Hamlet, being pulled from ABT after only two performances, and
Neumeier scurrying back to Hamburg, crestfallen, I got a clearer
sense of how big ballet companies operate, with their star-system
and political intrigue.
I was living
in Southgate Towers, a building on the corner of Thirty-first Street
and Seventh Avenue. It was formerly the up-scale Governor Clinton
Hotel, but was newly renovated into small but comfortable
apartments. Mine was on the thirteenth floor on a windy, chilling
corner. My living room windows had a view up Seventh Avenue to Times
Square and my kitchen window looked straight up at the Empire State
Building. Across the street was the new Madison Square Garden with
all its varied activities constantly going on; wrestling, boxing,
hockey, ice shows, circuses, even the Moiseyev Russian Folk Ballet.
When Jimmy Carter was elected President, I watched from my window as
he in his motorcade came screaming down Seventh Avenue to the Garden
where he was to give his inaugural speech. I really had a window on
the world, so to speak, with all the excitement of New York City
happening right at my feet. I lived there for seven years.
A Spiritual Experience In Mazatlan
Douglas Turnbough, a friend and entrepreneur who was trying to
establish an American branch of the
London Institute of Choreology,
asked me to accompany him and two of his female supporters to Mexico
City. While there, I was to notate two works of choreographer Gloria
Contreras. We went separately. By choice, my trip went by way of
Tucson, spending a couple weeks there visiting friends before
heading south to Mexico. I stopped off in Culiacan for a week, then
took a bus to Mazatlan, a charming resort village by the ocean. From
my hotel balcony, while doing yoga exercises, I could watch
breathtaking sunsets over the Pacific.
It was on the beach at Mazatlan one afternoon that I had what I
could call an exhilarating spiritual
experience. It sometimes
happens that we can be so awed by spectacular scenery, so
overwhelmed by something so stunningly beautiful, that we get a
sudden glimpse of the true values of life. When that happens,
everything else seems of little importance. This was how I was
struck while watching the tremendous waves glimmering in the
sunlight as they crashed onto the shore at Matzatlan. It was far
more than just watching ocean waves dashing on a beach. It was an
unusual, breathtaking sight that I’d never seen before. It was a
time when I reached out my timid fingers and touched the Infinite.
Working In Mexico
After a week of enjoying this tranquility of the Pacific coast I
took a plane to Mexico City to begin my job with Gloria Contreras.
Her studio was in the Universidad de Mexico, located on the
outskirts of the bustling city. On the first day she had her well
trained dancers show me some of the repertory and asked me to choose
which two ballets I felt would be most suitable for notating. The
notation would go in a book she was producing. I chose ‘Huapango”,
because to me it conveyed the folkloric style that I loved so much.
Also her “Danzas Para Mujeres”, of lesser interest but it was modern
dance that I was anxious to notate.
What was significant about all this was that it was the first time
that a dance rehearsal was actually devoted to the choreologist.
This was unique and had never happened before. I could actually tell
the dancers to stop and hold a pose, to repeat a step or phrase.
This way I could get it all down at my leisure and not have to try
to write it at a fast pace before it all disappeared.
Interestingly, while there I wrote a full article about the
experience which was translated into Spanish and published in a
The job was to be finished in two weeks. Unfortunately, for three
days out of that I was lying in bed at my hotel, having foolishly
eaten some water-cress salad.
On the morning of my return to New York I ran into Leonard Bernstein
at the airport and we flew back to New York together.
One brisk morning, back in New York, I awakened to a day filled with
a succession of such remarkable events that I thought, if I believed
in astrology, my stars must have suddenly arrived at some kind of
propitious alignment. First, in the mail was a check from the lawyer
in Tucson who had pursued my law-suit against the Tucson Ballet for
back salary. He had finally got at least half of it. Next came an
offer by phone from Gloria Contreras in Mexico to join her as ballet
master for her company. I must have made a good impression while
there. This was quickly followed by an invitation to join the staff
of the dance Notation Bureau as the resident expert on Benesh
notation. Crowning them all was a call from American Ballet Theater
to join them as resident choreologist. There was of course no doubt
as to which one I would choose.
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