.

Speaker And.

Speaker I don't remember seeing anything of theirs, we all sort of worked, you know, just with Jerry and then we all got together. He did the ending fairly quickly. And it was a it was a much lighter feeling than dances at a gathering because nobody was. Unsure of themselves as they were in Dance's, as he was, I think, again, going back to the fact that he.

Speaker He knew that he knew he could trust the dancers he chose, I believe, and as he worked with the company longer, he got to know the dancers so much better and it made it easier for him.

Speaker And I know that we we all enjoyed I think I know that Tony and I did accept Tony had a lot of lifting to do in our Partita and.

Speaker But we had Gordon Bosner as our pianist, who Gerry trusted immensely and and respected, and it was a. It seemed very simple that ballet in comparison to dancers at a gathering.

Speaker OK, I'll ask you a couple of questions that I hope you'll compare, Balanchine and Robbins, you did this a little bit before, so some of it may be a repeat, but let's take another crack at it. How about in terms of their working methods?

Speaker Well, the one of the differences between Jerry and Mr. Balanchine was that. Balanchine would come in and work very quickly with something. Choreograph it very quickly and. The next day, he'd come in and he'd look at it, and if it. Didn't seem to work, you'd say.

Speaker Let's try something else with Jerry. It would be much more tedious, he'd come in, he'd know what he wanted to see in his mind, I think possibly more than Balanchine. And until he got that. Look or a step you'd continue doing it and continue doing and continue doing it and. If it didn't work for your body, you'd still continue doing it because it's how Jerry saw Step to be done or the choreography to be done. Backlashing. I remember in Violin Concerto, the first section, I have four boys and I'm in the middle of them and Mr. Balanchine choreographed it very quickly one day, and that was during the Stravinsky Festival. And I remember I got sick and I was sick for about three or four days and I came back and I was I picked up things very quickly that I had forgotten most of the choreography and so are the boys. And we started doing it a little bit and he looked at it and then we sort of remembered it, Gordon was reminding us, and all of a sudden he looked and he said, forget about it, I don't like it. And he started again from the beginning and did what is the choreography now? And he says, OK, you probably forgot it because it wasn't good enough, dear. And, you know, it it you said, all right, if this stuff doesn't work, we'll try another step. And that wasn't how Jerry worked it. He really had it all in his mind, I think, before he came in and. He wanted. It to look the way he wanted it to look, so you ended up working very hard to have it look that way and he wasn't going to change things for you.

Speaker And how about in terms of making different versions of things?

Speaker Four different people. Well.

Speaker When when Balanchine would choreograph a ballet, it would be for for, you know, specific person. And when somebody else would come in to do the ballet, if it he would have another version for for another dancer and it could be very different. But again, he knew his dancers and he would choreograph to to sort of suit their style and. Jerry didn't change the balance for different dancers. You had to fit yourself into whatever ballet it was, not that one is better than the other, but it's it's. Much more comfortable, they have something choreographed on you, Balanchine didn't change things all the time, but he would I mean, he would he changed Firebird a couple of times. He choreographed some things in jewels and then changed them for the different dancers. And it enhanced the ballet when that dancer was dancing, what he'd changed for them. And again, he knew he knew all of us very well in terms of.

Speaker Yes.

Speaker Is it me now it's me there goes I was thinking about was Jerry's practice of how this contrasted with Balanchine in terms of making a ballet during practice of making different versions and using different dancers.

Speaker And one day you're dancing this and the next day somebody else is dancing. Can you talk a little bit about that? You know what I mean?

Speaker Somewhat, I mean, in dances that happened. And dances at a gathering Jerry did have.

Speaker Different people learn a lot of different roles. It was almost up until the night that it premiered that we people didn't know what role they were going to be doing, which was very difficult for the dancers to deal with.

Speaker And.

Speaker It was if I think if he could have explained to everyone that it wasn't that. The dancer was doing what he didn't want to see, it was more like what he wanted to see and he didn't know what he wanted to see in front of him, if he could have let people know that they weren't letting him down and that he liked their dancing. But he. He just had a vision of it, of something in a certain way, and until that vision was on the stage, he was going to keep experimenting, which made it definitely made it hard on the 10 people who were dancing.

Speaker How about how they treated dancers? Balanchine and Robbins, how is that different?

Speaker Mr. Balanchine treated his dancers. He was a benevolent dictator. He he ran everything and. If he wanted to see you dancing on stage, you were dancing and if he didn't want to see you dance, you weren't dancing. You you knew exactly where you stood with him. When he worked with you, when he worked. What he was choreographing, there were no there were no outbursts, he was there was no temperament involved. It was, all right, let's get down to work and we're going to choreograph and we're going to do this. And you do this and you do that. And if it doesn't look good, we'll change it. He didn't raise his voice off and he would get mad from time to time, Mr. Balanchine, but it. You know, took a lot for him to get worked up, and Jerry was very different. He. He he was wonderful to me, he never raised his voice ever. But I was always scared that it would happen one day, always, even when I was in his company in as say, I was sort of waiting for that shoe to drop, didn't happen to me, but he.

Speaker He had something in him that. Would attack different dancers in a very personal way. And. It was almost that. Once he picked on someone and. Somehow they. They weren't tough as leather if that he would continue picking on them, you know it. It was very difficult to. See that? Um.

Speaker But again, you know, you were working for this genius, so you wanted to be there, you wanted everyone wanted to please him. And I I don't know if he ever realized that, but after a while, people would then get very angry if he was being horrible to them so it he could be very, very, very difficult. And. When he was in New York City Ballet, I think it did help him a lot, seeing Balanchine and how he treated everyone.

Speaker But again, you know, Jerry.

Speaker Felt Balanchine was up on a pedestal. And. He was so far below him, I think that.

Speaker You know, I'm not a psychiatrist, but if he if he was a little bit more self-assured, Jerry, he probably wouldn't have been taking it out on the dancers as he did. And again, it was probably him looking at balancing and saying, well, of course, he's such a genius, he can treat everybody nicely, I'm not the genius and I've got to fight for what I want and. He didn't really have to do that, but that's how he was.

Speaker How about how you can trust their ability to trust, for example, their collaborators?

Speaker To trust their dancers, the dancers, dancers.

Speaker Well, I've forget this, I was just going to say I've spoken of this before, but.

Speaker Mr. Balanchine.

Speaker Knew almost all of his dancers from the ballet school that we went to and he watched us grow up in front of him. And he trusted us completely. There's a story I had to do, Firebird, which was not a ballet that I was suited for. He wanted me to dance the ballet. I had to learn it in two days and he would always stand in the front wing to watch. And I remember before the ballet, I said, Mr. Balanchine, please don't stand in the front wing. You know, I don't know how to dance this. It's I had remembered Maria Tallchief dancing this ballet and it wasn't my style at all. And and he said, I want you to dance this. I want to see you out there. I want to see you. And he said, And how are you going to surprise me? I've known you all your life. I know what you can do. And I want you to do this ballet. That was it. It actually gave me great, great confidence to go out and dance the ballet I ran on. I fell flat on my behind for the first entrance there he was in the wing and I thought, well, you wanted me to do this.

Speaker I'm out here for you, Jerry.

Speaker Didn't know us.

Speaker And especially when he first came to the company, you know, he watched us in class, but, you know, here were a bunch of dancers and of course, he could see he loved that the way that one worked in the way that one moved. But he he certainly didn't have the trust in all of us that that Balanchine did. And after the years of being there, I think he got much more familiar with everyone. So it probably was one of the main reasons the dancers were such so grueling to people at the end. And that's because he. He'd you know, if he corrected somebody, they would they would listen and they'd probably be able to do what he wanted, but. He didn't trust the dancers enough, I think, to know that when the curtain went up, they wouldn't go and do their own thing, that they would do what he wanted them to do. I mean, we all wanted to please Mr. Balanchine. We wanted to please. Mr. Robbins, you. That's what you wanted to do. You were a dancer. You want to dance these great ballets. But he didn't he? I don't think he understood that as Balanchine did.

Speaker What did you learn from Jerry?

Speaker Since I started working with Jerry Robbins when I was 15.

Speaker I think I learned. An incredible work ethic that, of course, we you know, being so young, it we would go into the studio and work all day.

Speaker And he had as much energy and he was twice as old as I was and had. So much energy and commitment to what he was doing, so it was. And you could try things and nobody would laugh, you could you know, he'd want you to have some kind of a if we were doing the concert and, you know, he had to act in a certain way and and he. He just could pull things out of you.

Speaker He.

Speaker He made me understand. Balanchine's ballets were not the only way to dance that you could dance in a different style, in a way for for Jerry.

Speaker And.

Speaker I know that at one point I was dancing. Dances at a gathering, and I wanted to I had a lot of ballets to dance and I called him into my dressing room one day, and I still feel very guilty about this. And I sort of almost yelled out that I like I had so many other things to do and there were other people to dance dances at a gathering. And I'd be dancing it for two or three years. And I had to get out of this ballet, you know, for. And he just sort of said, OK, OK, it's fine and left and here was this man who, you know, had given me my first time ever to dance, you know, and my first break and. He was always a gentleman to me and always helped me and I sort of just, you know, I just have too much to dance and I'm too busy and. So what one of the things he taught me was you should remember and be grateful for what you have and what you what you've been given and. If I hadn't felt like he was so close to me and I, I should have said that to him, but I didn't, I just sort of complained and. You know, all of a sudden you learn that if there's somebody you love and admire and respect and you want to say something to them that's been bothering you, tell them tell them the positives first and not the not just the negative. And I you know, and after years went by and I never, never actually. Turned around and said, I'm sorry and I I love you and I respect you. You have to tell people that before before they're gone.

Speaker Yeah, that wasn't really my children.

Speaker And I wonder if you sort of didn't have a big benefit when you were 15 being so that you felt in a way fatherly toward you, because I think he was very kind. Children play with them and love teaching them.

Speaker Jerry, Jerry was he was he did love children. And I, I mean, at 15, I was like a 12 year old practically. So I think that that did shield me. And I think all of my life he looked at me as that sort of that little 15 year old.

Speaker And he did take care of me and. He was.

Speaker He allowed me to sort of start learning how to dance his ballets in a way that, as I said, he had he had so much patience with me.

Speaker I was lucky to be in his company before I was in New York City Ballet, because when I got to the New York City Ballet at 16, the company was very large, I mean, very large compared to Jerry's company. That was about 20, 21 people. And nobody was patient with anybody, you know, you were in that class with all these brilliant dancers, you were in the back row, you know, and. Yeah, I heard at least I knew that Jerry thought enough of me as a dancer to dance his ballets and it took a while for Mr. Balanchine, although knowing him, he knew every dancer in that company. But, you know, in class, you just sort of felt like you were nothing because you had you had Maria and Melissa and Alegra and Veillette, you know, up there. And, you know, you're 16 and you better work hard. And if you don't get the steps right, you know, there's a girl right behind you in Jerry's company. It wasn't like that. And Jerry's company, he knew you and he. Yeah, a lot of patience with me, and I was lucky I was 15, I think I was very fortunate.

Kay Mazzo
Interview Date:
2007-05-05
Runtime:
1:07:55
Keywords:
None
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-rn3028q795, cpb-aacip-504-9w08w38p0r
MLA CITATIONS:
"Kay Mazzo, Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 05 May. 2007, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1001
APA CITATIONS:
(2007, May 05). Kay Mazzo, Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1001
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Kay Mazzo, Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). May 05, 2007. Accessed January 25, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1001

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