Pointe Stars

#TBT Extravaganza: Alicia Alonso, Erik Bruhn, Maria Tallchief and More from Jacob's Pillow's Archives

Alicia Alonso in "Giselle." Photo by Frank Alvarez, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

Over the years, many companies have premiered works or made their U.S. debut at the Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, and some of the world's most famous ballet dancers have performed there. This week I will give some more insights from the Pillow's extensive archives into the dancers that have graced this world famous festival's stage. Click on the links below to watch video footage of their performances.


Alonso and Bruhn performing "Giselle" in 1955. Photo Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.


Alicia Alonso and Erik Bruhn in Giselle, 1955

The great ballerina Alicia Alonso performed at the Pillow in 1955 on the invitation of Ted Shawn. This wonderful footage from that season shows Alonso and renowned Danish dancer Erik Bruhn performing the Act II pas de deux from Giselle. The couple also performed the black swan pas de deux from Swan Lake.

Click here to watch footage from this performance.

Speaking of his partnership with Alonso, Bruhn said, "Our performances were so memorable for me that it seemed as though we had danced a great deal together."


Royal Danish Ballet's Mona Vangsaae in Bournonville's "Konservatoriet." Photo by Jack Mitchell, Courtesy Dance Magazine Archives.

The Royal Danish Ballet, 1955

Bruhn was invited to perform at the Pillow after his debut in the role of Albrecht with Alicia Markova at Ballet Theatre in the spring of 1955. That summer Shawn also invited 10 dancers from the Royal Danish Ballet to "demonstrate the art of Bournonville to the American Public," reuniting Bruhn with the company at which he started at.

Here is a clip of Stanley Williams and Mona Vangsaae from The Royal Danish ballet performing Konservatoriet in 1955. (Williams would go on to become a renowned teacher, joining the faculty of the School of American Ballet at the invitation of George Balanchine.)


Kistler and Hübbe n Balanchine's "Apollo." Photo by Paul Kolnik, Courtesy NYCB.

Nikolaj Hübbe and Darci Kistler, 2002

The Pillow has continued to have a rich connection with The Royal Danish Ballet since this time. Ted Shawn was even knighted by the King of Denmark for his efforts on behalf of the company! In 1985, a young Nikolaj Hübbe, now Royal Danish Ballet's artistic director, received a scholarship to study at The School at Jacob's Pillow. Hübbe also danced at the Pillow with New York City Ballet, where he was a principal, in 2002. This wonderful clip shows him and Darci Kistler performing Balanchine's Apollo.


Tallchief in "Firebird." Photo via Pinterest.

Maria Tallchief, 1951

Ballerina Maria Tallchief performed at the Pillow on several occasions from 1951 throughout the 1960s. Her first visit to the area, however, appears to be in 1946, when Tallchief and George Balanchine spent their honeymoon in the country home of costume designer Barbara Karinska, just down the road from the Pillow. In her biography Tallchief recalled, "After the ceremony… we drove to Barbara Karinska's house in the Berkshires … for both of us work was more important than a honeymoon … a weekend in the country sufficed.'" The small blue house is still there and now bears the plaque "Karinska House."

Tallchief first performed at the Pillow in 1951, where she danced a pas de deux from Firebird and Sylvia with Michael Maule. Below are excerpts from their perfromance:

Tallchief and Michael Maule in Firebird, 1951.

Tallchief in Sylvia, 1951.

Tallchief continues to be presence at the Pillow, with one of the female student cabins named in her honor. Happy #TBT!

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Angela Sterling, Courtesy of Pacific Northwest Ballet

Clear your schedule now for Monday, January 29th, 2:45PM (EST)/ 11:45AM (PST). Pacific Northwest Ballet will be live-streaming rehearsal from Kent Stowell's Swan Lake, straight from their Seattle, WA-based studios. To psych us up for their on stage performances February 2nd - 11th, PNB is letting us in on their Act II rehearsal.

From the corps of swans to Odette and Prince Siegfried's pas de deux, and the infamous four swans, this rehearsal is not to be missed. You can sign up now for a live-stream reminder on their site. In the meantime, we'll be brushing up on our Cygnets with this PNB sneak peek.

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Rigorous program, check. Well-rounded technical training, check. Purposeful liberal arts curriculum, check. Study your craft abroad, check! If you are looking for all the above, the Joan Phelps Palladino School of Dance at Dean College truly has it all.

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Lopez in Circus Polka. Photo by Alexander Iziliaev, Courtesy MCB.

When Miami City Ballet artistic director Lourdes Lopez was a principal dancer at New York City Ballet, she missed her opportunity to honor Jerome Robbins onstage. "Every time there was a celebration for Jerry, I was either injured or had just retired," says Lopez. "I was never able to publicly thank him onstage for all that he taught us and the beauty he left us."

But when Lopez was planning MCB's Jerome Robbins Celebration for the 100th anniversary of the legend's birth, she saw an opportunity. She asked the Robbins Trust to allow her to perform the Ringmaster in Robbins' Circus Polka, a role the choreographer originated himself.

Keep reading at dancemagazine.com.

Summer Study Advice
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Videos are a great alternative when auditioning in person isn't possible. Here are some general guidelines for making a good impression.

1. Follow directions. Before filming, research what each school you're interested in requires. "It demonstrates your ability to follow instructions, and schools pay attention to that," says Kate Lydon, artistic director of American Ballet Theatre's summer intensives and the ABT Studio Company. "If the guidelines haven't been followed, your video might not be watched the whole way through." You may need to make multiple versions to accommodate different schools.

2. Videos should be no longer than 10 minutes. "Keep it short, simple and direct," advises Philip Neal, dance department chair at The Patel Conservatory and artistic director of Next Generation Ballet. "You have to be sensitive to how much time the director has to sit down and look at it." Barre can be abbreviated, showing only one side per exercise, alternating. Directors will be looking at fundamentals—placement, turnout, leg lines, stability—but don't ignore musicality or movement quality. Make sure music choices match combinations and are correctly synced in the footage.

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Career
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I want to be a professional dancer, but my parents won't listen. They either don't think I can do it (contrary to what my teachers have said) or they won't let me take the necessary steps to become a professional. Please help. —Audrey

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Videos

They say that pigeons mate for life—perhaps that's why these birds naturally symbolize the young lovers in Sir Frederick Ashton's The Two Pigeons. In these two clips from a 1987 performance in Pisa, Alessandra Ferri and Robert LaFosse—then stars with American Ballet Theatre and New York City Ballet, respectively—dance a rapturous pas de deux at the end of Act II. With tiny pricks of her feet and bird-like flaps of her elbows in Part 1, Ferri marks her anguish, thinking she's been abandoned for another woman. Later, both she and LaFosse grow more and more entangled as they reconcile, Ferri dancing with the passionate abandon she's famous for. I love how in Part 2 (0:20), they can't seem to get enough of each other as their necks arch and intertwine. At the end of the ballet, two pigeons fly in to perch symbolically on the chair—er, there's supposed to be two. It looks like one missed its cue at this performance! No matter—Ferri and LaFosse's dancing make it clear that these young lovers are meant to be together for life. Happy #TBT!

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Summer Study Advice
The author at 13, rehearsing at her home studio, Ballet Arts Theater, in Endicott, NY. Courtesy McGuire.

This story originally appeared in the December 2010/January 2011 issue of Pointe.

As a young student at a small ballet school in upstate New York, I was obsessed with getting into the School of American Ballet. From the age of 10, I entered class each day with the ultimate goal of studying at SAB dangling before me like a carrot on a stick. Every effort I made, every extra class I took was for the sole purpose of getting into what I thought was the only ballet school that really mattered.

I auditioned for SAB's summer program for the first time when I was 12. In the weeks that followed, I became a vulture hovering over my family's mail, squawking at my mother if the day's letters were not presented for my inspection when I walked through the door. The day the letter finally arrived, it was thin and limp. I cried for a week as I dealt with the crushing feeling of rejection for one of the first times in my life.

My mind filled with questions and self-doubt. What was wrong with me? Why wasn't I good enough? I figured I must be too fat, too slow, my feet too flat. I had worked so hard. I had wished on every fallen eyelash and dead dandelion in pursuit of my single goal, just to have a three-paragraph form letter conclude that I was a failure. For a while, I let myself wallow in the comfort of my resentment, content to believe that success should have come easily, and that to fall was the same as to fail.

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