This essay examines Lester Horton’s 1937 production of Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring) at the Hollywood Bowl. In particular, the genesis of the work and the transference of Russian modernism in 1930s Los Angeles is explored. The essay focuses on Horton’s professional relationships with two artists in Los Angeles, Adolph Bolm and Michio Ito, both of whom were in his proximity as teachers, mentors and colleagues when he created Le Sacre. The Russian émigré Bolm, a former dancer with the Ballets Russes during the period Nijinsky choreographed The Rite of Spring in 1913, was a well-established teacher and choreographer in Los Angeles. Bolm’s and Horton’s parallel interests in American Indian dance forms are discussed. Ito, the Japanese dancer and choreographer who was inspired to pursue dance after witnessing performances of the Ballets Russes, trained in Dalcroze Eurhythmics in Hellerau before settling in Los Angeles in 1929. Horton’s production of Le Sacre, the seventh created internationally and first West Coast version is discussed in detail, drawing on the choreographer’s rehearsal notes and other first-hand accounts.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Los Angeles audiences saw Soviet defectors Mikhail Baryshnikov, Alexander Godunov, Natalia Makarova, and Rudolf Nureyev in the prime of their careers at the Hollywood Bowl, The Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Greek Theater. Dance photographer Donald Dale Bradburn, a local Southern California dancer describes his behind-the-scenes access to these dancers in this interview. Perfectly positioned as Dance Magazine’s Southern California correspondent, Bradburn offers a candid appraisal of the Southern California appeal for such high-power Russian artists as well as their impact on the arts of Los Angeles. An intimate view of Russian dancers practicing their craft on Los Angeles stages, Bradburn’s interview is illustrated by fourteen of his photographs, published for the first time in this issue of Experiment.
Bronislava Nijinska spent the last thirty-two years of her life in Southern California. Beginning with her first visit to Hollywood in 1934 to choreograph the dances in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this essay examines her activities in California both as a teacher and a choreographer. It looks closely at her Hollywood bowl season of 1940, when she staged three of her ballets, all new to the United States; the dancers she trained who went on to distinguished professional careers, and her approach to teaching. It briefly summarizes her activities in the 1940s, when she choreographed for Ballet Theatre, Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, and Ballet International; the 1950s, when she worked for the Grand Ballet du Marquis de Cuevas; and the 1960s, when the revival of Les Noces and Les Biches by the Royal Ballet brought her most celebrated works back into repertory. Finally, it speculates on the reasons she settled in California, given the limited opportunities it offered her for creative work.
This current volume of Experiment, Volume 20, entitled “Kinetic Los Angeles: Russian Émigrés in the City of Self-Transformation” (Guest Editor, Lorin Johnson) is dedicated to the contributions of Russian artists who lived and worked in Los Angeles in the fields of dance performance, visual arts, and film, exploring how the city was influenced by their presence as well as the reasons that drew them to Southern California. While many of the essays focus on the émigré community that gathered in Los Angeles during the 1930s-1940s, the investigation of “Russianness” in the city is not confined to those decades. Each essay in this volume is accompanied by photographs and illustrations which help to tell this story, many of which are previously unpublished and recently discovered in private collections and archives in the U.S. and abroad. Contributors include: Kenneth Archer, John Bowlt, Donald Bradburn, Elizabeth Durst, Lynn Garafola, Karen Goodman, Millicent Hodson, Lorin Johnson (Guest Editor), Mark Konecny, Debra Levine and Oleg Minin.
Charting Nicholas Remisoff’s artistic legacy during his California period, this essay explores his contributions to the cultural landscape of the state and emphasizes his work on live stage productions in San Francisco and Los Angeles in the early 1930s and 1940s. Delineating the critical reception of Remisoff’s work in opera, ballet and theatre in these cities, this essay also highlights the artist’s interactions and key collaborations with other Russian and European émigré artists and reflects on the nature of Remisoff’s particular affinity with Southern California.
Shamanic designs used by painter and archaeologist Nicholas Roerich on the costumes for the original Rite of Spring (1913) apparently shaped the ground patterns of the choreography by Vaslav Nijinsky. Dance detectives Kenneth Archer and Millicent Hodson demonstrate how they discovered these dance and design correspondences in the course of reconstructing the lost Rite for the Joffrey Ballet in 1987 and for other companies worldwide since that time.
This paper discusses the importance of Russian-born choreographer, theatre director, and teacher Benjamin Zemach (1901-1997) to Los Angeles. It contextualizes the sustained influences of his Jewish heritage, his training with Stanislavsky and Vakhtangov in the Habima Theatre, Russian dance and theatre synthesis and early American modern dance. The article focuses on his work in Los Angeles during two different periods of American culture and politics preceding and following World War ii (1931-35 and 1946-71), examining closely his contributions to Los Angeles Jewish and mainstream dance and theatre through an analysis of his choreographies for the stage and film as well as his teaching methodologies.
The essay explores a rare and unknown 40-year professional and personal relationship between Russian ballet dancer Theodore Kosloff (1882-1956) and Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille (1881-1959) told through the prism of the making of DeMille’s Madam Satan (mgm 1930). It tracks Kosloff’s colorful career as a dance entrepreneur, from his Bolshoi Ballet beginnings, to his appearance in the premiere Paris season of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes, to his eventual relocation to Los Angeles where, starting in 1916, he was an acclaimed character actor in nearly 30 silent movies, primarily directed by DeMille. At the outset of the Depression, with the advent of sound in cinema, DeMille relied upon Kosloff as an artistic advisor to bring to fruition Madam Satan his first and only movie musical. The essay analyzes the high-art roots of Kosloff’s bizarre and exceptional ballet mécanique, Madam Satan’s central dance number staged in a moored zeppelin.