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CHAPTER 13

Andre Eglevsky Ballet
 

Andre Eglevsky Ballet
During my years with Harkness I found time not only to commute to Tucson on a regular basis but also to involve myself in other exciting ventures, like the Eglevsky Ballet company.

Andre Eglevsky was one of the greatest ballet stars of the 40s and 50s. Generally considered the best danseur noble of that time, he was known for his multiple pirouettes, spinning up to nine or ten from a single preparation. This is considered de rigueur for top male dancers these days but at that time it was practically unheard of and a marvel. During my own performance peak I could sometimes manage four, and that was only on a rare, good day.

I had seen Egleveky dance at the City Center on 55th Street. That was New York City Ballet’s stomping ground before the State Theater in Lincoln Center was built and became their home. Being a poor student, I could only afford a seat in the highest balcony. He also appeared for a few weeks as a featured attraction on the Roxy stage, dancing the Grand Pas de Deux from “Don Quixote” with Mellissa Hayden. They were mixed in with other specialty acts; the Roxyettes and their male escorts and a first run movie. This was four times a day. This was where I worked busily on the candy stand in the rotunda but managed to run in to watch as often as I could. Around that time I also saw him dance in the Charlie Chaplin film, “Limelight”

After his retirement he founded and directed his own company, The
Eglevsky Ballet, based in Long Island, NY. His company gave performance experience to many of the soon to be star dancers of leading companies.

He invited me to play Dr. Coppelius in a tour he was doing of a full-length “Coppelia”. Of course I was honored and delighted to do it and already knew the role having already staged the entire Royal Ballet version in Tucson. Several of the Harkness trainees came along with me to dance in the Mazurka and Csardas.
I wore the same, tattered costume my old friend Misha Katcharoff had worn when he danced the role with the Ballet Russe many, many years earlier.

It was a sumptuous production. First of all the orchestra was led by none other than Claude Monteux, son of the famous conductor, Pierre Monteux. That was top quality.

Dancing the leading roles were Marianna Tcherkassky, a soloist with American Ballet Theater and Fernando Bujones, already a principal star of ABT. George de la Pena, later to become another star at ABT and to play Nijinsky in the Herbert Ross film “Nijinsky”, was in the corps. Eglevsky himself played the Burgomeister. I was with an outstanding group.

We toured by bus all over New York State, usually on weekends when I was free from Harkness.

Eglevsky was a very generous man and extremely mischievous; playing jokes on everyone backstage just as he did as a youngster, according to stories in the books I had read about him.

Not too long after that he died of a heart attack in of all places, Woolworth’s department store in Elmira, NY; just across the street from where I had my first dance studio.
 
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