Transcript:

Speaker I was I was a child at the Metropolitan Opera House in the school, getting into the ballet, earning one dollar a performance, being everything in operas that children are in, operas consorting with usually and Madame Lucrezia Bori and all of the people that sang there and loved the children.

Speaker And I was going to be a prima ballerina, according to Madame Rosina Anarkali, who had given me a scholarship and wanted to adopt me.

Speaker But that was in the context of opera.

Speaker Yes, but I saw ballet in the 30s. That's when I saw my first ballet and decided I didn't want to be in opera. I wanted to dance all night long, not one minute while the singers sang all night long in the 30s.

Speaker What were the options for an aspiring ballet dancer in America?

Speaker The Metropolitan Opera Ballet. Not right away, but, of course, for Advil, the Net Wayburn School kind of vaudeville, and there were no aspiring ballet dancers, except mostly European mothers that took their children to Madame Galilea at the Opera House. The way I got there was that I saw a vaudeville show when I was seven with real pitchy dance, a young lady on her toes and a little with Chinese hat. And what I later learned was really peachy music called in a Chinese temple garden and she was dancing with two very tall, blonde young men. It was and I think Lynbrook, Long Island, where we had to go to see things like that. And it turned out eventually, years later, I learned that those two young men were the older Kristiansen boys from Utah, and the dancer was the daughter of their Italian teacher who taught them in Utah. But I fell in love and I went home and I wanted to learn to dance and my toes. And my mother had nowhere to take me except to a local dancing school, Miss Sylvia Winkle's dancing school. And so she took me there and met Sylvia Winkel, taught a class that began with tap dancing and then acrobatic, which I really hated. I couldn't do those things. And then toe to toe dancing and then Hawaiian dancing with Miss Sylvia Winkel in front of us.

Speaker Peter, are you OK? Because I'm hearing you're OK. OK, great. And.

Speaker But for what she what she had to do, yeah, sure, what we're just rather than being specific in the picture, what were the options in the 30s for people who wanted to dance? I mean, there was no American Ballet Theatre. There was no New York City Ballet. So if you could just begin by saying in the 30s, what are the options?

Speaker OK, in the 30s when I was quite young.

Speaker The only real school of classical academic ballet in the United States was at the Metropolitan Opera House. There were a lot of little dancing schools around, but we didn't know much about them.

Speaker There was vaudeville, there were musical comedies of sorts. There was burlesque. But of course, sensible parents never considered that there were no ballet companies. There was a little field ballet, the little field ballet in Philadelphia, Dorothy and Catherine Littlefield, Mommy Littlefield played the piano and they turned out good dancers. They also went to Europe in the summers and studied. And there were a few Russian teachers. I believe Adolf Bone was in Chicago. I'm not certain about all of that. I was I was in Long Island and there was no company to go in. You just sort of took lessons and listened to your teacher for for what to do.

Speaker Okay. So before we get to Jerry, let's just talk a minute about telling me, OK, what was all young people I've never heard of?

Speaker I had never heard of Tamiment until I was in a Broadway show. I had been in the School of American Ballet. And Agnes Tamil had come up to me in class one day and said, How would you like to be in a Broadway show? And at that time, the there was no company. The money was running out. And I said, whoa. She said, All right, come down to the Shubert Theatre tonight and bring your practice clothes. I am doing the choreography for a Broadway show. Paul Hakone will be the dancing star. Paul Haken was a beautiful dancer. Not at all. Unlike Baryshnikov, he was of the Danish school. He had been brought to this country by the people that adopted him. And he was by then a Broadway star. And this show was called Hooray for what? Edwin was the star with all his vaudeville cronies in it. Vivian Vance was a singing star and Agnes Famil was doing the choreography. And I was the right size for Paul Hakone, whose real partner, Eleanor Tennis was got married and was having a baby.

Speaker Now, tell me how this relates to.

Speaker All right, the show ran and I got quite nice notices, had my name over the Winter Garden Theatre, and one day a nice little man came to see me and his name was Max Liebman. And he said, Miss Boris, I am the social director of a summer camp in the Pocono Mountains and we have summer work. And I understand that you want to be a choreographer. And I said, yes, Mr Lieberman. How did you know that? He said, the word gets around. The word gets around. He said, I can offer you a job between Memorial Day and Labor Day for eleven dollars a week, room and board. And you will do a dance concert a week. You will do a nightclub show a week. You will do a musical revue a week. And I said, Mr Lieberman, I want to be a choreographer.

Speaker I want to do choreography.

Speaker He said, you can do choreography, you can do choreography. So I said, well, I think the show is going to run. He said, no, the word is around. It's going to close. Mr Wynn is tired. And so I said, well, if the show closes, I'll need a job and and I'll be in touch. He said I'll be in touch. And that's how I heard about Tamiment and that's how I ended up at that moment. I'll tell you what time it was. Tamiment was in a. At the Camp Tamiment, with four young adults, there were jokes about it, all the girls went looking for a husband and all the boys went looking for girls.

Speaker Young dental students went there, young man studying dentistry, studying medicine, studying law and so forth. And girls would save up all year to go to learners and buy outfits to wear to go there for one or two weeks, which meant a full, huge meal three times a day, a big breakfast, a big lunch, a big dinner and a great big dining room and so forth. All these shows in a theater, musical comedies like Floor Shows, etc., comedians, everything you would want on Broadway. And they all had a good time. There was also a string quartet there. There was a jazz band and no one else there was there was a colony attached to Tamiment called Santaville, where people own the little houses and spent the summer with their children. They sort of were part of the board. And the people that ran Tamiment were the Friends School of Social Science.

Speaker They were socialists.

Speaker It happened that. A socialist organization began, what was their influence on Tamiment?

Speaker They ran it. It was political.

Speaker Terminal was up the mountain from Camp Unity, which was run by, I believe it, with the ladies needles and pins that the Garment Workers Union, and that was a very kosher camp that was religious. It was, you know, celebrated the religion and so forth. Tamiment was not connected with the religion. It was connected that they are the men that ran. It was Ben Josefsson that was his name. And the CENTAVO people mostly were attached to that.

Speaker Those police.

Speaker It was begun as a kind of, um, it was a summer camp for the Rand Institute, right? Yes, right. Which and there they were teaching socialism.

Speaker Yes, absolutely.

Speaker But. Was there such thing at Tamiment in political activity?

Speaker No.

Speaker What was their political activity at the moment? I don't remember any. I know that people who wanted to talk politics did. I never was interested, so I never did.

Speaker Santaville people were involved. They did. We know we talked dancing. We talked what one next show was, what we were going to do.

Speaker I don't remember ever talking about politics when I was there.

Speaker OK, tell me about some of the people who came out of. You mean who emerged from it, who performed there, who we would know? Danny Kaye called Broadway in the park. That's right.

Speaker Well, it was actually the Pennsylvania end of Borscht circuit circuit with the appellations, and that was outside of New York, but where Jewish people went for the summer and consorted with each other. But in my time, the people that came out of there, oh, I'll begin with the people I know.

Speaker Danny Kaye, Imogene Coca, Julie Munchen, Alfred Drake, who was the original Curlee in Oklahoma. Oh, my goodness. A lot of people that went well. Basically, all the dancers that were there came out of it.

Speaker And let's see who was you know, Sid Caesar was there later, say that he came out of it.

Speaker Woody Allen came out of it.

Speaker I I was not there in that.

Speaker I was not there in the time of Woody Allen or Sid Caesar.

Speaker They were later Imogene Coca. Bob Burton with her husband, Jimmy Shelton, was their lyric writer, a lot of their friends, a lot of their material. They did that wonderful song about triplets.

Speaker What was it like physically?

Speaker It was a country we lived we lived in a long house, it was a guy on one side, girls on the other.

Speaker There were I was with three other girls at the end of one row and the string quartet guys lived up at the top. The band guys who everybody had their places. There was a woman. I got to be very, very dear friends with her. I didn't know who she was in the beginning, but I noticed every morning she walked past. I would go out for air, you know, and go, go look. This was before breakfast. She always walked by with a big book under her arm and the community toilet was at the end. Four women on one and four men on the other. And after a while, I got talking to her and her name is Sylvia Foreman. She was the pianist. And I said, Where do you go with that book every morning? She said, well, it's kind of crowded in our bank and I'm reading of time in the river, so nobody bothers me. And there I go in and read. And we were friends until the day she passed.

Speaker You mentioned Max before. Tell me about Max. Was he what did he do there and what was he?

Speaker He was Max Liebman. Max Liebman was the social director at camp. He put the shows together. He assembled the cast. He was the chief cook and bottle washer. He was the boss. But once he got you set to do something, he left you alone. He hired good people. He hired people that really knew their business. So he really just organized.

Speaker And tell me a bit about the shows, because they weren't, um, they weren't adaptations of of things that they were original.

Speaker All right. About the shows. That's a big question. They were the work of the people that were working there.

Speaker The Cocas writers, Bob Burton, Jimmy Shelton, Sylvia Fine began to write for Danny. She really created Danny Kaye. He had been in vaudeville with Burt LA. He'd been touring the Orient because he did mime, which he had couldn't use the language everybody did. Actually, I'm going to back up. Max hired people who did their own thing and then they brought that to camp and they incorporated it into the shows. And then we all began to work together on like the big finale or what the show would be about. But basically the shows were about things we were interested in, things we wanted to do. The band was there to play. For example, I really wanted to dance to popular music.

Speaker So I danced to Deep Purple and Alexander's Ragtime Band and stuff that classical ballets to give you and all that sort of thing.

Speaker So a typical show wasn't just a musical numbers or other, oh, we did political for doing a back up there.

Speaker We did very funny shows about the Nazis.

Speaker I'm one of them just flipped into my mind, what was it?

Speaker It's an operating room. And patient is like and the patient, the guy that always played people like the patient with Herman Shapiro, he was Max's assistant and he's laying out and Koka was the surgeon and with the mask and so forth, and she's saying.

Speaker Oh, I know, I know we I know we I know we put that that knife somewhere, where did we leave it?

Speaker And they've left the knife in the body. And then those damn Nazis, they leave their stuff everywhere.

Speaker You know, anything that occurred to people. It was funny, they said.

Speaker So there was a lot of political satire. Yes, there.

Speaker I'm not very deep, very kind of overt about Nazis, about things that were funny. That you could at. We didn't realize that it was really not funny.

Speaker I can tell me, um.

Speaker How elaborate. How elaborate the seduction. We've described this as a kind of summer camp, but that doesn't really do justice to what the productions were like.

Speaker Know, how elaborate were the productions? Indeed, full wardrobe department, a lady that never stopped working from one end of the week to the other fabrics coming, all of that scene shop building the scenery, people working as the stagehands and listen, that everybody worked from one end of the week to the other.

Speaker The only time we ever heard of was Sunday night when everything was over. The big show was on Saturday night. And then on Sundays, we kind of got a rest. What about music?

Speaker There was the the band there were two pianists, Glen Tetley and Sylvia Fine. They both wrote music for the shows. Sylvia wrote everything for Danny Green, wrote for the ballets or whatever needed to be done or unless you chose your music. I could. I did cello concertos. I loved string quartets and all that. So I kept going around with a quartet where I eventually fell in love with the cellist.

Speaker And I wasn't just a band.

Speaker No, no. They could make a full orchestra by putting the string quartet and the band together.

Speaker They did that on show nights. We did that in the teahouse where they were floor shows as if they would be at a nightclub. And I always followed Danny Kaye, which was awful. I had my toe shoes waiting to poret around to moonlight Madonna. I went from one foot to the other while he kept them laughing and kept them laughing and wouldn't let go and wouldn't let go. But one night I set up a little dance for Danny and Julie and me.

Speaker If you want to hear about it, I'll tell you now, OK, if we can come back ok.

Speaker Yeah. Yeah. Where are the dance? All these dancers come from everywhere. Max ran around looking at everywhere he found me in that show. There was the Cherice sisters, Rita Cherie's. They were a kind of a vaudeville family. They did mostly Spanish dancing, I think. At one point, he brought in Mara and Harry, they were a vaudeville team that did their own type. They were from Switzerland, I think they were European. Oh, Kenny. But Kenny Foster kid Alice, Alice, Dudley and Kenny. Bostock or Bostwick, but they were from Doris Humphrey, they were Humphrey dancers, they were beautiful, they had formed themselves into a team and they did their own numbers. I don't know where, Leon. He had been a dancer in that problemas company. He was a little bit older than we were. They they kind of all came together.

Speaker And I got a job in that camp. Not that the first year. The second year I began to bring people in.

Speaker So if you could just give me the overview, because what you're telling me is they came from Broadway, they came from Fargo, they came from wherever Max could find them.

Speaker Can you just make.

Speaker Well, where did Max bring the dances? He brought them from everywhere, he brought them from Broadway. He brought them from the vaudeville. He brought them from wherever they were working mother. There were ballet companies, so most of them worked in vaudeville.

Speaker And what was the attraction of all this kind of activity? It was a summer camp, after all. Why would a person from Broadway go to work there?

Speaker Why would a person from Broadway go to work at Camp Tamiment to work in the summer? We didn't have work in the summer.

Speaker And did it also offer you a kind of creative freedom to do things?

Speaker Oh, creative freedom, yes. But actually those were the days when everybody was thinking about creative freedom. Everybody that went there probably said exactly the same thing to Max that I did was I want to be the choreographer. I want to do this.

Speaker He had young people full of things they wanted to do and he got them for eleven dollars a week.

Speaker Maybe Danny and Imogene got a little bit more.

Speaker Probably. The musicians did.

Speaker Now, tell me how you met Jerome Robbins.

Speaker How did I meet Jerome Robbins?

Speaker Well, I was told to report to the Rand School for social science. I think it's down around 14th Street, New York, on the morning of Memorial Day to get on the bus with my bag and be ready to go to camp Tamiment for the summer. So I went down and there were people on the sidewalk and we all got onto a big bus. And finally the bus was pulling out of New York. We were going on the Jersey Turnpike and there are two young guys sitting in front of me with dark heads. And we're bouncing along and we're looking at me smelling the pig farms and all this stuff going through Jersey. And one of the heads turns around. He said, Hi, I'm Mary Gilbert and seen designer. And I said, Oh, hi, I'm a fan of Borith and I'm the choreographer.

Speaker And the other head turned round and looked me straight in the eye and said, My name is Jerome Robbins and I am the choreographer. So I said, well, OK, high, you know, and that's how I met Jerry Robbins.

Speaker And who turned out to be correct?

Speaker We both did choreography.

Speaker There was too much for any one person, much too much. Jerry did what he wanted.

Speaker How old was he at that? What was your general impression?

Speaker We actually we were basically the same age. I was close to 17. He was around that. He was a teenager. My general impression. He was nervous. He was good looking in a. And a European kind of way, dark, interesting looking, he he moved well, he was then. He was kind of untouchable, though it scared me a little bit, so I didn't get too close right away with security.

Speaker I don't know, just.

Speaker A kind of a do not touch what scared me was basically an aura, I guess, because he never did anything to cause me to be scared.

Speaker I read somewhere that the company called him Mr. Happy.

Speaker I don't that the company called him Mr. Happy, I don't remember that, um.

Speaker How would you describe him as a dancer?

Speaker Interesting, how would I describe him as a dancer?

Speaker Well, remember, I was by then a classical ballet dancer from the Metropolitan Opera House, and I've been in a Broadway show and I had danced with Paul Haken. So I thought I was really the queen of the pigeons.

Speaker Jerry was. Not well schooled, he did not have a basic technique, he danced naturally, he did kind of street dancing and he did what looked like maybe some kind of a modern dance form. But it didn't look like Graham. And I was I was I had seen Martha Graham. My mother used to take me to see everything she could. And I had seen the Humphrey Weidemann company, but he was looser than that. He kind of improvised a lot. Only I didn't realize he was improvising. But later I realized that he was kind of making it up as he went along and it was kind of like popular dancing and modern dancing, but you couldn't, but at least I couldn't say that's Graham or that that technique cherry danced the way Jerry danced.

Speaker So you seem to be bringing something that came from within himself, would you say?

Speaker What I say, he was bringing something that yes, I think so, I think he was he was dancing out of himself more than he was dancing from any outside images. When you're a ballet dancer, you dance from images. When you're a great dancer, you dance from images. Jerry kind of danced his own way.

Speaker How did he behave as a dancer? I mean, for example, you were talking before about ledman and I understand that he was a very disciplined professional. And I'm wondering if that since Jerry met him so early in his life, um, if that had some kind of an influence on how he behaved professionally.

Speaker I think I know who he emulated because there was a dancer there the first year we were there, his name was Jerome Andrews. He wore black satin pajamas and he. Flipped around and he seemed to be kind of a mentor to Jerry. It looked from time to time as if Jerome Andrews. Was the coach. But I never really knew Jerry.

Speaker When things were distributed, the way Max would do, it was when one show was over, we would get together and he'd say, you do this no this week and so forth and lay it all out and.

Speaker Gerry would always seem to already know what he was going to do. I was not quite sure how that happened.

Speaker It never happened with me, I always would go to Max and say, hey, Max, you know, I'm supposed to do this or do that, he said, well, which one would you like to do? Well, I'd like to do this. OK, so I got a little bit cast-off.

Speaker And I had no way of finding out I was about to fight about anything, but it did seem to me that there was a kind of a Jerry got his his his wishes in first.

Speaker How do you think that? I don't know. I don't know. I really don't know.

Speaker I didn't hang around him that much. And later on, when he began.

Speaker Three sheeting our beds.

Speaker And putting snakes in them.

Speaker I began to develop some ideas about Jerry.

Speaker We couldn't pin it down for a while. But I caught him once, I said, what are you doing? He said, are you girls are so much fun? I said, Jerry, it's so scary. He said, Yeah, I thought it would be good. Worth a laugh.

Speaker And that was it. You a snake in your bed?

Speaker Yeah, they were a little shy. They weren't bad snakes. They were in the woods, you know, we were in the middle of trees. We were in the woods.

Speaker We were in a country setting. And they'd go out and catch them in bags. And I wondered why he was, you know, coming out of our thing. And there had been a few little snakes in our bed. So I went in and I pulled the sheets down. And lo and behold, there was a little snake.

Speaker He didn't he didn't blush, even he thought it was funny.

Speaker Also.

Speaker He would never dance in anybody else's choreography.

Speaker That was the first year.

Speaker Why do I think why he didn't want to dance in anybody else's? I think he just wanted to do his own thing. He didn't want to follow direction. I think particularly I might have been especially threatening because I was this said a year you want to name, and by then I was pretty technically proficient pirouettes and things like that. He really didn't have that kind of training. He had to be. Also, he teamed up, I forgot Anita Alvarez and was from the Martha Graham Company. Anita, what was tiny?

Speaker She was fiery and creative. It was pouring out of her.

Speaker And Jerry teamed up with Anita almost immediately. And she did anything he wanted to. And little by little by little, she did quite a lot of it.

Speaker Can you tell me anything specifically that? The Latin Quarter mean anything?

Speaker Oh, not really, the name doesn't, but I'm sure that it was a yeah, they did a lot of numbers together and I'm trying to remember how this worked. That.

Speaker Strange fruit.

Speaker Billie Holiday was a recording of Billie Holiday. And I'm trying to remember whether they did it together. Or not, I really don't remember, but I associate Strange Fruit with Anita and possibly Jerry, Jerry also did group numbers. Oh, I think Bill Bell was also there from the Humphrey company and Bill Bells did did things. It's all beginning to come back to me because a long time ago changed such a little bit.

Speaker Jerry said that he learned more from Imogene Coca about timing and humor than he did from anybody else. But, you know, most people don't remember Shosholoza and have no idea where she is.

Speaker Oh, Imogene. Yes, I can imagine had originally been a ballet dancer.

Speaker She was from vaudeville. She never knew how old she was because her mother always lied about her age, made her older so that and she had become a comedian by accident.

Speaker She had been in a Broadway show of some kind and understudy to one of the leading people who had gotten sick. And they threw her on. And she was so scared and upset.

Speaker She just improvised and was very, very funny, but absolutely correct. Her timing was impeccable and she loved to dance. She she came to me quite early on.

Speaker She said, you know, those old classic ballets. Could you put them on for me? I said, well, Cokie, you mean you want to you want to dance? She said, Yeah. And I did do some of them, some of them I had only read about, but I reconstructed them. An old Russian ballet called Tamar about people that travel through a mountain pass.

Speaker And the wicked queen Tamar is up there getting men and killing them and carrying on. And we made a bed and she she said this whole thing up. She got we put curtains on the bed. She said, I'm going to get this, get the guy, pull him into the bed and then throw out a lot of talcum powder, you know, get it all moving. That's what I did. Gizelle for her. And things like this would come up.

Speaker When we came to the Dacey scene. She had she kind of knew the ballet, she'd seen it somewhere. I said, you know, the the the daisy thing, he loves me, he loves me, not so forth. She said, well, how do you get a laugh out of that? I said, well, let's get a daisy and play some games. So we sat on a little bench and, you know, Paul and we she came to the end. He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. Finally, we were at the end of the bench and she had just the yellow part of the inside of the daisy.

Speaker And she looked at it and she said, Well, what now? I said, well, you could eat it.

Speaker She said, if it gets a laugh, she put it in her mouth and she ate it and then she had ideas just flew. Oh, when we did the second act and she was the ghost, she did all sorts of terrible things.

Speaker I can't remember all of them. But at the end we had a trap in the stage and that was the grave. And she went down in the trap. You know, she could get down there and she popped back up.

Speaker And she reached down and she came up and she pulled out a piece of paper and a pencil and she wrote a note and she got a milk bottle, brought it up, put the note in the milk bottle and then picked up a little dog or something that we had down there, threw it out on the stage and pulled the grave down with them. She was a creative elf, Imogene was never unfunny.

Speaker Tell me about when was it, thirty seven, thirty eight about when you went to Tamiment and how old are you?

Speaker Well, and and Jerry.

Speaker Yeah, when I when I went to Tamiment and I was about 19. And I think Jerry was about the same age.

Speaker And let's just go back a little bit and talk about Lieberman and what he was like as a professional and what influence you think he might have.

Speaker I think he of Lieberman. What was Lieberman like as a professional? Very organized. He kind of knew what he wanted his people to do.

Speaker He went out and found his people. He found people with varying talents so he could the shows could be interesting.

Speaker And he laid out a musical comedy.

Speaker And he he you could participate. Everybody could put their two cents in and say, we'd like to do this number. And people like Danny and Danny Kaye and Imogene and her group, Bob Burton and so forth, they all had a lot of material already because they'd been in vaudeville and he just used everything as well as possible and used his people as well as possible. And he was a kind of a born organizer.

Speaker And how do you think that influenced your.

Speaker I think Jerry was influenced by everything that was around him, and I think Lieberman may have had a huge influence on him because.

Speaker I think Jerry was out to learn all he could, he he was a he was a sponge. He wanted to sop things up. I knew nothing about him, really, except the things he did as a person that were the kind of boy type naughty things. But you couldn't really, you know, get furious and.

Speaker He was hungry, he was thirsty, he was dying to be somebody important.

Speaker That's really what I remember a lot about Jerry.

Speaker And now tell me what he was like as a colleague, what he was like as a colleague, what was Jerry like as a colleague?

Speaker Well.

Speaker As far as I was concerned, he was not a colleague. He kind of gave me a broad berth if he wanted to use me in one of his things.

Speaker I was used and because I was an obedient ballet dancer and always part of the company, I did what I was supposed to do. Jerry was never in anything I wanted to do when I wanted somebody to dance with. I had to get somebody else. And it was pretty easy to do. People didn't mind dancing with me.

Speaker And, uh.

Speaker Jerry and I were there at the same time.

Speaker I don't know how much attention he paid to what I did.

Speaker I didn't really pay too much attention to what he did because I was too busy doing my own stuff, and when someone was dancing, you were busy changing a costume or doing something like that.

Speaker We were or we did. Oh, I forgot something. I think it was the first summer. It could have been the second, but I'm not certain came.

Speaker A Jewish.

Speaker The the, um, the holiday on which the cello plays Canadia, Yom Kippur and the people at Unity wanted us to come down and do a dance for Yom Kippur. And so I remember I said to Jerry, what do you know about services?

Speaker He said.

Speaker Not much. What do you know? I said I was raised Christian Science, my mother was passing, I don't know. So we decided we had to find out if we were going to do it.

Speaker We'd better do it right. So they found we found someone down at Unary. He instructed us. And, you know, you have candles and you do these movements over the candles and it's always two boys, never a girl. So I said, well, how are we going? We we decided we would do it together and marry Sporkin, who was the cellist was going to play the call.

Speaker Neerja, please. What what am I going to do? I got boobs, so I strap them down dressed like a boy.

Speaker And Jerry and I did two boys, the only time we ever dance together. And we did the call, Nedra, over the candles, over the thing. And the people at Unary thought we were just wonderful.

Speaker Did you get any sense of how he felt about his being Jewish?

Speaker At that time, no later. How did I feel about his being Jewish? How how did Jerry feel about being Jewish?

Speaker Not terribly, and he did not feel terribly interested, but it was something we had been asked to do, so we decided it should be done right. He didn't feel it didn't feel very involved for either of us.

Speaker Um, what do you remember? I know that you didn't see a lot of it, but you do have some recollection about the kind of choreography that. Right, we spoke before about piano and flute, maybe, um.

Speaker The kind of choreography Jerry did.

Speaker It was.

Speaker It's hard for me to describe it. He kept people moving. A great many movements were repetitive, were repeated over and over, and now that I think of it, we're kind of like Jerome Andrews, kind of the the Humphrey Weidemann swoops and sways that and not not definable Graham or definable anything but in that school.

Speaker And people moved. And outside of that, I don't find anything significant in my memory.

Speaker What was the straw hat?

Speaker Oh, what was the straw hat review?

Speaker Whoa, whoa, whoa. The straw hat review. Was the result of a whole summer's work at the end of the summer, and I don't remember which year it was because I was there a couple of years, it could have been 1939. None of us had a job to go back to.

Speaker Nobody. And Sylvia. And Max. Went to Ben Josefsson and they said, look, we have done very good stuff this summer.

Speaker And with all we've done, if we made a collection of the best, we have a great show. So if the school will let us stay here for an extra week, we'll say without pay.

Speaker But feed us, give us a roof over our head. We will put a show together and let's invite agents and producers from Broadway up to look at it.

Speaker And they said, OK.

Speaker So we did and we stayed and we worked like mad. And put the show together, and that weekend came and we did it a couple of times, I think. And it was done.

Speaker Nobody knew what the result was or, you know, if anybody bought it or what, we all went back home. I didn't have a job. And I had left my mother's house and I had saved my money, my 11 dollars a week all summer. And I had put it in New York First National Bank, I think. And I had a room in a rooming house.

Speaker And I was running through the money.

Speaker And there weren't jobs, there were no ballet companies, no look, look, look shows, whatever, and I was on my way to the bank to take out my last four dollars.

Speaker And it was in the afternoon. I was going to try to get to the bank before it closed and the phone in the hall rang. And as I passed, the woman around the house answered and she said, It's for you.

Speaker And I went to the phone with Max Liebman.

Speaker He said, be down at the Adelphi Theater tonight. We've sold the show. The Shubert's have bought it.

Speaker We've got jobs.

Speaker So that's where I went.

Speaker So the straw hat review went to the straw hat review, went to Broadway.

Speaker My guess is that that's the only summer camp musical that was ever right, right.

Speaker Yeah, yeah, yeah. I don't know if there were ever any other summer camp musicals. I know John Garfield wrote a play called Having a Wonderful Time about a Summer Camp, but that no, this show came out of Camp Tamiment in the Pocono Mountains and it made.

Speaker I eventually ended up as a prima ballerina of the new Metropolitan Opera Ballet because of that show.

Speaker And how about Jerry, who Jerry was in business?

Speaker He was Jerry knew I wait a minute about Jerry after straw hat review, I'm trying to remember. Whether he started doing shows or whether he went into ballet theatre.

Speaker Probably started doing shows I don't really remember. I know that from that day on, Jerry was Jerry Seinfeld.

Speaker There was a couple of years later. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Speaker Um. Do you remember a number that he did with Anita called Frankie and Johnny?

Speaker Do I remember Frankie and Johnny with Anita Alvarez and Jerry Robbins?

Speaker I really can't say I do, but then I'm not too much of a rememberer of what other people do or even myself doesn't have to do.

Speaker I'm just yeah.

Speaker Oh, I was in it. I was one of the three little girls I sing along the Yiddish Makhado.

Speaker I was one of the three little girls and sang I sing Alayne because the other two are shiksas. Yeah. And the other two were you know, I was the only one that was Jewish and it was very funny. Danny was a riot and Danny spoke very good Yiddish. And I really don't remember a whole lot more about the Yiddish mercado, except we did it.

Speaker How did all of this last, this group of people who were going to tell every summer? Well.

Speaker To the best of my memory, I went up there the first year. I think I went up there the second year, the third year, a lot of them went up, but I believe that's when I got myself a job.

Speaker With.

Speaker A Shoobridge show at the World's Fair in San Francisco.

Speaker And I came out to San Francisco, but and it was the Ziegfeld Follies, but the show closed after 10 weeks and I didn't want to go back to my mother's house.

Speaker And I got in touch with Max and I said, can I come up to camp for the rest of the summer? And he said, Of course you can. So I went back to New York and my little brother drove me up to camp and I spent the rest of the summer up there.

Speaker Before we get out of it, because we're almost finished there, um, I'm going to ask you what? Influence, you think, in the overall it might have had on Jerry, knowing what we do now about his work, for example, you all you had to pick things up. You were doing so much work that you had to pick things up very quickly. They also had to work in a wide variety of styles, I think, because you are doing so many different things. Right. There was a lot of emphasis, you talking about Coco before and Leanna's a lot of emphasis on pacing and timing and those things. How you said something about making it work. Could you talk about all that stuff and how maybe that influenced Jerry early in his career?

Speaker I, I think the Jerry could have been influenced by the way Tamiment worked in the beginning, because everybody there was I hate to use this word, but it's the word creative.

Speaker We were all doing something and it was all coming out of different ways of doing things. Jerry was a picker upper from day one, and he was, as I say, like a sponge.

Speaker The fact that it was also full of life and full of energy and full of humor and be funny, be funny, be funny. The floor shows had to be funny. Like the musicals had to be funny. Everybody had to be funny. We had to be funny in the dining room when we all were seated at different dining tables.

Speaker And there was Jerry and I was seated at the same table quite a lot.

Speaker And there were guests that would come and they'd say, Oh, you dancers, what do you do in the winter?

Speaker And Freddy would look at Jerry would look at them and say, Wear an overcoat.

Speaker Things like that just make jokes all day long, and I've I think Jerry learned what he knew at Tamiment and his later years simply amplified it in in the same way that everything he ever learned. Became part of what he did.

Speaker Good. Now, that was not the end of your being in the same place at the same time with Jerome Robbins, right. You had contact with him. When you both ended up at the New York City Ballet, right.

Speaker So could you tell me a little about that when it happened?

Speaker Yeah, when Jerry and I ended up together again at New York City Ballet, it was a 50 51 when the company was beginning to come into its own new ballets were being done. Jerry was already working with the company and a particular year.

Speaker I know that we ended this in 1951, in June of 1951, but we may have started in 1950 preparing the company needed more ballets and there was no money.

Speaker Lincoln Kirstein had said to me, look, we have a lot of costumes from the old American Ballet in the cellar and from the old Metropolitan Opera. You were in both of those companies.

Speaker Do you think you could go down there and find something to make a ballet out of?

Speaker If if you can't, you have to make a ballet for us. But if you can't, they can dance naked, let them dance naked. But will you go down and look? And I said, of course I will.

Speaker And he had asked Jerry to do the same thing. So a day came when Jerry and I traveled together down to the lower basement with Eddie Bigelow, who was in charge of all the keys. Well, I started going through the trunks and pretty soon I found. The old Fledermaus costumes from the Met to purple, gorgeous women's costumes, silhouettes designed by Keith Martin, made by the Helen Pons studio to purple to red, to rose to something else, and also discovered some old costumes from the ballet Lou Kristiansen had done about black and white relationships in the antebellum South, which were, ladies and gentlemen, you know, with the West Coast and all that sort of thing.

Speaker And an idea popped into my head, I thought a classical ballet minstrel show.

Speaker I didn't know where it was going to come from, I just saw it until going after a and I knew I love cake walk and I had always loved Alexander's Ragtime Band.

Speaker And I said, Eddie, we're taking this out.

Speaker Meanwhile, Jerry was monkeying around and Eddie said, Are you ready?

Speaker He said, Yeah, got something. And he had a whole bunch of kind of like big stones. And he said, these are from something Merce Cunningham did. For a ballet society or something a little before in New York City Ballet, but it was a work called Summer Space, but they don't do it anymore.

Speaker And Jerry said, I want these. So we we brought everything up. And I took my costumes at the in the old School of American Ballet with a small studio and a big studio. And. I think Jerry was waiting with his stones outside and I laid out the flameouts, costumes on this side of the studio and the. Black and white costumes and I went looking for a voice of authority to tell me I could use them because, you know, he said, you got to find Mr. B.. So I went and I found this to be and I brought him into the studio and I said, Mr. B, do you think you could put those costumes on the same stage with those costumes? They were both by the same designer that are to the same silhouette. So he teased. He walked around. He looked funny.

Speaker He said, yes, you know, I think you could do that because you see, they are from the same mother, but not the same father. You can do that.

Speaker I said, OK, thank you very much. And I had my costume. So then those were taken side and Jerry Stones came in and Balanchine took one look at them.

Speaker He said, you cannot have that. And Jerry said, why not? I want those stones to be said you cannot have them, they are Merce Cunningham.

Speaker And Jerry said.

Speaker And that ended it when Balanchine said no, it was no, and to that meant an enormous amount to me. Because. I knew Mr. B pretty well, and I know mostly what he thinks about the choreographer's or did think. But that showed respect. For Merce Cunningham, whose work I happen to love and I just thought, good for you, Mr. Be Jerry, even this time.

Speaker When you encountered Jerry those years later in New York City Ballet, did you detect that he had changed and grown in any way?

Speaker Oh, he had. Had Jerry changed or grown?

Speaker Of course, he had, you can say, grown, he was more experienced, he was he could out by all of us. He was, you know, making more money than certainly than Balanchine in those days. Certainly that I was. But he was in the classical ballet. Place and there were a lot of funny things that happened during that period of time because he was wanting to dance.

Speaker He was studying in the school. He was finally getting the classic background. He'd never had Jeri's it, if you remember, Interplay, his first ballet, he had boys doing this. You know, he couldn't do exercises going up to TGT with their hands making fun of little things.

Speaker Now, he was kind of learning them and Balanchine was beginning to put him into ballets. And he was in with two other boys, with Nicky Matulionis and Herbert Bliss. I think it was the Mozart, Sinfonia Concertante, perhaps the first time. Balanchine. Yeah.

Speaker That's where, according to Balanchine's pianist, he had his yearly struggle with Mozart. And Mozart always won anyhow.

Speaker We were in in New York City Center, the inwith before a performance, and the boys in that ballet wore velvet hats with feathers kind of, you know, troubador things. And Jerry was standing in front of the big mirror down in the hall of New York City Center, right outside the stage.

Speaker And he was looking at himself in the mirror and I came along and he said, you know, now I look exactly like what my father was afraid I would look like when I said I wanted to be a dancer.

Speaker And there were a whole lot of things that we we be times when we came together and talk together about things that gave me some ideas about Jerry, I'm just going to go on with it. There was a beautiful company from Israel. That came and played in New York theater. I am so ashamed I can't remember the exact name of it, but it was a Martha Graham had gotten it started. Sarah told Levi, I think, with this. And they did.

Speaker I was Nick Batsheva, it's the other one, the earlier one on.

Speaker I know. Yeah, yes, say it again, involved, it's like involved involved it.

Speaker Yes. All right. There was a beautiful. A beautiful dance company that came from Israel, the Inbal, I think Martha Graham had gotten them started, I'm not sure, but Jerry and I were both out front the night they opened in New York and they did.

Speaker I don't remember whether we talked to each other in an earlier intermission, but there was a wedding dance that was so simple and so beautiful. It took place in one in front of a gold curtain and the bride, with her coverings on the top, approached from. I believe it was. I can't swear I was at a stage where I didn't matter and the groom approached from the other side. They approached each other forever. That was the ballet.

Speaker Little by little by little until they came together. And then they turned to face the audience. And then they kind of went through a symbolic.

Speaker I think it was so simple and it was all gold, and then the final came a final place when the groom lifted her and they didn't even do the thing of the glass, you know, that it was just a wonderful feeling. And in the lobby afterwards, I said I the jury was there. I said, Jerry. Wasn't that beautiful? And he looked at me and in very hollow tones said, yes, Ruthanna, wasn't that a good rich feeling?

Speaker As if he were. Had to say it, but didn't feel it. And I thought that story.

Speaker Also. Well.

Speaker I think, Jerry. I know more about him now, his family than I did in those days. Also, I know more about human behavior now because in the interim, I became a psychoanalyst.

Speaker I think I think Jerry probably came from a dysfunctional family. It had to have been that.

Speaker It had to have been that I don't know the ins and outs.

Speaker I was never I know there were people that adored Jerry and I know there are people that are afraid or were afraid of Jerry. And there are some people who probably hate or hated Jerry. I know that some people loyal to him. I really don't know, because I was not that close, I know, for example, there's something that just jumped into my head while I was actually let me back up a little bit. In that same period that went involved with here and so forth, we both started working on our ballets. I started working on the ballet with my costumes, which eventually became cakewalk. And naturally, if you've ever seen cakewalk, it's full of craziness with people running around and doing ridiculous things. And we worked in the big studio. Jerry started working on another ballet without Merce Cunningham stones. It eventually became the cage and nobody knew what it was about except the dancers that were in it. But we rehearsed next door to each other. So when I had breaks, I'd go in and take a look at Jerry's rehearsal. And I went in there one day and Norrick, I'd grown up with Norrick, was standing in the middle of the studio. Turning purple.

Speaker And Jerry was kind of cowering in front of her and she was saying in her best New York is, you know, Jerry, sometimes you think and I the wall let me out of here.

Speaker So I went back to my little stinky dogs. Well.

Speaker Another day, Jerry came in while they were doing the magic act and they were running around throwing flowers around, the little sylph was shooting the guy with the arrow and all that, and everybody was laughing.

Speaker And Jerry stood there and he said he leaned on the wall and I said, Hi, Jerry.

Speaker You're really having fun, aren't you? I said, yeah, we are. And he turned around and went away. He was said. And I thought.

Speaker I did not know what the cage was about, I just knew that Noro wasn't happy and there were little things like that along the way that made me think, oh, he's not a happy camper. Why isn't he ecstatic?

Speaker Look where we are.

Speaker Look at these tents. He's got the best dancers in the country. He's got Mr. B loving him for.

Speaker Gosh, wow. What more can you ask for? He was enjoying some kind of an interesting relationship with Balanchine. I think they like to cook together.

Speaker You know, yeah, to me, more about that, what was his relationship at that time? So, yeah. OK. Yes. OK, just one sec, just for Andy.

Speaker And that'll feel better. Uh.

Speaker That's good. Yeah, just, yeah, better good with the lips find.

Speaker Tell me when at that time, what was Jerry's relationship with Balanchine and how do you think in your experience, how did you see them relating to each other and how they feel about each?

Speaker How did I see and feel Balanchine and Jerry relating to each other?

Speaker It was very interesting, I had known Mr. B since I was very young and I known Jerry quite a long time, although not right along the way, Jerry seemed to be glowing and growing in the attention. But Balanchine was giving him Balanchine was using him as a dancer, and I'm sure that Jerry knew he was not the world's greatest ballet dancer, but he was trying his best.

Speaker And.

Speaker Balanchine seemed to be.

Speaker Enjoying the relationship from what I can only assume would have been the fact that he might have admired the way in which Jerry could do business on Broadway because Balanchine could never do that. He always had to have managers to handle his money. He didn't like to talk money or anything. And Jerry was making money hand over fist. And Balanchine had, although he had done good work on Broadway, had never been terribly successful the way Jerry was being. I mean, Jerry was really the king of Broadway show.

Speaker They used to go shopping together, they they cooked together, they ran around in their jeans and Nike's and go laughing like two boys.

Speaker And then there was also another relationship, which was choreographically, very interesting and very strange. Little by little by little, I began to see. Choreographic patterns of crosses, diagonals or groups moving in the work that Jerry was doing that I had seen or done in Balanchine's ballet.

Speaker And there came a day. In a rehearsal. Or Jerry was setting. The young person's guide to the orchestra. And he had reached the finale. And he got the kids all to the back of the studio. And he began giving them a forward movement. And they all stood there and they didn't move. So he he this kid is what I want you to do. And they just stood there. And he said, what's the matter? And one of them and I don't remember who it was, said, Jerry, don't you know what this is? He said, what is it?

Speaker He said, this is the beginning of the Scottish Symphony. You know.

Speaker And Jerry did not know. I feel quite certain. But he was picking up, he was picking up, he was picking up. In many ways. As he had picked up all over the place. And. It suddenly occurred to me that how Jerry has formed himself.

Speaker It is in my in my belief it's not written anywhere, Balanchine himself has talked about how he was influenced. He made jokes about it.

Speaker But the fact that Jerry didn't realize he was doing it.

Speaker Mr. Lynch, we were talking about the relationship between Baloji and Jerry. Let me just ask you, what do you think that she invited Jerry to come and share the New York City Ballet dancer and choreographer?

Speaker Why do I think Balanchine invited Jerry to come to New York City Ballet? I don't really know because I wasn't there. And I don't know if it is said that Balanchine invited him, perhaps he did.

Speaker He had to have some kind of a motivation and it had to have come. Either from Jerry or from someone around Jerry who thought it would be good for New York City Ballet and. Personally, I've had a theory for a long time about a possible.

Speaker Motivation. Between Balanchine and Jerry, which is based only on what I know about. One of Balanchine's great loves, and that would be Vera Sorina, which has nothing to do with Jerry, but there is Zareena. In earlier years, I had lived menage a trois with Leonid Messine and his wife Dalla-Riva, and she always was really in love with me, I think everybody knew that. But she did marry Balanchine. And.

Speaker There had to be those feelings in Balanchine about that because of almost all his wives, with the possible exception, Tony, and I really don't know how deep that was with Balanchine. I think she was the big love of at least youth.

Speaker And Jerry.

Speaker It's a lot like was a lot like an evening thing, Jerry, with that kind of character, he was that kind of a dancer. He was much more a character dancer than a classical dancer. And nothing was also a choreographer who had ideas from everybody, from everywhere.

Speaker And he did not do classical ballets. So that it's very possible that with Balanchine could have been. I've got this guy now, I'm bigger than he is, he needs what I've got. So why don't I just use it? Maybe Beland Balanchine could be cold and mean when he wanted to be and he could be sweet and darling when he wanted to be, it all depended on how he got up in the morning.

Speaker What was the feeling in the company around January of that time was he admired and respected what he was feared?

Speaker Can you make a whole. The dancers in the company around the time of cake walk in the cage and so forth. Joey was really mean to a lot of the dancers there was. One rehearsal I watched, I really wanted to kill him, I really did what he was doing a dance with. Three girls and one of them was a very good dancer, but she was into the cookies all the time and she was always a little pumpkin's.

Speaker And.

Speaker Balanchine, at the same time, by the way, was using the same girl in a party cut of some kind.

Speaker And I happen to just see both of these rehearsals. And Jerry. Was rehearsing, and he said.

Speaker And he corrected each one of them, he said to one of them, you know, get there, here, you do this, he said, and you you fat cow.

Speaker And she, you know, went like that.

Speaker When Balanchine was rehearsing the same girl with other girls and another dance, he was saying to them, you know, in this step, I want the feet like needles, you know, needles, needles, needles. And then he happened to look at her and he said, well, some will be dancing needles but needles. And that was the difference between them.

Speaker They could do it. And make you laugh. And and realize, you know, get out of the cookies or they could hurt. And Gerri always hurt.

Speaker I have known dancers who who adored Jerry. I have known dancers who were afraid of Jerry and I don't know.

Speaker Many, many, many of the dancers and all the shows that he did, I only know the ballet dancers that he worked with.

Speaker You talked before a little bit because it was made while you were you were also talking about the speech. Now, you must have seen the ballot. Oh, yeah, lidded. Can you talk a little bit about the ballot choreographically, what it was about and about Newera in it?

Speaker The cage? Can I. Thinking about the cage and my friend Norrick in it. And Nikki Magdalena's, who's head got squashed between her knees and it. And choreographic patterns in it.

Speaker I thought to myself.

Speaker No, you were a damn fool to do this.

Speaker Why do you have to at this stage of the game? I never said it was not my business.

Speaker But I thought.

Speaker It could have been a ballet that might have been thought about and never done. I couldn't really understand. Why, Jerry?

Speaker Needed to do it.

Speaker I knew by then. That he had been a long time in analysis. I know it goes on in analysis, I've been shrunk twice. And. You discover parts of yourself. The surprise you? And you think, oh, really, do I, am I what? But to put it out on the stage. To take a colleague like Norrick, who had been so loyal to Jerry from the beginning, no Naura let forgive me, both Tooter and Jerry Misuzu terribly, terribly, they could get her on the floor screaming.

Speaker Maybe she liked it, I don't know, I once asked her, she said none of your business. I said, All right, OK, sorry.

Speaker People do like to hurt each other. And it appeared to me. The jury either needed. To hurt. A woman.

Speaker Or felt like doing it.

Speaker That's about as far as I ever went with it.

Speaker I knew they were intimate in various ways, I knew that Jerry and Nora had been intimate in various ways.

Speaker I knew that Nora had had a very kind of checkered sexual life ever since she'd been married to Isaac because I knew Isaac very well. And. Huh. You mean Isaac Stern? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, but what do you mean exactly, like shepherd, male, female. I think everybody played around with homosexuality, and I felt that was their business, I wasn't interested. So I just gave up wondering. What about what did you know around that time about Jerry sexually and I knew Jerry like boys and either pretended to like girls or really did.

Speaker I did not know. At that time that he was capable of ever loving anybody.

Speaker Because he was so he behaved in such a.

Speaker Not not standoffish, that is not the right word at all.

Speaker He did not seem to feel love. For anything. Anybody? Only. Kind of anxiety about what he was doing at the moment. And the people who were doing it to get them molded the way he wanted them molded and the more he did, the more it began to seem that he was struggling for it. The word wording here should be kvetching. Kvetching it out.

Speaker He was very controlling, would you say?

Speaker I think you I think you could say he is controlling. I think he.

Speaker It may not have needed to be controlling that, he may have felt that was the only way he could do anything because it's very possible through those long years that success after success, after success. He could have begun to be frightened.

Speaker He had this kind of an effect on, for instance, George Abbott when I did cakewalks.

Speaker The Liebling got very interested in me, Audrey Wood and Leonard Liebling, and they came to see me and they said George Abbott is doing a show. We think you've done a wonderful job here. We'd like to bring him to see it. We'd like to sell you to him.

Speaker I said, well, Broadway show. Why not? And so they arranged an appointment, they did bring him to see cakewalk.

Speaker So he received me in a very hostile manner. And he sat me down and he said, Miss Boris, can you do what Jerome Robbins can do? And I.

Speaker Flared up. And said Mr Abbott, my name is Ruthanna Borith.

Speaker I can do what I can do. If my name were Joe Jerome Robbins, I could do what Jerome Robbins can do, and he did not give me the show. What was it? I don't even remember. I just put it out of my mind, and in those days that was later after cakewalk, Broadway agents were beginning to get meaner and leaner and meaner. And there was a lot of sadism going on.

Speaker You know, I had interviews with people. I was offered the the Colgate show with Eddie Cantor and like an idiot, I turned it down because the director said, are you going to do what I tell you to do? So I thought, oh, you know. And he said, like like if if if I get a kid, I want him to jump up there, you know, that do that thing in the air with feet.

Speaker And I want Candy to say easy.

Speaker That kid hasn't seen a woman for a long time. And I said, I'm sorry. I couldn't do anything like that. I was most people used to call me classical Clara. So I did myself out of a lot of money. But I don't know that I'm sorry.

Speaker Let's go back a little bit. You were talking about her relationship with Jerry, but I wonder if you can just tell me a little bit for somebody who doesn't know her and never saw her dance with a dancer was Nora.

Speaker What kind of a dancer was Nora, Nora? Very interesting question I. What kind of a ballet dancer was Norrick or what kind of a dancer in her own right was Norrick? Norrick had a good, solid ballet background, it was same as mine. Italian. Tudor had refined it. To an extreme sensitivity.

Speaker And.

Speaker Then Nora became that dancer technically. As the years went on.

Speaker The legwork. Gutless, fine. The kind of things that the pointing and the stretching all began to kind of. Not be so great. And she began to not care. And people to to try to create roles for her. Balanchine couldn't, he didn't.

Speaker She was. She was a good artist. She was a capable dancer. That's. What was her forte, the. Strength. She loved to turn.

Speaker What about as a, um, what kind of a story teller was she to dispel this magnificent.

Speaker In to ballet's Norrick told the story he wanted told he turned her into his woman.

Speaker I saw her in the cage.

Speaker And I felt bad about it.

Speaker I saw her in what else the de ballet heralds, or I forget the name of the ballet, something that trumpets trumpets of, you know, something or other. It was all kind of makeshift.

Speaker It was like, now we'll make Nora look good.

Speaker It just seems to appeal to me as Ballay.

Speaker And I I don't know why, but wouldn't you say that she had unusual, dramatic gifts?

Speaker I would say no. It could have been a very good actress.

Speaker It's hard to tell. I thought, all right, let me let me say this. I thought she was remarkably powerful.

Speaker And Lizzie Borden.

Speaker Fall River legend Agnes Jamil's that. Really made Nora look good. Agnes was able to do it. I don't think the boy the the jury did. I think he made her look less and then also there was that other one he did with the three of them.

Speaker I don't remember the name.

Speaker Facsimile, something like that, it maybe is like that, just don't appeal to me.

Speaker I wonder why he waste dancing on it.

Speaker Tell me a little bit about, um, ten look, uh, Jerry had a very special relationship with her you talk about.

Speaker I'll kill the clerk, I love to kill the clerk, Danny, I've known from a young student and had many good times working with her. She was lovely to work with. She was, I thought, a wonderful dancer, very light, great sense of flight, great sense of pleasure, a great sense of fun and a very serious side. Also, what happened in her life was a tragedy. She got polio so young, was terrible. And I didn't know until quite recently that Jerry had really been in love with her. But I can understand that she might have been.

Speaker The one human being, the one human woman. He could have loved because tany to me.

Speaker Was an elf.

Speaker As a child, she was an elf in class. She was an elf, she used to after class we would work with Mr. Book and everything would be so correct and so beautiful.

Speaker And after class, she would race around the studio turning in and say, like, you cool cats, I can do this, you know, I can do anything I want.

Speaker And working with her and cakewalk was a total joy. I also wanted to use her in another ballet.

Speaker I did, but Balanchine wouldn't let me. So that was the end of that.

Speaker What did you observe about?

Speaker I never saw them together. I only saw them dance together in Western Symphony.

Speaker Hmm. What was.

Speaker Well, very good, because the choreography made it so with Balanchine, he used the difference in height, made it funny, and it was OK.

Speaker Did you do you remember any other of Jerry's valets at that?

Speaker Age of anxiety. Do I remember I remember age of anxiety.

Speaker I thought it was stupid.

Speaker How long can you jiggle?

Speaker I never saw.

Speaker Oh, well, it was a lot of people teetering. On the edge of a beginning earthquake of some kind. Duty to to do and that's that and different kind of relationships. And it was. It fulfilled the title. But these are only my critiques, I'm not, you know.

Speaker You said that every once in a while you would visit Jerry's rehearsals. What can you tell me then about his.

Speaker What do you remember?

Speaker What do I remember about Jerry's rehearsal process?

Speaker He.

Speaker Very often acted a lot like Tudor. He would walk around. He would walk around.

Speaker He would walk around, he would start to try something and try something else. He tried out a whole lot of things.

Speaker He just kept them, he he worked a lot the way Maxine did, as a matter of fact. Because I had seen me, I seen in the olden olden days. Kind of let them wait till my inspiration comes.

Speaker I didn't really ever stay in the rehearsal too long with uncomfortable, and I didn't like him to feel I was, you know, watching.

Speaker There was.

Speaker A moment. When I really at one point.

Speaker Confronted him with something that.

Speaker Really? Had nothing to do with dancing.

Speaker But it was when I felt. He had gone he had misused his power. He had gone too far. In a very.

Speaker Unhealthy direction. I knew quite a lot about Gerry's political background. Because we had all sort of come up around the same time.

Speaker And there was a time in my youth when a great many dancers did belong to the Communist Party and were recruiting other dancers.

Speaker I hung out with musicians and they belong to the American Labor Party. It was fashionable. Like it's fashionable now to be talking about what's our government doing for us, so forth and so on, and I never really took it terribly seriously. My mother was a lifelong Democrat. She had been a suffragette, votes for women when with long hair, she said the men stood on either side of the street and threw rotten eggs and tomatoes at us. And they hit my dress and they rolled down my dress and I said, Whatever did you do? She said, That's what I did not do. I did not cry. I marched with my mother and my father was a lifelong eight, what I call Abraham Lincoln, Republican nanana. And so all the radicals around me didn't really bother me. They tried to convert me and they said, you're just a dumb ballet dancer and you run around on your toes and this and that and the other thing. And I said, well, I'll think about it. You know, I'll just go as far as the American Labor Party and one day.

Speaker It was made public. We knew.

Speaker That there was a television man who did a talk show subclan, I think his name was Ed Sullivan. And that.

Speaker If people who had belonged to the Communist Party and were about to be shown by the that McCarthy committee would come to him and give him names. Of people they knew who had belonged to the party. He could get them off.

Speaker And I was told that Jerry had done that. And I couldn't believe it. So I went to him. And I said, Jerry.

Speaker Did you do that? He looked at me. I said, you did get you. How could you?

Speaker And he looked me straight in the eye. He said it was my skin or the ears.

Speaker Now, a lot of them. Were.

Speaker Work from job to job. They were blacklisted, some of them didn't work in their chosen profession for 20 years.

Speaker And I never heard that he cared. I didn't I don't know, I never discussed it with him again, but I have that is something I just simply have not been able to understand. He was so lucky.

Speaker How would you, um.

Speaker But second, because you sort of skipped ahead and there's a. I just want to go back a little bit. You were talking before about. How it was fashionable for people at that time to belong to socialist related organizations, and that sounds very different to young people today than it would have been when it was not unusual for artists of all kinds and other people, workers of all kinds, to be interested in this. And it had very much to do with what was going on in the world.

Speaker And that's exactly why the United States, everybody was trying to convert me.

Speaker But what was it? Was it, for example, do you think it was a reaction against fascism that was burgeoning in Europe? Was it a reaction against exploitation that was happening in various parts of the world? What was it, do you suppose, at that time that drew everybody to explore that way of thinking about how we should organize ourselves?

Speaker What do I think was happening at that time, the time of the McCarthy committee and all the problems about communism or thoughts about organizations like that, that was happening, I think. We had come through a depression.

Speaker And in many ways.

Speaker People were beginning to look at a different form of government saying, would that serve us better than what we've got?

Speaker We did not have television. That much information was not that easy to get at.

Speaker And there was a great deal of pressure put on young people in those days. I know that in a way, I was married to a cellist and I know that the pressures in the musicians union were terrific, who belong to what and so forth. I think that it was might have been a little bit. Is it possible that what's happening today, people are beginning to lose faith? They're saying, well, we thought it was less, but it's bad and they tell us this, but it's that we were coming in after.

Speaker Al-Kasim.

Speaker Not like the one we've got now.

Speaker People work, particularly the children of immigrants. Russian Jews. Who are always, you know, what what what can be better, what can be better, what will be good for our people? I know that people worked on me. There was a very eminent writer in those days and his wife, and they worked over me for a very long. And it took me they had money. They took me to Longshanks. They've done me. And please join the party. It will be good if you join the party. I never did.

Speaker I joined the American Labor Party so I wouldn't be arguing with either my mother, my father, the American Labor Party was mostly allied with the Democratic Party.

Speaker And the first time I had voted when I was 18, I voted for the second term of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. And I have voted every year since then. I understand now that Jerry's family had been involved with political activity. I am not sure what that was not my business at all. It was only my business when this came up, when I spoke to him that I wondered how.

Speaker He could. To colleagues.

Speaker And I did know and I don't really know whether he suffered from having done that or not or how he felt about it or whether he ever did anything about it. That's where I begin and end.

Speaker How would you. About the totality of what you know about Jerry, how would you describe him as a.

Speaker How would I describe Jerome Robbins as a person, a very gifted person? Jerry was a gifted dancer. He had not had the training he could have had. And I think in some ways that may have affected his attitude toward the work and the the way he did it and the the field in which he did it because he was beginning to come up, as we all were, at the advent of George Balanchine, at the advent of Anthony Tudor, at the formation of American Ballet Theatre, of all of the wonderful things that we now have and.

Speaker I think he made the most of his chances. I hope he lived a happy life. I know that he lived a financially successful life, if that made him happy. That's good. I don't know much about his personal relationships.

Speaker But all in all, from what I knew of him through the years as we both grew.

Speaker And I realized I was enjoying life. That he. Was suffering from his life. In some. Very. Frenetic way, by frenetic, I mean, he'd he'd blow hot and cold.

Speaker I didn't know him at the end, I mean, I wasn't around him and I was out of New York basically from 1965. I was in and out, but, you know, I wasn't around anymore. I don't think he was a terribly happy person.

Speaker I really don't know. I don't know what people mean when they say my life was fulfilled or not everybody's themselves.

Speaker I believe he served theater. Excellently, well, as an American, he made us look good around the world at.

Speaker Because a lot of Jerry things in musical comedy, I mean, a lot of them show Americans kind of enthusiast and like like we are so people know us because of that.

Speaker I remember one thing. This is one of the funny things I remember with from way back. He said when he did his first show. I think it had a lot of crowd scenes in it.

Speaker Was it Miss Subways or on the town, on the town, on the town? He got tickets for his father's first term his father had seen and his father said, what, Jerry? What keeps him from bumping into each other? He said, Pop, that's what they pay before. I mean, were all I mean, that side of Jerry to. But unhappily.

Speaker What did he leave behind him? He's left a lot of good work. In repertoire as a ballet company's. He's made the world think that American choreographer's. Do important work. No, he's an important and important personage in the world of ballet. Without even. The proper training now, that's a remarkable. Achievement. Good for him, good for him.

Speaker You saw the original production of Fancy Free. Can you tell me something about that?

Speaker Yes, I saw the original production of fancifully sat out front and watch them dance, and it was a lot of fun. It was a ballet unlike any other ballet you'd ever seen. Three sailors. Gerri, oh, that was interesting, the things he put into it. Johnny Critser and Harold Lang were actually in those days much stronger technically than Gerri was.

Speaker So they did all the Humpty Dumpty jumped and he did all the dirty to do and do to do do you know that sort of thing? He got the characters in very well of what they were. There was a lot of fun in it and relationship with the girls. I liked it very much. Was a good ballet.

Speaker How is it different than anything? It's.

Speaker American ski American, they were there, American sailor boys, I mean, I'd seen things like that in the movies. But that was not on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House, which is, I believe, where I saw it, the old Nat.

Speaker And. Before that time. There was not. I have to ask you this, um. Can you give me a little bit of an. How this what part did fancy free play? In these sort of. Americanization of.

Speaker What part did fancy free play in the Americanization of ballet? I think it was one in a line because.

Speaker When I say the word ballet, I'm not saying classical academic ballet. The word Bullo in Italian means to dance to me, all dancing is ballet, it is dancing. I think before that there had been the definitions. There had been Martha Graham, there had been Humphrey Weidemann, there had been on a Sokoloff, the people that were coming up from there, there had been.

Speaker The people who grew out of that tradition, and I think Jerry had been influenced by that in his youth, by being around it as much as anything else, so that. They had given him, shall I say, the same way I feel about myself, the permission to be who he was. And he what he really did.

Speaker Was bring character dancing to that kind of a standard in the same way that the Russian character dancers did that that when they did their their folk dances and so forth, these were beginning to be sort of balletic American folk dances. And I think it played a role, but it followed the people that had led and other people followed it.

Speaker Agnes also worked with American Theme's. Around the same time. How would you contrast their contributions to this sort of. You said it's in a line. How would you contrast what they did in this sort of succession of making ballet American music for her name, if you can?

Speaker I worked with Agnes Mills, so I was I was in some of her early experiments to do.

Speaker Agnes Temel was an American woman, Jerry Robbins was an American born man.

Speaker They chose to use American themes following in the path of Americans who had gone before them, who followed in the path of Russians who had gone before them. Why? Why is it written anywhere that a Russian has a right to do it? Yeah, I'm terrible, terrible. But no American has the right to do a little tap dancing now and again. I had a right to do the cake walk when I felt like it. That came out of probably the first real American folk dance in history, which is the cakewalk because the cakewalk was invented by slaves on a southern plantation to deal with one of their big problems. I won't go into it, but but if you're looking for a real American folk don't look at tap. It's a mixture of African and Irish. Those kind of Agnese used Scottish dancers as everybody uses what they have been exposed to as their basis.

Speaker Americans are exposed to everything right now. The American race. Is happening. I believe we are in a Raith. Where everybody. Almost we're almost there, so why shouldn't dancing? Let's say ballet dancing.

Speaker Reflect that dancing reflects people's feelings, it reflects people's thoughts. So forth, it doesn't need words.

Speaker So.

Speaker Everybody did the best they could do. I can't really compare anybody to anybody. Everybody is talented according to their genes, their surroundings, etc. Some people really push to the hilt of their gift.

Speaker I don't know among us. Who did that, they say George Balanchine did. How do we know Jerry Robbins did?

Speaker How do we know they are the only ones who knew?

Speaker What would you say if you could list them, what were Gerry's strengths as a choreographer?

Speaker Jerry Strength is the choreographer. What were they humor? Humor, energy, a sort of satirical look at things like the concert, actually, I think is one of the funniest ballets I have ever seen. It's marvelous, you know. Uh. Probably those are his best works.

Speaker I'm not certain.

Speaker When he began to become classical.

Speaker I began to see. So many pieces of so many other. But when he was doing fancy free, when he was doing all that, when he did, he shows. Jerry was being Jerry.

Speaker Talk about the concert a little bit since yourself.

Speaker Uh, the concert. Well, it just it takes a.

Speaker A very I I keep wanting to use the word Alphen, but there must be another word than that a.

Speaker It just takes a look at certain kind of concert prerogatives that you take for granted, the got turned upside down like the raindrop prelude.

Speaker I can't really put it into words. It's just when I see the movement and I see what's happening, I laugh. If it's well, then I left twice as much.

Speaker I have seen that ballot, I don't know how yeah, yeah, but but, you know, the feeling is really the feeling.

Speaker You don't have to put it into words.

Speaker No, you really have to show. Yeah. Of.

Speaker I'm going to ask you I just want to say for a moment myself and see if there's anything I've forgotten, but I'm going to ask you if there's anything that you'd like to tell me about Jerry that I haven't already asked.

Speaker So anything I would like to say about Jerry.

Speaker We haven't talked about.

Speaker Well. I know him more. Through his work.

Speaker Then I do as a private person, as a private person, I didn't really know, I could assume from a state, an educated standpoint, I could guess. It was hard for me to feel collegial with him.

Speaker Whereas.

Speaker The day I have met certain people, I feel I know them and and I'm part of them, and that's a lot of people. A lot. A lot. A lot of people.

Speaker Well, this is very strange. The day I met Leonid Nithin. I did not feel close to him. The day I met George Balanchine, I did. And I can't tell you.

Speaker It was nothing in me, it was something in them that let me. Come close. And the same thing was true with Jerry. It was hard to feel close to Jerry. You were there and he put snakes in your bed and you talked to him and he said, why did you do this and why did you do that? But you were not close. I really don't know any other way to say it. I wish I could be more eloquent, but I'm not.

Speaker Did you find, um, as an artist? Did you get a sense?

Speaker Um, that he operated from a place of confidence and security and why or why not?

Speaker Did I feel that Jerry operated from a standpoint of confidence and security?

Speaker No. I did not. In a way that may have been what kept me off of him.

Speaker The are the feeling of are you questioning me? Do you trust me? Maybe if I had come straight out to him, although in the beginning I did, I said, hi, this is who I am. And he said, this is who I am.

Speaker So he had a need. Early on. To assert himself. Beyond a simple coming together, and I think that may have been what I felt from the beginning, I really don't know.

Speaker There are people we all have a set of laws that you get to know after a long period of time. And there are other people, you know, immediately, even though you don't even know their name.

Speaker Now, that, to me, is what feelings are all about our genes.

Speaker Well, I could be real silly and say, what about reincarnation, did we know each other before?

Speaker You know, it's interesting, though, because you had you would think that you would have had some sort of connection because your background is not dissimilar. Your interests were not dissimilar. You are both had a certain amount of talent for dancing. You have a lot in common.

Speaker Jerry and I had a tremendous amount, both Jewish kids, immigrant families, politics don't count thing like that, all the insecurities, all of the things. But I never felt that with him, my theater background was so totally different, though I was Miss Metropolitan Opera.

Speaker By the time he got to know me.

Speaker And I had been had my name over the Winter Garden Theatre. Actually, I had done a theatrically a lot more I was a pupil of George Balanchine.

Speaker I've been in the American Ballet.

Speaker And Jerry. Was a pupil of Jerome Andrews.

Speaker So maybe there is a little insecurity there, I think maybe.

Speaker Well, you know, also I wasn't the best of, you know, I'm sure I put on airs and carried on.

Ruthanna Borris
Interview Date:
2005-12-20
Runtime:
2:09:35
Keywords:
None
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-m03xs5k415, cpb-aacip-504-rx93776p9c, cpb-aacip-504-j09w08x29k, cpb-aacip-504-t727941n7h
MLA CITATIONS:
"Ruthanna Borris, Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 20 Dec. 2005, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/976
APA CITATIONS:
(2005, December 20). Ruthanna Borris, Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/976
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Ruthanna Borris, Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). December 20, 2005. Accessed July 03, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/976

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