Thursday, January 22, 2009

Birthday: Balanchine and a Book

Today is the anniversary of George Balanchine's birthday.

And today a new project was born in my own life: a book project with a dancer who spent 20 years working with the legendary choreographer.

I've been taking class with former NYCB soloist Carol Sumner on and off for almost a year now. A stickler for Balanchine's musicality and technicality, she not only gives a great class (that kills the inner thighs!) but provides a host of witticisms in her corrections and explanations coming from her incredible career experiences.

She's been a great inspiration to me personally - being a main contact in landing my first real ballet contract and supporting me by coming to see Radio City (picture of us backstage below).

Last month through the grapevine I heard she had been wanting to write a book of her experiences working with Balanchine and so on, and she soon approached me to see if I'd be interested.

YES! I said. She's so inspiring, and writing a book has long been one of my goals, and it seemed like the perfect blend of my dance and publishing careers to springboard off of. But I thought it was going to be one of those things that just sounds like a nice idea but never really comes to fruition.

Luckily, in the past few weeks since Radio City ended she has been eager to get us started. And today we met for our first discussion to include in her biography! What a fantastic, intriguing, insightful conversation. It was the first of many to come, I'm sure. She made me laugh, quoting things Balanchine said in her early years. As I read this article in the New Yorker this week it reminded me of her and many others I've learned from...Arlene Croce writes, "Balanchine's followers have taken to repeating his saayings as if they were 'The Golden Verses of Pythagoras' (which some of them may well be), invariably incorporating the Master's twitch, his twang, and his habit of starting sentences wth 'You know dear...'

I'm really excited to get working on this, even though it's a daunting task with no financial rewards anytime soon (like everything else right now...). We have no time frame yet and no solid plans for the finished project, but...I'm excited.

Once things get moving I may try to post audio clips of some of our conversations, just because it's so interesting.

It's fascinating to me to listen to people's stories and how they came to where they are, how they achieved their success and lived through their struggles. People are such wealthy resources.

(PS- I have so much blogging to catch up of the movie "Ballerina", dvd "Center Stage Turn it Up," a rehearsal of Elisa Monte Dance at the Joyce, etc etc...)


Victoria said...

Gosh! I totally agree! People are fascinating! I'm basically curious about every single person in the neighbors in my Argentinean apartment building are especially fascinating! Haha! Some of them seem to be African drummers and set up camping tents on their balconies, and then there's the little boys with the wiener dog and cat on a leash who are a constant source of amusement...

Taylor said...

Everyone has a story to tell. If only everyone were as eager to listen to such stories! Instead we are bombarded with celebrity gossip magazines, books about losing weight, and trashy television. Hummmm.

kathy with a k said...

How wonderful!
I haven't seen Carol in years (as in almost 30!) She used to have a school in Cos Cob, Ct. I had a good friend who studied with her, and I have such vivid memories of that time. She's lovely.
This book will be wonderful.

PS: I read the quote about Balanchine's followers as "Balanchine's flowers"...interesting. They do continue to bloom and blossom quoting him as planting new seeds of knowledge.

Taylor said...

Hi kathy with a k! Yes, Carol is fantastic...we haven't gotten to talking about her time teaching in CT just yet but we're getting there...very exciting.

And I love your metaphor of Balanchine's flowers. When you commented I had to go back and look at the article to make sure I didn't mis-type it, haha.