• Sometimes, dancers can do more than they think they are capable of. When choreographing to the music of Ballade for Piano and Orchestra, George Balanchine named a sequence of steps for Merrill Ashley to dance. She and all the dancers watching the session laughed because they thought that that particular sequence of steps was much too difficult for anyone to do. However, dancers want to please Mr. Balanchine, so Ms. Ashley attempted the steps — and nailed them on her first attempt! Then she repeated the successful execution of the steps!
• Choreographer George Balanchine educated his dancers. Frequently, he told them, “Don’t relax! The time to relax is in the grave.” In addition, he would work hard to get a dancer to perform a step correctly. Frequently, the dancer would say about a difficult step, “I’ll try.” Mr. Balanchine would reply, “Don’t try — just do!” When the dancer had succeeded, he would say, “That’s right!” Then he would add, “But now, dear, make it beautiful.”
• Some elementary schoolteachers have uncontrollable kids. A teacher in Marblehead, Massachusetts, once told a mother that her son was “the worst brat in 10 states.” The mother responded that the schoolteacher was “repressing her boy’s natural vivaciousness.” However, the schoolteacher did not believe that; instead, she responded that the next time the boy bit her she would send “him home in a cage.”
• When George Balanchine choreographed, he sometimes did more than create a beautiful dance. Often, he choreographed as a way to teach other people. For example, he knew that Jerome Robbins was a wonderful choreographer, but that his dance training in the classical style was weak, so he choreographed Caracole and put Mr. Robbins in it as a way to train him in the classical style of dancing.
• Lincoln Kirstein once took dance lessons from Michel Fokine in Paris, but he demonstrated little dancing ability. Later, Mr. Kirstein and George Balanchine created the School of American Ballet (and the company that became the New York City Ballet), causing Mr. Fokine to ask, “How can Kirstein be the director of a ballet company? He took some ballet lessons from me, and he can’t get his feet off the floor!”
• Giacomo Puccini began to learn how to play the piano in an interesting way. His father put coins on certain keys of the piano, and in grabbing the coins, the young Giacomo pounded out a tune. By the way, the favorite opera of King George V of England was Puccini’s La Boheme. When asked why it was his favorite, he replied, “Because it’s much the shortest.”
• When the Dance Theatre of Harlem was first started, classes took place in a garage on 140th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue. During the summer, the garage doors were opened up. Occasionally, passersby would become intrigued by the dance classes and watch — and sometimes sign up to become students themselves.
• Trinity College at the University of Cambridge is known for its arrogance. When one of its Fellows won a Nobel Prize, the Master began his speech by saying, “Anywhere else, I could say that this is a very special occasion.”
• One of rocker Rod Stewart’s major influences was gospel and pop singer Sam Cooke. In fact, Mr. Stewart once spent two years listening to Mr. Cooke and only Mr. Cooke.
• Comedian Bob Hope was a big fan of Charlie Chaplin and when he was young, he even won a contest doing a Chaplin imitation. In New York, a friend told him that Mr. Chaplin’s car was parked outside a restaurant, so Mr. Hope waited around for 90 minutes just to catch a glimpse of Mr. Chaplin.
• When Napoleon was traveling to his coronation, people turned out to see him and to cheer for him. Napoleon looked at the crowd, then said that exactly the same people would turn out to see him if he were on his way to the guillotine.
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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