Transcript:

Speaker So it's father and daughter. You had a very unique experience because you worked with instruments, the same choreographer. Mm hmm. Jack, what did you tell Charlotte before she was going to go to work for Jerry?

Speaker Nothing, except when she was in Jerome Robbins Broadway. I said, don't trust him, but he's great. He's great. He's great. And but don't trust him because he'll say things. And, you know, the next day he's. I changed it all around, and I can't trust what he's saying, I, I do remember you telling me to.

Speaker Make sure that I get what I'm supposed to do in the show, in my contract, because Jerome Robbins is known for pretty much, you know, you work for four weeks or two months on one part and then he'll switch you off with somebody else. And and so I was the only person in that cast of 60 who had in my contract. I do this. I did this. I did this.

Speaker I didn't know that. Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. And good for you.

Speaker I remember, you know, I mean, I fought all the way to the end because I knew that he would do that and he still did it in rehearsals. He would switch. But I always knew that the part was going to be right.

Speaker So as much as it was still hard, but it was a constant switching around of people. And and so that was the one really smart thing that you gave me on that one, because it's a hard thing to have to deal with.

Speaker He he I don't know why. He just had to try to do every possible thing, positive or negative, to squeeze everything out of his cast in every possible way to get the best that he for himself. Right. At a tremendous cost to the emotional life of the people that he worked with. Is that good or bad? I don't know. He sure did great choreography and great ballets and great Broadway shows. And there was a terrific, sensitive man at work that was afraid to allow that sensitivity to impinge in any way on what he saw as his vision of how something should be done anyway. But I said, I'm going to tell you something. He was scared of me.

Speaker He was scared of me and what happened, why do I say that? Because I was dancing in New York City Ballet. The first rehearsal I had was with Jerome Robbins. I just turned 15 years of age. A couple of months later, I'm in the court of ballet and I'm called to rehearse the ballet to guest. Right that at that around the at that Mark Blitzstein, I think was the music. And we're in a line in the court of ballet, in a line facing this other line, doing it and. Jerry started, you know, like a jock, you know, the lampposts with feet because I was six foot one and one hundred thirty five pounds, 15 years old. Right. The lamppost. And then it was lamppost with teeth because I'm always smiling. Kind of. And it was. And did he mean it nicely or negatively or was it just being cute or clever or was he really you know, I don't know. I don't know. He was rehearsed, rehearsed, rehearsed, never satisfied. Never. And he did. OK, so now the point. Is she right? He starts first. He the first warning about Cherry was he wanted to do a ballet to retie music, three exits. It was going to be called the season was over. There was no money. So right before we were going to have a break, Christmas break period, time comes. Hey, I really like your dancing jocund. You have some kind of, you know, wild young youth energy. And I'm thinking of this ballet to do. And what are you doing after the holidays? Right after New Year's. You're free to work with me. Right. So you're right. I think I was sixteen then and I thought, oh, my God, work with Jerry Robbins now. Unknown to me, he's with somebody else and he's on there. And then so I say yes right now cause no one's getting paid. Right, never mentioned. Now I get there and there are like 20 people that he's told the same thing to, and you don't know that till you come now. We rehearsed for three weeks. On this ballot, by the way, it ended up being native dances, Balanchine took the music and did native dances to it. But after three weeks, huh? Thanks a lot, kids. And right before it becomes. Thanks a lot, kids. There was something negative about working for nothing. You're very nice to you till the day. Yes. Now you can't doesn't need you anymore. So it has to be a reason to dump you. So it becomes you know, I just had this idea about this ballet, but it didn't work out. I don't think any of you are right for it. It's not. It's no good. That's what we're left with, right? So I had had that experience, so now he started the concert and he calls me to rehearsal for the concert. And there's Todd dancing and Technicolor, Claire dancing. And I'm sitting and I'm reading this book and. Right. And he's never using me. And then he started with Afternoon before I was the original with Frank Munsen and Irene Lawson and Tanuki LeClaire. And he kept playing with us. Frank, you do it with Danny Jocke. You do it with Danny Frank. You do it Irene. Well, you try to go in the back and and then things like that. Frank was shocked the way he does this, then, you know, like, you know, I'm better. And you then and then the reverse. You lost everything going back and. Right. So.

Speaker When it came to make the presentation for Lincoln and Balanchine comes in to see his afternoon before and when he's ready to let everybody see it. I was so such a mean teenage brat, you can imagine I'd sit there and he'd say, All right, Jack, now you try it with Tany. And I'd say, With who?

Speaker Like I you know, the irritating kid, sort of.

Speaker So anyway, then it was premiered. I didn't do the premiere, but I hated it. I wouldn't watch it. And I turned off the speaker system in a dressing room so I wouldn't have to hear it. Right. And then we go on tour. And Frank didn't go and I have to dance it, and he he had scheduled me like after the premiere, the second or third performance, and I said, no, I can't. I'm not going to. So I didn't do it till I was on tour. What a great ballet. How I love the ballet dancing. Britany Oh, my God. What a great great. Among the greatest ballets that he ever did was to perform. And then I did it consistently. Anyway, so but right around that time of Consett, when he he came to me and I told rehearsal tomorrow and I turned around, it was two weeks into rehearsal, I said, Jerry, I'm not coming to your rehearsals anymore. I read half the public library waiting for you to use me while you play around with me. I'm not going to have any more rehearsal. And I didn't. So he I was in a few other ballets, the core soloists and a lot of other roles. But he always was very nice and careful with me. And then he didn't use me, which I was delighted I would do for an I would now and now years go by now. This is Chollet when you hear this. He's premiered Goldberg Variations. Right, and it's a big hit, the screaming and the reviews and everything like that, and I've already heard from Lincoln Kirstein that Jerry has been complaining that I don't want to be in his Ballies.

Speaker Don't forget, I'm already an old guy. I'm ready to quit. Right. I'm over 40 and. He's in the elevator and the two of us in an elevator and he suddenly says, Jack, I want you to I want you to do. I want you to do Helga's Roland and Goldbeck. I want to put you in and I'd like to see you in it like that. And you know how the body language before you can do anything, and later I realized my hands were at my throat.

Speaker I was like this. I was like and I had this stupid grin on my face.

Speaker And I was saying, Jerry, I can't take your rehearsals. I can't. I can't, Jerry. I can't write. It's not only I don't want to. I can't. Well, the elevator's coming down. What about the stage level? And he his little shoulders went up and he made a little fist and it's him and he went, oh, you. And he hit me and he hit me.

Speaker And he went like that.

Speaker And then his face felt like he was amazing. So, yeah, we both stood there looking at my mouth, fell open on looking at it, and the elevator door opened and he went out and I was watching, watching him walk down a hallway, nervous little. Anyway, I can't believe he ever cast me and Jerome Robbins when Chris he liked you. He liked Chris and he liked Charlotte and he loves my wife.

Speaker He used to call a Tweety Bird, Carrie, because she had it so good. We all dance anyway. I've talked a lot. I'm sorry, but you'll end it all in a way.

Speaker I just want to go back a little bit. Yeah.

Speaker Many people today, when they think of the New York City Ballet, all they know is Lincoln Center and full houses and glamour. But that's not how it always was at the New York City Ballet.

Speaker Oh, sure, of what the company was like, OK, where they danced in New York, what it was like, OK, OK, see, it's ballet society was a dream of Lincoln that, you know, the aristocracy of the rich would be the patrons and and it was struggling along and it was really Lincoln's.

Speaker Three.

Speaker Well, thanks to Morten Barnes and Noble Morris at City Center and a performance we did where we rented the city center to do Ballet Society, it just came together at the right time. And they offered Lincoln a chance to have this ballet society become New York City Ballet and be a permanent home in this Masonic Lodge place of, I don't know, two thousand seven hundred seats, 300 seats. I don't enormous. So now everybody is excited and they do their season and they begin to bring people in. Harold Lang from Broadway, who was a dancer, and and Jerry Robbins, who was a performer. He was a principal dancer. He also became associate assistant artistic director and choreographer. But he was a dancer and a good dancer. I remember him. And Third Movement Symphony and C doing the double tours that you don't see anymore. And that variation and he was wonderful in The Prodigal Son. He wore a turban and he was very Jewish as biblical and wonderful and Tillerman Spiegel, which was done for him. He was really a tremendous performer. Dramatic. Talented, imaginative, technically proficient to be able to handle all the stuff. But a light weight, by that I mean on stage, he didn't have the presence like you, Lang had a presence that hit you from the back of the house or noriaki or dramatically. He didn't project that power like Melissa Hayden did.

Speaker Alexander theory does. Right. So but he was terrific. And so he was a dancer with the rest of us, sweating, doing bar, hurting ourselves, rehearsing all day, having to perform, being sick. He was one of us at the same time. He was this choreographer who was tormenting everybody to try to see if he could get more out of you. So he was schizophrenic when he was because he'd be one of us as a dancer and wonderful. He could be so charming, Charlotte, he would sit and have a cup of coffee. He was charming.

Speaker Well, that was his thing. I mean, he would, you know, abuse you in rehearsals and you would walk out of there crying and and then the next minute he would come and tell a joke or smile or say something nice. And he would you would just totally be at his feet. He would warm your heart and he would just smile.

Speaker I don't know. He he and he was kind of schizophrenic. He had those two qualities when he was intense and working. But also he loved to laugh. And if you can make him laugh, I mean I mean just somebody. This guy in our show who passed away, God bless him, named Michael Scott Gregory, who was in Jerome Robbins Broadway. And he could just. Make Jerome laugh on any, and it would be a serious scene in the room and it would just be one thing and he would be on the floor laughing, you know, and and and he could just he could warm your heart.

Speaker I mean, I remember hating him. I mean, just hating him. And then I remember he came and he he actually apologized to me weeks weeks later about something. And he smiled and I went, that's it. I love him. You know, he was a real comedy. And that's why I think he got people still worked with him. I mean, besides him being brilliant. Which he was and there was no doubt about it, and I remember with Jerome Robbins always feeling safe and I've never felt that way with that, I have with the couple, but like. Always feel I mean, you would we work for six months with that show, Jerome Robbins, the whole time, and he changed things and you did it differently every day, and he would give you notes and you would go all the way, you know, one way to the next day and you would feel uncomfortable and he would go, that's wrong. And and but you always felt that he would get it right. And when when you would get on stage, you would be great. And I've never felt that way with any other director that's safe. And to just give yourself to him completely and know you were going to be great. And he did. He made everybody in that show great. I mean, and and I think his whole thing was switching with casts. I mean, he's also like that with choreography. I mean, he would be like, do it with the pinkie up, with the pinkie down. He'd spent two days on I remember on on the town you had a mob of people that would just move across the stage together, kind of just turning. And then one would lift. One would come down, one would lift one, and that's it. And he'd spent two days on it and like literally fiddle with one person moving slowly. And then what was it with the other person with his hand, I mean. Hours and hours, and so he was like that with people just switching around is the way he worked, he and he'd have to go all the way one way to come back to what he did originally, but know that that that didn't work, you know, but he had to try it. You know, he was also a great actor. He could play every role, every role, every person, because. Jerome Robbins, Broadway, you did. I don't know how many shows we did, but there were like ten or ten or something like that, different shows. And he would play different characters. And and every character was a woman, a man, a dog, a cat. Peter Pan.

Speaker All of them got to remember him laughing so hard when I was trying to fly, I'd get up there and I'd played Peter Pan and I remember the first time I remember being up and purchase and we had to do we were doing the whole show and I didn't have any flying gear at that point. And I had to run around the stage in front of a whole audience singing, I'm flying, you know, but just running, you know. And I remember going to him saying, please don't let me do this anymore. It's so embarrassing to me because he because I kept doing it sarcastically, I would be like, I'm flying, you know? And I remember getting notes from him, don't do it sarcastically, you know, do it real. I'm like, you got to be kidding me.

Speaker I can't do it real. I'm not flying.

Speaker But anyway but I do remember having them. And that's when they started to I started to learn how to fly and they put the things on me and he just I remember him being in the audience howling as I was twisting around because it takes a while to learn how to.

Speaker He thought that was the funniest thing, watching me just falling. And I remember him in the audience just thinking that was so funny. But eventually I did I did master. It eventually took a while.

Speaker But anyway, so that you agree with it and you were great flying, you know, sometimes New York City Ballet come on at City Center. Right. Sometimes on a matinee, there'd be more dancers on stage than in the audience. And we were like, forty people in the company. Right. And you have to dance everything. Like I would, for example, be doing Swan Lake, one of the and the court of ballet would be one of the guys in Swan Lake. Then I'd come down and I'd be a rock and Orpheus make a costume change. Then there'd be a party of maybe a glass ski and tall trees and Sylvia and then you'd get ready and I'd be in Bori. Fantastic. I'd be the lead in Western Symphony or right. Everybody dance. Everything right. And also.

Speaker Rehearse all day. All day class nine o'clock to 10:00, stop rehearsing at 10, 10 o'clock to 12, 12, 30 hour break two o'clock, rehearse till six, six o'clock. You have two hours. And then you're on stage during that two hours you were on stage usually because somebody is injured or you had practice with your partner and you're going over things like 11 o'clock, the show's over. Right. And you have dance all day by now, a season, maybe three weeks. You may have three weeks rehearsal and three weeks performance. Then you're laid off. You laid off, but what saved New York City Ballet in those early days was a friend of Balanchine, Leonidas, who was a impresario, and he would book us all over Europe so the whole company would go in the spring and took three and a half, four months, one six months tours all over Europe. And it was fantastic.

Speaker But Carrie talks about it. I mean, nineteen fifty three. I left the company to go to a movie, seven for seven brothers. So I left. When I left, Todd Bolander was lying on the trunk and he had just finished Jerry Robbins into play. I was alternating with Todd and doing a variation in it. And, you know, there's four boys and one of them does the variation. OK, Todd's on the trunk. There's another ballet coming. I'm I'm not in that. I'm leaving to pack up my bags in the morning. Take the Rapidan in Milan, Todds, they're exhausted with bronchitis. And I felt so guilty to be leaving the company because I was alternating with most everything lead in Lilit God, everything. I'm leading a company. It's still had about six weeks more to go on this tour. At the end I wasn't there, but Carrie was. My wife was in the company. She wasn't my wife but Charlotte, Carrie said. And in that last movement of body contact, there are eight girls in the back. And you do this, swing your arm swinging around like that. And Carrie says she's doing the finale. And she looked over and there were. One other person on the stage, Cheney Mason, on stage, right, the six girls in the middle were out, they were in the wings. There were more people in the wings with injuries, sprains and broken legs and sick watching the last night, Nancy, than there was on the stage. So, I mean, that's the way I mean, we really learned and I'm sure and ABC was the same and Jerry grew up with that. And Abati with us in New York City Ballet, he find fifty three fifty. He had stopped performing with us dancing, but he started talking about Jerry's performance.

Speaker Now, I have to tell you about Jerry, by the way. Buhrow fantastic. Was done for him and Tany, and it was adorable. You know, the big, tall, skinny praying mantis, you know, and Jerry Robbins, the Crichlow, kind of cute with a little beret like the little French kind of street guy, kind of. OK, so Jerry was not a big person in terms of size. It was slim and tiny and, you know, finally good proportion, but funny. So here he is in Prodigal Son and Yvonne Manzie. Is the siren, and she's a big woman, beautiful big woman with breasts and long legs and everything, and she's on point and at one time she steps over him and sits on his head.

Speaker It's terrible. But everybody in the dressing room would laugh because they'd say, you know, it's a good thing he has that turban on.

Speaker But he was really good in it. He was really, really good in it. And they were great people to do it. You language wonderful. Ed Lalai was terrific. Frank Munsie and we used to all the whole company, including Jerry would be on stage, left the ring prodigal son at the end when he crawls across the stage to watch Frank and do it. I mean it was sublime and all the girls were in love with Frank and they'd be crying and, you know, was he was certainly an Eddie. And to be Eddie Villella in the opening scene of of prodigal son would fly in the air with all that energy and amazing. And Jerry Jerry brought, I don't know, some kind of wonderful, I don't know, biblical feeling to it. And now biblical I don't know how to explain it, except maybe it was the costume or just the way he approached it. You just felt you were watching a scene from. Jerusalem or Palestine or the Middle East, you didn't feel he somehow made it and I can't put my finger on why he had that more than anybody to the feeling that it was you were looking at a scene from 2000 years ago. No, he wasn't ferocious, I mean, you really believed it when, you know, I was one of the dog of the bull headed guys that come in and troll around and and you really felt this as if he was this well-meaning youth that had just fallen in with a bunch of, you know, and and he was really vulnerable to this gang, Franchitti, who was built and strong. You didn't get that feeling. And Eddie, with his powerful energy, no Cherry had the most vulnerability. I would say that was the most vulnerable, most vulnerable in that role.

Speaker No telling Spiegel Borey, fantastic age of anxiety, I mean, he was wonderful, he did that ballet age of anxiety. He dreamed it and put it together. And it's by the way, it's a great ballet. It's gone. No one can remember it, but it was. Yes. Oh, he did. He dreamed it up and dance the music and dance to it. And he and that, you know, there was a whole thing like the Cicotte psychoanalysis. And I mean, it was a period it represented its period in time.

Speaker It's dated. Now, if you did it now, it would be dated kind of like the green table. It's like a dated piece. It's like that age of anxiety.

Speaker It was trying to express after the war people coming, trying to find their place, trying to find yourself everything, what can you find yourself? Oh, the poor guy never found himself fighting so and and trying to be an individual. And yet, where do you fit in society? Go to a party and have a sterkel cocktail dance, dancing like mad and yet you can't find it and drink and pleasure and wildness.

Speaker Trinder And ultimately the four people who are there taggants come together in friendship, realize that they have found something and all for turn and walk off to the Four Corners on their own. A kind of statement that I guess that we're born alone, going to die alone, and at the same time we find expression by our communications with each other and society we live in that I think sums it up. And it was really good. I was in it. We all hated the rehearsals.

Speaker And Jerry, by the way, you want to know something about Jerry? You come for a first rehearsal. Everybody knew. The first step that he did was what we were going to end up with after. And by the way, they were fun to dance. He would do a dance step and he'd try around it by the end of the rehearsal.

Speaker You'd have this one step and six weeks later at the premiere, you'd go back to it. Meanwhile, every variation, you know, and I don't know what he did.

Speaker Same with the Jerome Robbins project in six months. Yeah. Yeah, six months. You did six months, six months rehearsal and three months preproduction for it to also.

Speaker So I three weeks I think, or month. So it's probably like seven months and six weeks of previews. And he did the exact same thing.

Speaker I don't know if he did this to you, but he did it to me and we'd have to make an entrance and we'd be on stage, left in the back, ready to make an entrance, and we'd come running in. And we just thought, you know, that after a while.

Speaker But no, no, no.

Speaker He would stand there and would tell you what you should think.

Speaker To get yourself in a right way to make your entrance, but you're going to be a steel fist and you're going to come running out and smash the audience, you're going to come right in and smash the audience ready thick steel fist. Like he would try to program what you should think to make an entrance. That's him trying to control. Did he ever do that?

Speaker He didn't with me that much, but he controlled everybody and everything and and probably with a lot of with a lot of actors. Well, he demonstrates everything. And he wants you to do what he does and what he does is great.

Speaker So ultimately, you know, no one does it better than him. So, yeah, I mean, he was. But he also allowed in division. I mean, you can't work with Zero Mostel and not allow somebody to take over. So to a certain extent, he did allow a lot of your input as far as.

Speaker Your talent coming out, you know, he was able to kind of bring that out, but then he wants to hone it in at the same time, he was really about that. But, yeah, I agree with that.

Speaker But there's some you remember I said I think he was scared of me. I mean, right. I, I intimidated him because I wouldn't let him play that game. I stop him right away. Other people did. Nora. He didn't fool around with Nora. She'd go in and Jerry, don't be a schmuck, I mean, and then he right and right, he he he picked on the people that allowed him to to a certain extent, I mean, and he would he would pull back.

Speaker He would totally pull back. He never he never really picked on me. I didn't have that problem. But I saw him do it to a lot of people. I mean, hard, hard. But he would get great performances out of them. That's the thing. You know, I mean, there was a time I mean, there's also I mean, it's also a time in that period, too. I mean, you had Michael Bennett, you had Jerome Robbins. I mean, Michael Bennett came a little Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosi, all of them in the Broadway community. They all were pretty abusive. Nowadays, you don't have that as much. And I don't know why exactly that is. But in those days, they they were pretty hard and abusive. And right now I'm doing a chorus line in the character. Zach is kind of that way. And it's an old style. It's in at that time, I think they felt or even directors that they had to do that to get the performance out of the people. And maybe they did because they did great work. So I don't really know, but. They they were tough, they were they were tough, and you were at their beck and call, I mean, everything was, you know, when you walked into a room with Jerry Robbins, it was quiet. You sat there, you listened. I mean, he was the he was it in every way. He was God. He would love to hear that. Boy, you love to hear that.

Speaker No, but but it was great work.

Speaker And everybody who's an artist wants to be artistically stimulated. And, boy, did he bring that out and everybody, you know.

Speaker Maybe not new, maybe, you know, were there other performances that you saw, things that you vividly remember of him as a dancer?

Speaker I wish I could answer that, but when I wasn't with the few occasions when I. Could be in the wings watching. I was a change in costume makeup, so it's and then you really went out front to see your own company because it's you know, it's rare because you didn't unless you were injured and you were injured.

Speaker I would go down to see him until Ellen Spiegel and I would go down to see him and Prodigal Son and I was in both Ballies, but I'd also go watch it when I wasn't for whatever reason. But I was in those ballets. So I remember that moment. Symfony See, I am telling you, he was wonderful in that. And it's a virtuoso role. I mean, with the jumps and everything, he would come on with Janet really on either side. And you'd really hear we coming out of them, not really literally, but just the way the exuberance of their dancing just was like bubbly champagne. They he he and you know, Chollet when he'd get up to show the steps. Right. He was good. Yes, he was. He really was good, whether it was jazz or ballet and little white sneakers, you know, and he'd get up and he'd do the step. He really loved to dance.

Speaker And he his body was well, you know, his background was dance, dance, dance, dance, theatre from doing tenorman. What was it? Grossinger's and all that. That's what an education that is. You know, look, I'm trying to write now about this, right? And I've been eight years trying to write these memoirs, but there's one thing that I really summed up the difference between Balanchine and Cherry. Jerry would take what you are. Twist and turn and end up enhancing it. So that you were a glorified version of what you are. Balanchine. Would have you dance in ways that you didn't know you could.

Speaker That's the difference. And it's a profound difference.

Speaker Yeah, at one time I said to Balanchine, Charlotte, I said it was a year or so before Balanchine died. Why? Why is it I said, Jerry? I said after he left the company, he had his own company and then he did Broadway till he meets a legend. And I said and now he's come back to work for you and he's choreographing and he stays here and he works for you and he and he does his ballets. And why do you think why isn't he doing Broadway and producing and movies? And so and Balanchine say he wants to find out what makes Balanchine Balanchine so he can steal it.

Speaker Isn't that fantastic? Wow.

Speaker And in a way, it's true. But that's why we were all there. Why. Right. What is it that made bouncing bouncing. And when Balanchine died, Jerry was the natural person. I mean, who else in the whole world? But Lincoln didn't want it and really Jerry didn't want it and he would have been wrong. But in terms of choreography and artistic vision.

Speaker Terrific.

Speaker Before we get off, Jerry, as a dancer. Is there anything you want to say that you remember back since you went to watch it till Ellen Spiegel?

Speaker Probably, I would say almost 100 percent not probably was Lincoln Christine's idea? A lot of ballets. Lincoln was throwing ideas to Jerry, to me, to everybody. Right. And a lot of them wrote stupid, crazy, cockamamie ideas, but some of them were really great. And, you know, as Melissa said, ten times ten, ten ideas, nine of them, a stupid one is great. But Lincoln was a thousand ideas and nine hundred stupid and one hundred two hundred thousand whatever. Anyway, OK, so. I forgot what the question was. Oh, OK, children, spiegels very pranks, it's based on the hero of Flanders and Holland and Netherlands. It's a myth like England has Robin Hood, it's the Robin Hood. And it's during the period of the Duke of Albert, who was a general for the Spanish king, and Netherlands was under the throne. It was a province or was a belonged to the king of Spain and they were becoming Protestant and against Catholicism. And it's a fascinating history. And it was persecution and and they were rebels. And the hero of the rebellion was to lose Spiegel, who was a peasant, a Flemish peasant who did pranks. And and the literature is called Siloing Spiegels Merry Pranks. And this was given. Gerri probably was lobbying for a role for himself, I think, and Lincoln came with this idea, I'm sure, and Balanchine took it and he did, as the BENTGRASS said, which was a good friend of Catalonia, an artist, was a friend of Balanchine from previous Diaghilev days. And he did the scenery, which was great.

Speaker And I never will forget the opening. Mind boggling.

Speaker There is an enormous table of black and white squares that is a rectangle. But on one side it's wider than the other and it's slightly slanted, like an incline plain and behind it.

Speaker And there's two men, black with black hoods, holding torches, flaming torches, and there's a little boy dressed as Tillerman Spiegel with a little boy with servants and everything, who is the young king of Spain as a young boy. And they're playing chess and they're moving the chess pieces.

Speaker And then there's a scene change. And I can't remember exactly how it was done, but whether the table turned and everything, and then it comes back and there's Jerry grown up and there's Brooks Jackson, who was the king of Spain and all dressed up. And it's like the children. And it was a prologue to starting the scene and it was riveting and wonderful. We were peasants in rags. I was a peasant in rags. And one of the scenes later, there was a whole scene with sword fighting and we all had fencing lessons to for the scene and. And by the way, as a result of those fencing lessons later on, Jerry wanted to do a whole manual, a dance on a manual, and I think he wanted to lose Galardi music. I wasn't sure. But a whole manual on fencing, you know, because in many ways, the early fencing mess as well. So dancing teaches anyway. But I think that that sparked Jerry. Jerry was terrific in it.

Speaker And and it was one little tableau, one scene, because the music's not long to Strauss music that long. And at the very end he's dead and they buried him. And he's under a piece of green lawn. Right.

Speaker A piece of cloth that's green like they buried him. And everybody is sobbing because the spirit of Holland, Netherlands, Flemish and the rebellion has gone. Tylo and Spiegel's gone. And then you'll find in Strauss music a lot when it ends here. Hear there's a like a little light thing. You get it in Rosenkavalier, you get it in different pieces of Strauss. At the end of it, he's dead and everybody's and the chords and everybody and we're all sobbing. And then.

Speaker Pops has hit. And then he comes up and he starts to dance on top of the green grass like a jig as the thing ends and it was the resurgent Jerry was terrific.

Speaker I mean, when he you know, from and he's always playing pranks, by the way, during the course of it, he's always sneaking into the court and messing up the court dance. And he's, you know, ruining the the soldiers as they go through with the prisoner. They're going to hang or burned at the stake or he saves them. And it was all these little episodes when he gambled and danced on top. It had grass.

Speaker You felt he really was the spirit of rebellion, you know, irritating spirit of rebellion anyway.

Speaker Yeah, he was. People forget about him as a performer. He was a wonderful performer. Here you were in a few of these valleys, you started with the guest and age of anxiety, and then he did a ballet with a pot of dirt and oh, I was had one of the roles in Pied Piper, the Pied Piper, which was wonderful. Let's just go back to the guest.

Speaker The guest was kind of a Romeo and Juliet type.

Speaker Well, it was about prejudice. It was very much about prejudice. It was those that had a dot and those that didn't. Well, the DOT wasn't reflecting on Indian culture of India. It was just a symbol that people had, that they were the others. And there was an attempt for any person to get in the line with the others was kicked out. It was all about prejudice really in it, I can't remember. I think it may have been Nikki Anthony, but I can't remember what story to write. Yeah. I mean, they tried to get to it was yes, they tried to get together, but the cultures would not allow them.

Speaker I don't think there was death at the end. I think they were pulled apart. Mark Blitzstein, I think if I pronounce it right, but it wasn't so much a story that I wasn't.

Speaker It was kind of no, it was abstract. I mean, it wasn't literal and it was in a way, but it wasn't, you know, you weren't in costumes. It wasn't it was the only difference between us was one group had the dot and the other didn't. And we would dance facing each other. And then any time one would go over to the other, the dance would stop and then have to go back. And it was different ways of showing that one culture would not accept the other, one tribe would not allow the other one block would now not allow the other. You can't go to our block.

Speaker OK, Pied Piper.

Speaker Pied Piper was brilliant.

Speaker It had its genesis, but Goodman and the clarinetists, the great clarinetists and no costumes, we didn't have any money and we didn't have any money for scenery. So it started with Roy Tobias, with, I think Jillani. And he put everything off the stage, no scenery, no wings, just the back of the city center. And then he put a little light, very, very bright light.

Speaker In the front and the two of them came and started to dance and the light made their shadows, so you saw them in the shadows, their shadows dancing. And then that scene was over.

Speaker And then the screamed that the shadows were projected, went out and you saw them breaking the pipes of the backstage. And dancers started wandering in as if they were going to do a class. Right. And they are wandering and hanging around. And Janet Reid was so great in this.

Speaker And then the clarinets and go. And where did that come from? And then they lindelof up.

Speaker Barack come from and and the Pied Piper begins to manipulate with his music, the body parts of the dances, then it becomes to catch on like a virus until the next thing you know, the entire stage and I've used this a lot in later choreography is lying on the floor twitching. They look like hot phishers being alive, still alive, being cooked in a frying pan, sizzling and flipping and flopping. And then one gets up and starts the dance and an infected until the whole stage is dancing and then they can't stop. They're getting more and more frenetic and wilder and wilder and wilder and like this until.

Speaker There's a break.

Speaker Either the piece ends or I can't remember, it is a break and the whole cast turns around and the Pied Piper is on stage downstage less. Right, Benny Goodman, the whole cast turns and sees this magician that has been the source of it, it's been causing them St. Vitus dance, they turn around and they run to strangle him and puff disappears in a puff of smoke. And that was the end of it. Yeah, it was really good. It was really good. They don't have any footage of this, do they? I don't know. No, I don't know if that was it. I was going to say, wow, I was really good. There are some pictures. Yeah. Wow. Yeah, really good. And yeah. And Janet Tany was in it. Tany was in it. We all were at it now.

Speaker I don't know if you were in it, but do you remember the original ballet that he made to the music he later used to try to get across the original ballet? It was called the.

Speaker And I thought that was for me and Joanna. Tell me about it. Well, I mean, I think there may have been three or four movements and it was based a lot on Israeli folk dances. And it's a motif that he uses a lot. CHOLLET You know, when you lift your heel, this leg like this one, but the other one bends. So it's, you know, like that he did that a lot and he got it out of some Israeli folk dances. He told us that. And and that was the first part of that Jerry did for me and Jill and Jack and Jill. He used to make a little joke. I know. And it was beautiful and sweet. I remember beige costumes and it didn't last long and a repertoire. I can't tell you about it because I was in it and I never went out to see it. And I remember and dancing with Jill, I don't think she liked me, but I was a pretty face brat.

Speaker So she suffered me.

Speaker She was beautiful. She had white skin, lily, like a lily that had do on it.

Speaker You know, boys do have recollections of Jerry coaching you and.

Speaker Oh, yeah.

Speaker I used the I'm going to use the left hand because the right hand is missing a finger and it'll look peculiar.

Speaker But you would go with the hand touched a mirror. Right. And you'd go to touch the hair and then you bring this. And bring it back, right? Well, I mean, I was right, I mean, you don't have to you don't have a job. You've got to go forward and like this. And then he would do it and and then you get up and try and do it. No, you don't have it. I mean, I don't know what subtlety he was looking at. And then there was another place that he he did. The man lifts the faun. Well, Tinnie, she's not it lifts the ballerina and puts it down and he's holding her by the waist. And then it's the first time he's touched it. So he takes his hands like, oh, so she kind of she walks away and he kind of doesn't know what. And he does some kind of twisting, rolling thing off, like some animal that's like a cat that stretches and then.

Speaker Nobody did it better than Jerry.

Speaker I mean. There was something about that his spine seemed to twist, his buttocks went up, his legs bent, shoulders went his neck, right. I mean, he looked I couldn't do it. I tried it. And, you know, I stretch and I couldn't do it. And every time I and then at the end, you come up with your hands and you and I couldn't do it. And I and I know it wasn't good enough because I never saw anybody do it as well as he got caught and and he was good. And what Jerry doing that.

Speaker Yeah.

Speaker You have to think of a simian monkey and a cat. Both stretching and the same walk together and stretching.

Speaker You dance the. Tell me about. Well, Tanni.

Speaker Was very close to me, and I'm really close and. We were friends and we danced everything practically together, and she.

Speaker Like Jerry, even though at times she really understood him and she'd say terrible things about him, but basically she liked loved him and he loved her, if there if there was without a doubt, I'm sure in his diary she'll see it. And and the tragedy of Tany struck Jerry. Maybe I mean, as much as Balanchine or the rest of us more. I mean, in some ways not more than Balanchine, but.

Speaker I think he never, in a way, got over that tragedy after he danced with her, too, and and she. I was the first dancer that was a Giacometti.

Speaker Long, long before that, most answers were short and stocky and fast, I never saw a long stretched out dancer, Totani. And it became the norm now, and it's almost like it started in Vogue magazine, the long, skinny dances they used to call not Swan Lake, when Tany danced at Swan Crane Swan because she was so long and extremely elegant with a long, long neck and very, very musical and a wonderful dancer with a wonderful wit.

Speaker She had a brilliant wit and a dramatic beauty. I mean, Tany was great. There's only a few films of her this her and Concerto Barocco with Diana. And you can see that long limbed ease. There may be something from Nutcracker, I'm not sure. No, this Western Symphony with me and as Eskimo Fawn, which we did up in a tiny, tiny space in Canada. Nineteen sixty four I think, and. But you can get a look at the intensity of her as an actress. She really was a natural actress. And as I told you, she was very witty, very, very funny. And her wit had Bopp's. But quite often had against herself as well, which is the essence of good jokes, a comedy is it can turn on yourself, but she was very witty. I'd go out. Charlotte would go out, you know, Carrie and me. And Balanchine, Anthony. Balanchine insisted when I married Carrie that we have married the same day that they did Tinnie and Abboushi. Well, it was December thirty first and we couldn't get to church that night. So we got married January 1st and we had every New Year's together. And before that there was a canasta craze. Everybody played canasta and Tony loved to play canasta. And NATO would get on those train trips for 18 hours and play canasta for 18 hours. Anyway, she didn't care about cards, but he would play cards. Right. And it would be me, Anthony. This is before we got married. All right, so fifty five, fifty three, fifty four. Fifty five. Fifty six. OK, we're playing cards. He always cooked Balanchine and he always cooked pretty much the same thing because everybody ate meat. It was steak, porterhouse steak, and it was roasted potatoes with rosemary. And it was always a green salad with a lemon and garlic sauce and cards and a bottle of Mouton Rothschild, which was a wine that he loves. So Tanny would say, right.

Speaker No, I guess I guess Carrie was there. Carrie was the fourth, Carrie and me, Anthony and bouncin. And we would play and Tony would say have some more wine shock, might have some more wine.

Speaker And of course, I drink the whole bottle like this.

Speaker And the next day in class two, why do I detect it? Do I detect the smell of grapes? Are you sweating red? Right. I should always have some little reference like that. And I'd call her up and say, How you doing? She said, you're looking for an invitation to dinner. Is that why you're asking how I'm doing? But there was anyway at Sherry.

Speaker Sherri loved her.

Speaker Jerry loved him, and I think he just like all of us, didn't know what to do. I think we all try to be around her, but we all were uncomfortable because she was uncomfortable. It was the greatest tragedy. In the history of ballet, I think mythic someday he'll do an opera maybe or something, some great story will be based on one that.

Speaker Were are you?

Speaker Yeah, I danced everything with her, I danced everything with her, it was I was dancing with Allegra, but my partners were Melissa, Diana and Danny, and we're all sick and bronchitis.

Speaker And it was 1950. Six fifty six, and it was like end of October and we were in Cologne.

Speaker And I was dancing with her, I think it was Concerto Barocco and Western Symphony, I had the first in my ballet. It may have been Forn in the middle two. I may have had all three with her. And I was not that it was closing night and cologne and I was not going to go on, the company was leaving. There was a party that night at the consulate, American consulate, and the company was going on to Copenhagen. And I was leaving because November 1st, George, my son, well, he wasn't George that we didn't know whether it was boy or girl.

Speaker But my carry was home with the baby kind of give birth November 1st. So it must have been like October 28th or something like that. So I said goodbye to her. I said, I'm not going to go to the party, goodbye to her.

Speaker I'll see you when you get back. That was Copenhagen and Stockholm. And so I went. And the next thing I hear is they arrived in Copenhagen and she was in within the first week in an iron lung and. And that's when he stopped smoking Balanchine because she said to him, stop smoking, it's hurting me, and he stopped smoking. I know, and then when George was born, which he was two weeks late, Charlotte, your brother was late, but he was only 11, so not quite two weeks and comes from Copenhagen. I swear, one of those wonderful, dangerous weather with silver buttons like that from Tany as a gift mailed by Balanchine, she she probably said, you know. Get something for shock and maybe bouncin bought it.

Speaker Oh, there it came. And I still have it. I have that sweater. It's in my closet. I'll show it to you.

Speaker So you went to Canada and tell me about that.

Speaker OK. And then I'm going to shut up because otherwise. OK, all right. So what happened is Tony and I are dancing all over Europe in nineteen fifty three. Right. And fifty four.

Speaker OK, but fifty three. OK, I think this was the fifty three but it could have been fifty four. Anyway, the program that knocked everybody look for a loop was kind of Leclair and shocked and was in a Primitivo on ABC music. The man of my poem Jerome Robbins the the American French with the French names dancing this ballet and then in the same program, Western Symphony. Right, the American cowboy Hirshey Kay music. We were a sensation in Paris. We were really, really sensational in Paris and the Canadians in Montreal and a guy called Noel Gauvin, I think his name was he heard about it. Maybe he was there. So I don't know. But anyway, he was determined to film it. So he called up and said, would you, Anthony, come to do after the phone? And he called Tany. And both of us thought he would never do this without Gerry's permission. We had assumed so we said sure. So the two of us went up and he filmed it and we came back and we were all excited. And I think it was between seasons. Hi, Gerri. Hey, did you see the film it performed, right? He didn't know anything about it. He didn't know anything about it. And he was furious. And he was going to sue the whole nation of Canada and make them crawl in any stirrups. And but he saw the film and he was still angry and she got polio. And he would never see her dance again, that role, and now he was so happy that that film existed. So there was never any suit, there was ever any problem. And and incidentally, Noel Gauvin invented that to be able to put the camera on the floor as if it was on a nose on your footlights looking up at the stage. He had a periscope. So the camera up here, which could move him, could. Hit and be shooting, and that afternoon, if one is done with one camera moving all the time, it's brilliant. It's brilliant, except for the bar. Yes, but that's because, yes, he wanted to establish that the camera was a mirror and he thought to do the bar and that was a mistake. You don't need it.

Speaker You don't need it. You once told me that you thought that, Jerry. I mean, that fountain was jealous of Jerry because of Jon and Kate. That's right. What gave you that?

Speaker And he told me. So tell me. Well, Balanchine would always say, you know, Jerry is a wonderful choreographer, but he depends on gimmicks and and, you know, this and this. But he's wonderful. He knows how to make people movies. But there was always a but that was disparaging and he didn't like it when I would say that faun is a great ballet and cagers, great ballet. He avoided mentioning that Jerry did cage. The Stravinsky avoided and where he gave him credit was Consett. He said Robbins is wonderful, he can make ballets that make people laugh very hard to do, very hard to do, he's gifted that way and he always avoided Forn. And whenever I said that Ford was great and he would change the subject or say no, no, not so good. Has to use gimmick, a studio and mirror has to have a gimmick. That's why I think simply by omission, never mentioning Cage to me or you know, cage just brilliant here. I mean brilliant in every way. After you see Cage, it's like a great bouncing ballet. You can't listen to music without imagining that nothing fits. And after here, after seeing Cage, you can't listen to that Stravinsky. It's that great, you know? So that's why I think it it may be my my interpretation, but I think I'm right. Oh, I think you're right about way that he resented those ballots because they were brilliant. Yes. I mean, dances at a gathering, screaming and carrying on and everything, you know, but as good as dances at a gathering is, I don't think it's that wildly on that level of a fawning cage. I think Fawn and Cage genius.

Speaker I'm just going to ask you to make a statement, because actually you didn't say Balanchine, so you could just tell me again. How about not you have to go through the whole thing.

Speaker It's just what I think, OK, I think Balanchine admired Jerry, recognized his greatness, and in some of the works, some of Jerry's works felt and envy that. I mean, I'm sure looking at Jerry Robbins cage, Balanchine thought, oh, my God, I would never have thought of that. How terrific it is. He never said that. In fact, he usually tried to imply the other or wouldn't even talk about Cage and Fawn. Whenever I would sing the praises and blow the trumpet of how great Fawn is, he would make excuses about, well, it works because it's a gimmick about a mirror. And that would always be he wasn't able to just come out and say, these are two great works that are right on Mount Everest.

Speaker Well, on the subject of Cage, you saw Norah.

Speaker Yeah. Everybody in it tell me. Well, Norah was a force of nature that I think she was the best. It was the first time anybody saw that ballet and it was knocked everybody for a loop and a screaming success, Tanni. When Tany did Cage, there was a moment in the Pottered with with Nicolas Matulionis or Michael Moore, who was doing it the night, I remember that there was a few little movements just before they parted by the queen comes in that you felt.

Speaker There was a possibility of infection.

Speaker Or something beside predatory between the two people, the intruder in her the the Navis and Tany got that.

Speaker Wonderfully well, who else, Alegra, mind boggling and Heather, what's fantastic, Heather, what's fantastic in it, Melissa? Fantastic in it. So I can't say that Norrick erased the image of other people doing.

Speaker I can't say it, but she was the first and it was done on her and. It was a breakthrough and a breakthrough for Jerry. To handle that, Stravinsky music and a complexity under the tent of Balanchine with his history with Stravinsky, that was a breakthrough for Jerry.

Speaker As a New York City ballet dancer, what was the difference between being in a rehearsal with Balanchine and Jerry?

Speaker You went in retention with Cherry, you went in with excitement and curiosity and anticipation with Balanchine, you couldn't you kept watching for the break with Cherry. You didn't want to see to break with I mean, with Balanchine. You wanted to keep going. You know that when it came five minutes before the rehearsal to end and the dancers hadn't had their five minute break, Jerry would say right before the five minute break, let's run it through one more time so that he could steal a few minutes out of the break that the dancers would have. Balanchine would not pay attention. No one would say anything. He'd just choreographed. If he didn't need you would say, dear, go sit down. I won't need you for 20 minutes. Not Jerry. That person had to sit there and watch and write.

Speaker People were excited going into a Jerome Robbins rehearsal when he was starting a ballet. I never was. I don't know why I never was. And then I Jerry, I have to get through it. Right. I was always excited when I'd see on a bulletin board rehearsal or Balanchine would come and tell me about a new ballet he was doing and how I'd always be excited. Jerry never did that. He never unless he wanted you to work for nothing, then he'd come and tell you that he was planning to do something which you never believed. He never came and told me, I'm going to do this ballet. I want you to be in it, except in the beginning. And then I put the kibosh on it. Balanchine always told me sometimes he described everything of David's spitler dancer a year before we did it on a street corner and Broadway in front of that. It wasn't O'Neills. It was Houlihan's there on.

Speaker Yeah, I, I don't I think.

Speaker I mean, these two people were the most important people choreographically to me, Robinson, Balanchine bouncin more than anybody else, but I didn't care if I was in a robbins' ballet or not. What I wanted to dance everything with Balanchine.

Speaker Charlotte, did you audition for Jared? Yes, tell me what that was, you know.

Speaker Yeah, it was actually not that hard of an audition. I remember I came in and I had to do like they taught a ballet combination. And I remember I did it once and and I remember I marked it and I didn't even do the pirouettes. I just went like that, you know? And because I you know, when you're marking something, you go like that and and then and then I remember they said, OK, and I thought we were going to do it then. And then he said, OK, that's it, that's fine. And I thought he didn't even see me dance. And then and then I, I had to what got me the part was this piece called Dreams come True, which from was from Billion Dollar Baby.

Speaker And it was a real Carol Burnett kind of skit. And it was about a silent in the silent movie time. And and I was there was a couch and I was like this, you know, housewife.

Speaker I just want have dreamed about magazines, would look at movie magazines and dream about a Valentino, would pop out behind the couch. And then, you know, I would be an Egyptian, I'd have an Egyptian slave and I would do so. All these different men would pop out. And he had trouble casting that. And I remember I went to room and they put me on tape and he gave me some direction and taught it to me. And it was all kind of pantomime and fast moving character, a lot of character in acting stuff. And it just fit me like a glove. And and he had auditioned everybody at this point. And I kind of came in there and did that little thing. And then the next thing I knew, they were he wanted me for that. And so pretty much from there, I was able to negotiate everything else because I really wanted to do Anita in West Side Story. And it was one of my things. And I was like, if I can do Anita, then, you know, and I knew I had to get everything in the contract because of my dad and my brother. But I was surprised. He cast me, actually. And I think it was because of that. It was only because of that because he couldn't find anybody which got cut. Mind you, we did six months rehearsal. We rehearsed that thing every day. And I'm talking about every movement was I mean, oh, my God, I cannot believe how we rehearsed that. And then they cut it in previews. It was the one. No. So I it's funny that that's the one thing he wanted me for. And I ended up getting cut. And later he cast me as Peter Pan and we got on great. Actually, I was surprised.

Speaker I mean, he was also a different person during that time. Jerome Robbins Broadway. By the time he did it, I think he had mellowed and it was all reminiscent to him, this whole thing for, you know, because he was going back to all the Broadway shows that he'd experienced, it had put together. And every day I mean, I remember the first week of rehearsals, he would have everybody there that had anything to do with any of these shows would be watching us and coming in. And Sondheim was there all the time. We would run through constantly. He always had people come and give him advice. I mean, he would Sondheim would come and tell him his ideas and and he would have people tell him, what do you think? What are you thinking? And people would give. And then he would take what he needed or not. And he was very smart with that. I mean, he really listened to people.

Speaker So I don't remember now what the question was.

Speaker Yeah, it's a little bit before we get off, dreams come true. There's actually a tape of you with him.

Speaker Oh, really? Yeah, I think that's a photograph I have, too, that I wanted to give you. Yeah.

Speaker What it was like when he was. Because I know he really danced it for you. Right. Tell me what that was.

Speaker Well he would do I mean, rehearsed with him for six months on this every day and, and stuff I would come up with and he would love and then he would do. But he played every character, every part. I mean, he did my part. He did all the three guys. He would. He would. He loved it.

Speaker He I think he loved this piece. I don't know why he loved it so much, but I think it was something that we brought up in the past. And it was a he was very good at character reacting things that pantomime and and all that kind of stuff and funny. And he was very funny. And so he just loved to do all the parts.

Speaker He would just come in and then he loved to watch you do it. And then he would laugh and he would laugh and then he would come and he could try something else. And so he had fun with it. Actually, most of the time he had fun with this piece. I actually had a really good experience with it until he cut the number. And then that was why I didn't you know, I understand the show was long. It was just a very long show and they had to cut something and that nobody truthfully was actually more interesting because nobody did know it. So to a lot of people. But I think the public and I think most producers wanted to cut because it wasn't well known and they'd rather keep Peter Pan or they'd rather keep one of the, you know, more staples that people knew and would be more successful.

Speaker And I think.

Speaker Anyway, so he he he loved it, and I think he and I just got him I was very quick. If you're quick, he likes you. And I was I was quick. I mean, I'm not as quick now, but I remember that I was very quick and now I'm not quick at all. But, you know, so he would just give it to me and I can do it. I could do it. So so, you know, we got him.

Speaker We had a I mean, God, I just remember laughing and having a great time with him and want to be like two more just by showing you with words showing, I think showing.

Speaker And he would do what to do. We would have I mean, every day after every run-Through, we would have huge note sessions. And, you know, Charlotte tried this time and move your head like this, you know, and and he would be right.

Speaker I mean, and then if it wasn't right, hold to beat before the next before your next line. You know, he was very technical and and all his pieces were very human. That's the thing. He caught that he caught that so well with with theatre and with dance. It was so human. You so good. And it was so touching.

Speaker Everything was so touching. He knew how to pull at your heartstrings, but not too much. It was just right. And and I remember he taught me so much that performing wasn't about always out. It was about playing the scene. And the more you played the scene, the more you would bring the audience to you.

Speaker And it he was all about that, all the fiddler, all the stuff we did fiddler, all those dances, even West Side Story. It's all about the character work and play. And he never wanted out out. He wanted it to be in the performance. And she's an actor. He was a great actor. Theatrical though theatrical.

Speaker And so there a yes.

Speaker Great.

Speaker Do you remember the first day of rehearsal? What, that he came and talked to the whole company. Do you have any recollection?

Speaker No, I don't, but he probably did he probably talked about switching around characters to talk about that. I don't remember. I just remember meeting friends that I can't remember. I'll be curious if you could tell me what that was like.

Speaker It must have been kind of daunting for you to play Mary Norton's part. Yeah, Peter Pan. Yeah, she drove there as part of a side story. It was kind of intimidating. How did you address that with you?

Speaker You know, Peter Pan came much later. They were not going to do Peter Pan. And I think he really didn't want Peter Pan. Truthfully, I think it because it wasn't it was about the flying as opposed to the dance or the acting piece of it. It was really ultimately about she's flying. So I think that that was and that didn't come until much later into rehearsals. And then I just kind of got pulled out and lined up and and I'm like, what is this for? I remember saying to one of the assistants, you know, why are we lined up here? And she says, Peter Pan. And then I remember he gave me the script and I read it. I mean, the lines. And the next thing I knew, I was singing it and doing it and running around the stage.

Speaker But yeah, yeah, I can't even remember the question.

Speaker I keep thinking, how do you address the fact that you were taking on these kind of iconic roles?

Speaker He he didn't he he you just you know, you had six months. I never said he never talked about the character. I remember him talking about the first day of rehearsal, wanting to read through West Side Story, like, do sit down, read through. And I remember thinking, oh my God, I hadn't even looked at the script. I don't know what I was panicking about it. And I'm like, you know, and I have to play a needle through the whole thing. And then he never got to it because he was so into getting you on your feet and performing. He's not cerebral. He wasn't I mean, he would give you images like images of things and stuff, but it wasn't like and he would talk to you to a certain extent about where you're coming from. But it was never you did the work and he wanted to just see it. He was really result oriented to a certain extent, which is not sounding like a great director. But but he would also know how to get it himself if he didn't if he saw that you weren't coming from a place, he would know how to work it so that you could get it.

Speaker But it wasn't always cerebral. I felt it wasn't. Let's talk about the background of this character. He he never did that with us. The Annita thing, you know, I remember the first day he again, he wasn't you know, they had other people singing it and all of a sudden but I knew that I had my contract. But he does mind trips to get you to get the performance out. But it's not always about talking about the character. Well, that's an example. Like Anita, I knew that I had in the contract that I was going to play it, but he still had four different people sing it better singers than me, much better singers. But it's like, OK, well, let's do it on the first day of rehearsal, have everybody sing the song that I'm going to sing and now I'm going to have to sing it and think of it, you know, so it's it's sort of like a competitive thing he like to set up, which he did. You know, everybody was on their toes for the six months of rehearsals because you just never knew what he was going to do. And even something that I knew, that he knew I had my contract, he still played that game with me, you know, and made me go, oh, my God, you know, I got to step up here. I have to step up.

Speaker So he he just he was constantly doing that. He was constantly doing it. I think mine trips on people in that way, controlling them and getting trying to get the best work out of them, which I guess he did.

Speaker Well, maybe not a nice way, but he did.

Speaker Oh yes. No, I was just wondering how come Chris escape Jerome Robbins Broadway?

Speaker I think he did shoot for it. He he didn't he didn't audition for it. And he was in full time at New York City Ballet. I think he was it pinpoint dance like man. Yes. So because.

Speaker Yeah, because I know not you know, if I could just sign up for oh perhaps you can just go. OK, ok, sorry.

Speaker OK, maybe you two could talk about this. Describe for me a typical Robert's rehearsal.

Speaker You go first, oh, gosh, I don't remember Robin's rehearsal.

Speaker You're going to have a different look than I am, I think, because I think I am I think I'm trying to think of Robinson or so.

Speaker That's a hard question.

Speaker I I'll tell you, I'm not the person to ask because I got myself out of it within the first two or three years of being in New York City Ballet. I told them, I'm not going to come over because when I be called for a robbins' rehearsal, you know that you were going to be auditioning every day, every minute of the rehearsal, right up till the premiere and even after the premiere. And that I remember going in the in the state theater, Tony Bluhm had danced and dances at a gathering and poor Tony came back and he he was in tears. And I said, what's the matter? And he said, yesterday, I did dances in the gathering. And Jerry came back after and told me how great I was tonight. I did the same performance or maybe better. And he came back and I've lost everything and I'm no good. And he was in tears now, so every time you go to a Robin's rehearsal, you know, from the moment you've been in there that you were in audition's forever. Right. And he was going to play games with you.

Speaker He also I mean, like with our show, he did we did rehearsed it for six months and so he had control over everything. And then after opening night, you knew if he disappeared for a week or whatever, when he'd come back, he'd be miserable because he'd have lost control. And he he was never happy again with the show.

Speaker I mean, whenever he would leave and he knew that, too. I mean, once he once he left and lost control, it was all about him, his vision and his control all the time. I, I think I have maybe a little better experience because at least with equity, with the Broadway contract, you have rules. And I think, you know, you have five minutes and you'd have your breaks, which he had to you know, you can only work six hours a day and you have to have an hour or an hour to have lunch. And so you had to stick to the rules, which he hated. He hated. He hated having to do that, you know, allowing so but at least he kept a control to a certain extent of his abuse with with us. And I think in the ballet world, he could use a lot more of that and take you over.

Speaker And so they struggled a lot more. We would have lost our breaks and he'd have to abide by the rules. So that helped a lot with us. I enjoyed rehearsals. It was grueling and they were long, but I always enjoyed working with him because you were always stimulated. I mean, he was always working. You were there. And and I love that.

Speaker So I had a great time, but there was a lot of a lot of horrible things during the rehearsals and just him beating up on people that he probably.

Speaker Oh, and he was also he did not smoke.

Speaker I know he'd stop, but I remember he was really tough on he's not nice to musicians or the musical, you know, just anybody that's involved with anything other than he just would treat so badly. I mean, the pianist, they all they all left or were fired constantly. He would always have new people coming in because he just he just was I don't know if you want to put this in your documentary, but he was very rough on them musical directors. It was almost like they were a nuisance. Yet he knew they had to do their work. You know, he had to you know, the musical director had to work with the singing or had to go. And he knew. And but it was like a nuisance to him. It was funny. It was weird. But he was just I remember St. Louis and the pianist. Don't you remember him? I'm sure he treated any pianist. That was I mean, just horribly.

Speaker I don't remember him treating in New York City Ballet. The Pianist, I, I don't know what I'm sure he was terrible and the musicals, but not I don't remember him. There was Copaken and Copaken had such a history before with the Agalloch, with Balanchine and and other musicians where now he may well he didn't dare be the with Labasa Balsan or with Robert Irving or you go for your. I don't know. I think he he. I think he respected them and treated them that way in the ballet.

Speaker I'm sure you talked to one of the Brahms biographers about the way that Jerry would focus the singing. I wonder if you can.

Speaker I don't remember this in the documentary. I mean, in the book. But I do. That's what he was brilliant at. It was all about focus and every note, all the notes you would get and all the thing would be about focusing for one rose being moved from here. Here. That's why he was so good at comedy. He was brilliant at comedy concert night. And that's all about focus, timing, timing. And where were you supposed to be focusing and and everybody on stage giving that to that person. So he was he was all about that. That's where his brilliant slide, I think, in all of his pieces was where everybody was supposed to focus. And I was talking about earlier about even playing the scene, acting in the scene, as opposed to up front. And that's with every character you were playing. He taught me that. He taught me that. And it was a huge lesson at a young age for me as a performer. There was one thing I want to say to you. I remember with Jerome Robbins, this is something different. We had all I remember we finally got on stage with all our costumes, which they had been making for six months, and the whole cast of 60 were up there with all their different costumes.

Speaker And we all had and we had to get up and show our characters. And he changed about.

Speaker Two thirds completely redid all the costumes and and it was interesting because it was like, oh my God, the control he has to have on every little thing. I mean, all these people for six months had made all these cosmetic and those poor producers that had to redo all these costumes. But it just shows that he was he was really a control freak. And but he was right. Costumes, they were better. You know, maybe it was he didn't have to quite change everything, but but they were definitely better, you know.

Speaker But anyway, could you just tell me and I know you've said this before, but could you tell me how long the rehearsal process was and why that was unusual for what you're accustomed to on Broadway and sort of how the company adapted to that and what their attitude was about it?

Speaker You know, usually when you do a Broadway show at that time, I mean, now kind of varies because you'd go out of town or something. But, you know, at that time when we did, romance is like six weeks rehearsals, you would do in and and then you would do a couple weeks of previews, which were performances, and then you would open the show. Sometimes you would have done a workshop and stuff with Jerome Robbins. You did. They did four weeks of preproduction before they started. And then you we did six months rehearsal. And six weeks of previews, so it was just ridiculous amount of time and.

Speaker It was it was just unheard of you no one ever rehearsed plus actually, I mean, it wasn't like doing a new show. I mean, it was because he kind of organized it, but it was still a West Side story, which has been done. There were all revivals, so it wasn't creating something new. It was literally trying to piece together something that. So I remember the first week I learned Anita in West Side Story and then I had to do that every day. I had to dance that dance every day for six months in front of people. And I'm think by the time we opened the show, I know four people gave their notice opening night, gave their notice to leave. And I remember we all had to come and we had to do the big bow. And also and I just remember, because we all come out on stage and we are in the audience applauded for like an hour, I don't know, like ten minutes. And I remember just bawling because I thought I made it.

Speaker At least I'm here because all about opening night is like not breaking something, something, not hold it in for six months to have to hang in there. Like, please don't let me, you know, Miss Opening, because after all this, we're going to miss opening night, you know, but I remember us all just crying.

Speaker And then I for people gave them notice and they were gone four weeks later because it was just by the time we opened it, we we had and also we done the part every way you could possibly do it by the time you opened it. But that opening night was a perfect night. I mean, Robbins was thrilled. I can't believe you would ever be happy. But he had his piece the way he wanted it.

Speaker And it was. Something unusual happened that night, if I think when the curtain went up, yeah, you know what I'm talking about. The curtain went up in the audience, had a very unusual response, oh, I don't know about this kind of members of the audience oh oh for the four hour show.

Speaker Yes.

Speaker I guess I didn't say that they stood, but I remember I remember the opening night of Jerome Robbins. And this is after six months of rehearsals and and then the curtain rose. And we're all standing there at the very start and we're all in different. I'm in Peter Pan, the people in West Side Story, the people in Fiddler on the Roof are all in different outfits and the whole company is there. And that's how we start the show. And I remember it was a standing ovation, literally, and they applauded for ten minutes because everybody knew how hard this process was and how long it was.

Speaker And and I just I remember just crying from that moment.

Speaker I mean, it was a long time ago, but I it was it was like we felt that the audience was literally with you and understood what you went through because they did to most of them, probably in their own way. The poor people that made the costumes, you know, that had to redo them all. And, you know, he put everybody through their maximum. There wasn't a person in the company that he didn't have some kind of a confrontation with within the six. And I remember thinking with me, you know, I haven't really had a problem. I've had this, you know, wasn't really. And then I remember the dreams come true. He cut and he didn't even tell me he was going to cut it. It was it was during previews. And he didn't even come to me or say anything or and they just came to me and told me the numbers cut. And he avoided me for two weeks.

Speaker And and I remember I was furious because it wasn't even like coming up to me and saying we had to do this because and and then I didn't talk to him. And and then I remember thinking, oh, well, there's my moment. I had I have it now, but pretty much even the people he adored had something that, you know. But then I do remember he did finally come to me and we did finally resolve it all and talk about it. And then I loved him after so and then he gave me a great picture with with doing dreams come true with a great note. So I you know, but he had to have that with people. I don't know why that I feel like he had to have that with people when he worked with them. He had to push them to their max and maybe hurt them a little bit to get the best work out of them. What did he say to you? I don't remember. I remember. I don't remember exactly. But I remember that he didn't talk to me for two weeks and and I was so furious. And then I remember I thought, I'm not going to talk to him for, you know, a while. So I kind of ignored him. And I could tell he was trying to come closer to me in his way. I think he he had trouble being close and intimate with people. I mean, I only knew him during this time, but this is how I felt. And I could feel him and I would just kind of avoid him. And I could see he saw that. And then he he just started trying to get closer, literally, physically. And then finally one day I went, OK, and I just remember we came together and he said, you know, I'm really sorry that we had to do this. And it was just too long. The show was just too long. We had to cut something. And I don't I don't remember it personally, but just I'm just I'm sorry. Just I'm sorry. And and. And that's all I needed. That's all I needed, and it was fine, and after that it was fine and I realized he didn't want to cut either. I mean, he works six months on that he didn't want to cut either. So, yeah, people are always saying Jerry was a perfectionist.

Speaker Do you guys think that's true or not?

Speaker Absolutely. Jerry Robbins was a complete perfectionist. And that man is having control over everything and everyone and and every person around him. And that's. That's why he was so good and that's what I miss so much nowadays when I when I'm doing shows with people and I think how could they not see that or fix that or, you know, that moment is gone and that because Jerry didn't miss a thing, there was nothing that was ever missed with him or he would get to it. There was nothing he was not going to get to. And it was that was such a great feeling because it's so great to have somebody that's taken care of you and everything around you in that way. It's. It's a great feeling when you're a performer because, you know, I'm being taken care of in some ways it can be bad, but but that's how he worked. That's exactly how he worked.

Speaker Don't you think you're going to start going hear the hand going back? That's not right. That's not right. You know, then he'd go out front and watch and then he'd be happy. And then the next day he wouldn't be happy and have to fix something.

Speaker I'll come back or and that's why he to a certain extent, when he would go away and come back and a performer would come out in a different way, that wasn't his vision. He wouldn't like that and would want to smother that. That's right. And and in some ways, that's not good. But how did he work with Zero Mostel?

Speaker I don't know. I mean, you know, I don't think I think he was afraid of zero.

Speaker Yeah, and he didn't because, you know, Zero Mostel was making stuff up every night. I mean, you know, that he's you couldn't begin to push him down.

Speaker So there's two things I'd like to say. But otherwise, I'll forget if I was invited by somebody in the company. Oh, you should see this dance group down on the Lower East Side. And I'd go there. You'd find Jerry Robbins if I go to sign up. Jerry saw everything, everything. And sometimes he would support little companies or dancers. But he saw everything. He didn't miss anything. He was an amazing collector of theatrical stuff. People's performances, lighting, costumes, scenery, stories. He may have been that way in literature and I don't know his library, but he was. And when he did something, he would research it if he was. I know that he was interested once in voodoo and was going to and then he was studying all the Haiti and Maya, Daryn, and, you know, the dances of Haiti. And I mean, he really did, I'm sure, Fiddler and everything. Jerry had a scholarly bent. That's one thing. And there was something else I wanted to say. Oh, yeah, OK, Betty Cage is gone, so you can't. Interviewer I don't know if you had a chance to talk to Betty about Jerry before she went, but Betty told me something that was. You know, the philosophy of Ayn Rand fountainhead, the kind of right altruism is no good, you always have to get some value for everything, right? I mean, OK, balance, what was one rare that he didn't teach company class every morning. That was Balanchine's breakfast that kept them alive and functioning. And for some reason, either he was away or it was an emergency or he got sick or something and he didn't teach company class. And Jerry taught it right. Betty Cage taught me to her amazement. He came in and he wanted to be paid twenty five dollars for class. He says that's what they get in steps. Wasn't steps then, but somewhere else. You wanted to get his twenty five dollars fifteen. He was the associate artistic director. Right. A million to boot, right? I mean, it was that philosophy of don't give anything without getting rewarded. On the other hand, I know about Jerry and how someone would be injured and he would pay to go to Dr. Thomas and in Denmark to get his foot operated on Earth. And he didn't want anybody to know that. And you'd hear it by a whisper of something. So there was a side of him that he was afraid that it would be a chink in his armor to anybody to know that he did something altruistically. So this fight and ran and found him, he he wasn't totally corrupted Robbins to someone who had never met him.

Speaker Tell me what you would say.

Speaker You look at me, wow, you're trying to think of it. I'm trying to think of it and I'm trying to think of it. And you're trying to say, can you describe what the Oxford Dictionary is? I mean, there's a lot of very complex, charming.

Speaker Funny.

Speaker Scary, those are adjectives.

Speaker And you don't really know and never will.

Speaker He didn't know what he was sexually.

Speaker He was a shame that he had homosexual tendencies. He wanted to hide it. It took a long time for him to accept it. Being Jewish, feeling put down pressure in Hoboken, New Jersey, saga, being early involved in theater and dance, being in that tenement that summer stock, I can't remember the name of it. Tamani or Tamiment was crucial and important to Jerry because he began to form. Beginning to build the architectural structure of what he was going to be in terms of theater, a master of the art. Of choreography and I mean choreography, not just inventing steps, because that's only part where did the scenery move? How did it move? What were the lighting? What effect did it have? What were the costumes? How how these color combinations with he was he was an architect. Of expression. In theater storytelling. And that's in a funny way when you think of what the communist section, the social caring about people that didn't try and have a social conscience and all that stuff was in him. He rejected a lot of it for fear that it would reveal a weakness. This was a very human being that found an outlet to express their humanity through his brilliant fiddler and gypsy and I mean God West Side Story, I mean, it was expressed that way to get there. The shadow side was used and the shadow side was a paranoia and a fear that someone would take advantage of him or one of them in some way, or he didn't get enough. He didn't get enough. He didn't get enough. Boy, does that make conflict. Does that make. Titanic plates rubbing in a person and out of it comes mountain's. Landscapes and Jerome Robbins, and if you had to mention Broadway and this last 50 years, he is the front, the top, the miss, the Broadway and ballet. He may not be able to hold that, but he's right up there in the forefront in the vanguard. But so how did that come? Like all genius energy generated by conflict, needing an outlet. And in his case, it was theater and storytelling.

Jacques D'Ambroise and Charlotte D'Ambroise
Interview Date:
2007-08-16
Runtime:
1:42:11
Keywords:
None
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
cpb-aacip-504-6q1sf2ms92, cpb-aacip-504-wd3pv6c08g, cpb-aacip-504-sx6445j70b, cpb-aacip-504-4t6f18sx9t, cpb-aacip-504-1j97659x58, cpb-aacip-504-qv3bz6210z, cpb-aacip-504-sb3ws8j92z, cpb-aacip-504-vt1gh9c37n
MLA CITATIONS:
"Jacques D'Ambroise and Charlotte D'Ambroise, Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 16 Aug. 2007, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/980
APA CITATIONS:
(2007, August 16). Jacques D'Ambroise and Charlotte D'Ambroise, Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/980
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"Jacques D'Ambroise and Charlotte D'Ambroise, Jerome Robbins: Something to Dance About." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). August 16, 2007. Accessed January 19, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/980

© 2022 WNET. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.