George Balanchine is like ballet royalty. Mention his name to any dance buff, and they’re likely to spout off about the New York City Ballet, the musicality and complexity of his choreography, or perhaps — if they’re a Chautauquan — his influence on Chautauqua’s own School of Dance. Yet those very same people probably wouldn’t be able to detail the Balanchine that came before all the fame and success.
As you walk into the venue of your 40th high school reunion, you hold the door open for someone you barely recognize. Her wrinkled skin hangs off her bones, and the bags under her eyes suggest she has not slept in months. And then it clicks. That dejected woman was crowned queen at senior prom, cheered the football team onto victory as captain of the cheer team and always had the brightest smile on her face.
When A. Christina Giannini told her mother she wanted to be a costume designer, her mother told her to reconsider. Fortunately, the now internationally recognized costume designer did not give up on her dream.
Giannini, better known as Stia, will present the second Chautauqua Dance Circle event of the season, titled “The Art of Dance Costume Designing,” at 3:30 p.m. today in Carnahan-Jackson Dance Studio.
When asked about the designing process, Giannini described it as “a true collaboration.” Designing is more than simply making pretty pictures, she said.
Though many came before her, Martha Graham is credited as the mother of modern dance.
Graham’s staggering influence has made her perhaps the most significant dancer in the 20th century, and Chautauqua Dance Circle’s co-founding president Bonnie Crosby trained at her school of contemporary dance in the 1960s.
With that in mind, Crosby wanted to share the film “Martha Graham: A Dancer’s World” at the final CDC program at 3:30 p.m. today in the Hall of Christ.
Returning to the subject of his Week Two lecture for the Chautauqua Dance Circle, Chautauquan Steve Crosby will again share stories of award-winning choreographer Jerome Robbins, otherwise known as the “demon master of ballet and Broadway,” at 3:30 p.m. today in the Hall of Christ.
The American choreographer of shows including On the Town, West Side Story, The King and I and Fiddler on the Roof was infamously disliked by many of the dancers he worked with, said Crosby, who also serves as CDC treasurer.
One came to George Balanchine a teenager and was transformed into a star of the New York City Ballet. The other came to Balanchine a star of the Paris Opera Ballet.
Both will forever work tirelessly to keep Balanchine’s legacy alive.
Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux and Patricia McBride will tell Chautauquans about their lives with Balanchine — as they refer to the American ballet master with respect and admiration.
The Chautauqua Dance Circle will host the lecture from the two Balanchine dancers at 3:30 p.m. today in the Hall of Christ.
At 19, Jon Lehrer, founder of LehrerDance, took his first dance class on a dare.
After living in Queens his entire life, Lehrer decided to head upstate to attend the State University of New York at Buffalo, because it offered many programs, and he had no idea what he wanted to study.
During his freshman year, he started to date a dancer. She bet Lehrer he couldn’t get an A in a dance class.
“She finally said, ‘OK, if you think it’s so darn easy, why don’t you take a dance class,’” he said.
Lehrer will talk about his transition in a lecture, “From Athlete to Dancer: the Story of LehrerDance,” hosted by the Chautauqua Dance Circle at 3 p.m. today in Smith Wilkes Hall.
Hollywood folklore says a studio executive for RKO Radio Pictures wrote “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Balding. Can dance a little.” for a screen test report on Fred Astaire.
With both the report and screen test long lost, there is no way of knowing for sure whether that is actually true, but Astaire himself mentioned the report in a 1980 interview with Barbara Walters. He said the report actually read: “Can’t act. Slightly balding. Also dances.”
Either way, the Chautauqua Dance Circle will host a lecture on the slightly balding man at 3 p.m. today in Smith Wilkes Hall.