Archive | May, 2020

An Imperial Gift – The Legat Legacy

28 May

Aloff, Mindy, editor, The Legat Legacy
Gainesville Fl, University Press of Florida, 2020; 200 pages, illus., pbk $29.95
ISBN: 978-0-8130-6812-1

For those reaching adulthood prior to the National Endowment for the Arts providing its great arts impetus in the United States, this slim, beautifully illustrated volume on the life, memory and influence of Nicolas Legat provides a nosegay of cherished connections. A total charmer, it’s a must for anyone wanting connections to the stream of ballet history.

Here is a record of community, nostalgia and in some instances evidence of the power of influence, occasional defiance and occasional tricks. A world sequestered within a world moribund is vividly captured, its dying hothouse cultivation clearly reflected.

The Legat Legacy is the resurrection of a 1939 London publication of Nicolas Legat’s memoirs, reproductions of Legat’s witty caricature portraits of dancers,  dance masters, stage managers and Diaghilev.  Originals prints can be found in the Library of Congress, a partial set in the Jerome Robbins Dance Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts and in Moscow’s Bakrushin Museum. The book’s resurrection was sparked by Tasha Bertram, Legat devotee, dancer and examiner, and Andrew F. Foster, author of a biography of Tamara Karsavina.

It begins with a comment by Tasha Bertram, Editor Mindy Aloff’s articulate preface and Robert Greskovic’s introduction to Nikolai Gustavovich Legat before some 73 pages of text and illustration under the heading Ballet Russe: Memoirs of Nicolas Legat. Heritage of a Ballet Master: Nicolas Legat follows, sub divided into three parts: Part I: Nicolas Legat: 1869-1937; Part II: Seven Classes by Nicolas Legat, finishing with Part III: Appendixes includes some eleven pages of class music. The classes include four which Legat wrote out for Eglevsky’s use on tour along with photographs of Legat’s beautiful sloping penmanship. Augmented are classes remembered by Alan Carter, Barbara Gregory and Cleo Nordi, three dancers active in the formative decades of English ballet and Russian  ballet influence in Europe.

Included are memories and records of Andre Eglevsky, John Gregory and tributes to his teaching and influence by Alexandra Danilova, Anton Dolin, Dame Alicia Markova, Sir Frederick Ashton, Leonide Massine, Michael Somes, Wendy Toye, Alan Carter, Barbara Gregory. No matter where one starts, nuggets of information inform the reader, sometimes repeating history known to a balletomane prone to reading, bitsof information providing context to the incredible program and administration of the Russian Imperial ballet from the mid to late nineteenth century and for the first fifteen years of the twentieth. To these facts are added personal histories, anecdotes and information supplied by those fortunate enough to have studied with Legat post Russian Revolution, Russian as well as English.

Sprinkled throughout the pages are caricatures of Enrico Cecchetti, Marius Petipa, Agrippina Vaganova, Tamara Karsavina, Anna Pavlova, Anton Dolin, Serge Diaghileff, Matilde Kschesinskaya, Vera Trefilova, as well as a generous sprinkling of photographs. The subjects are recognizable, depicted in a characteristic position or expression, always atop a spindly physique,  a stance with characteristic balletic turnout and/or movement, Legat’s wit totally rampant.

If I may, I close these comments with personal connections, if perhaps hors de categorie to a book review.  In college I had occasion to talk to a dancer who had been a student of Bekefy in Southern California and in the San Francisco Bay Area the visits of Theodore Kosloff were given pride of place. Reading these names in Legat’s memoirs solidifies one’s tenuous connections with that special history.

Kulichevskaya is mentioned on page 68. Elsewhere I read she was the first ballet mistress to utilize Vaslav Nijinsky while he still was a student. Come the 1917 Russian Revolution, Kulichevskaya refuged to Vladisvastok where she
acquired a student named  Tatiana Svetlanova. Svetlanova and her teacher made their way to Shanghai where Svetlanova danced in the nightclubs of Shanghai.  She taught June Brae and she also knew Peggy Hookham.

Following World War II, Svetlanova made her way to Seattle and subsequently to
San Francisco where she transformed a Clement Street storefront into her ballet studio, domicile in the rear. Prominent over the mirrors of the rectangular space was her graduation certificate signed by Kulichevskaya on a large paper square ornamented with the double eagle. “So everyone will know I am not a
communist,” Svetlanova declared.

Svetlanova’s star student was Sally Streets; Sally’s daughter is Kyra Nichols.

Covid Haiku – III

26 May


Author never read
Now subject of my reading
Still laborious.

Resentment fills me
Wanting to make a lot of noise
Attracting notice.

Frustration is a
Condition where you can not
Make anything work.

Aches and ills arrive
When old and energy is
Not easily found.

Fatigue steals over you
When exertion is too much
For your muscle mass.

Four men help me when
Errands must be done keeping
My food supplied

Covid Haiku – II

26 May

At night white flowers

Bloom fragrant in the garden

Below my window


Sleepless I toss in

My warm bed as the dawn

Begins to appear


I recall college

Happenings as the hours creep

Towards early morning.


Clumsy days recalled

Illusions tested and found

Puffs of Fantasy.


Indifferent student

Now aging wondering what

Life was all about.







15 May

A sheet not stretched
Makes the back like the
Princess on a pod.


Erasing e-mail
Ads makes fore finger fatigue
A daily danger

A Surprise in the Days of Covid-19

1 May

Word informed Woolywestern eye that Magical Normal liked the most recent post. So this woolly-headed individual decided to return the unexpected pleasure.

Don’t forget to click on this special site.  It’s amazing;  combing floral closeups, magnificent mountains at various times of day, and a note about the creator, a school teacher in Colorado having to switch to on-line teaching on quite short notice, thanks to Covid-19.

Cats and dog are included with all their appealing qualities, I am sure enhanced by the photographer’s affection.

If that wasn’t enough, the creator writes haiku, the 5-7-5 poetic form developed, honed, practiced and treasured by the Japanese. The subjects are varied.  As someone who has attempted the form, I am really impressed.

Go look and enjoy the special reality of the Magical Normal.





Ingenuity with San Francisco Dance Companies

1 May

It probably is old hat with dance buffs in the Bay Area or those curious about the fate of San Francisco dance companies, but most of them have found a way either to survive or give notice of their resilience and ingenuity.  There have been notices for donations, utilizing Zoom for classes – Smuin Contemporary Ballet has several levels to offer.  San Francisco Ballet has provided glimpses of how and where dancers are executing the daily barre while sheltering in home.

Unfortunately, with an abundance of caution, Smuin has cancelled its entire spring season.

From New York Gayle Miller, who managed Capezio’s Broadway Store and supplied garments for the competitors of USAIBC for two or three of the Jackson, Mississippi late June marathons every four years, put me on to what the Paris Opera Ballet was providing.  Dennis Mullen, who has chaired and serves as Treasurer of the Isadora Duncan Dance Awards, kept me abreast of both the Maryinsky and the Vienna Opera Ballet offerings.

Mark Foehringer Dance Project/SF was due to present Alice in Wonderland at Fort Mason’s Cowell Theater this spring, cancelled  due to COLVID-19.  Instead they have provided fourteen snippets from the original production, demonstrating Mark’s zaniness.   His 45 minute Nutcracker is now a seasonal hello.  What I remember fondly was his take on The Four Seasons, with a lovely pregnant woman, a fall picnic with her picking just the spot with her solicitous spouse.  For winter, it was a senior facility and a man and woman fighting over a single pillow, the musical gusts accented by the shaking of walkers those of us impaired use to navigate house and sidewalk.  The dancer duly gave birth, is no longer with the company, and the ballet should be revived again.

Daily Brenda Way, artistic director of ODC/SF, provides me with something via E-mail, daily, whether it is one of the company improvising their barre or brief sections from one of the company’s works.  Of course, she suggests we might make a donation.

Every week, San Francisco Ballet also has presented a work from the 2018 season.  I saw only a portion of Animus-Anima, the work featuring Sofiane Sylve and Maria Kochetkova. Sylve, alas, will not be with us for the 2020-2021 since she and Carlo di Lanno plan to join the company in Dresden. Both of them have been such rich assets to San Francisco.

This past week we have been treated to Trey McIntyre’s 2018 opus Your Flesh  Shall be a Great Poem with Benjamin Freemantle in the leading assignment, supported by Sasha de Sola, Jennifer Stahl, Isabella de Vivo, Steven Morse, Lonnie Weeks, Jaime Garcia Castilla, Esteban Hernandez and Alexandre Cagnat. It runs through tonight, April 30.

May 1, Edward Lliang’s The Infinite Ocean will be featured and will be available for a week.  These videos were filmed on opening night with the televising apparatus at the back of orchestra center, giving those of us on the left or right sides a slightly different perspective.  At the curtain, however, enthusiastic audience members rise to applaud blocking the view, irritating to us, but testimony to the work and its execution.

A final note:  Dance Magazine reports that Max Cauthorn helped start an every Monday Food Distribution at the Chris Hellman Dance Center starting April 13, to continue until the Covid-19 danger is considered over.  What a marvel, art manifesting essential humanity and need: food.