The Men Dancers: From The Horse’s Mouth….
Oral History is a lost art. The sharing of information from one generation to another orally is something that has little relevance in this age of information. With Google at our fingertips we can search the world for the most archaic to the most mundane of subjects.
The Men Dancers: From The Horse’s Mouth is a sharing of oral histories, situations and firsthand accounts that will probably not make it into the history books. It consists of personal stories of the interactions between dance luminaries such as Jose Limon, Agnes B, DeMille and Eric Hawkins, some humorous, some profound.
The Men Dancers: From The Horse’s Mouth, was conceived and directed by Tina Croll and Jamie Cunningham and was a great success in its performances at Jacob’s Pillow. It is a revolving scenario of male dancers of all ages and all genres sharing first hand and intimate experiences in dance.
The Men Dancers: From The Horse’s Mouth was created in honor of Ted Shawn and his Men Dancers. Mr. Shawn was revolutionary in his vision of a company composed of only men in a time when there were not many male dancers and dance was considered an effeminate art form for men in which to participate. It was a part of Mr. Shawn’s vision that The Men Dancers would help dispel this stereotype and bring more men into the world of dance. Between when the company was founded in 1933 and then when it was disbanded in1940, Ted Shawn and the Men Dancers had danced for over a million people in the United States, in Canada, Cuba and England, changing dance in America forever.
Different men, ranging in ages between 17 and 88, would come on stage and seated before a microphone share moments from their past experiences and situations that were unique to them. Around the person sharing their story 3 to 4 men would be dancing in various movement styles from classical in improvisational. Once the person sharing their story finished they would get up and begin to dance in their movement style and then another male dancer would come on stage and recount their tale.
Lars Lubovitch recounted of his auditioning to get into Julliard before a panel that consisted of Martha Graham, Jose Limon and Anna Sokolow. There were impressed with his first ever choreographed solo and said so, unfortunately the performer before was not treated so graciously…she was tap dancing in pointe shoes while playing a tambourine. While Mr. Lubovitch is talking, behind him a grainy black and white film of that same solo is seen.
Trent Kowalik who is 17, recounted about his early training and the transformation from competition dancer to professional dancer when he won the lead in Billy Elliot. Mr. Kowalik was in both the London and New York productions, the same role for which he was awarded an Emmy.
David Vaughn, 88, shared what an amazing journey his life has been due to his long association with Merce Cunningham, which began in 1950.
Charles Askegard, then in the corps de ballet for American Ballet Theater remembers being in rehearsal while Agnes B. DeMille was choreographing The Others. Ms. de Mille stopped rehearsal, and approached Mr. Askegard, asked if he liked what she was doing. When he answered yes, she said “then why are you doing it wrong…” She then had him do it again correctly…the next day he was notified that Ms. de Mille wanted him to dance the lead.
Intermittently a shaft of light would shine diagonally across the stage and dancers would come out and dance in their favorite costumes. Gus Solomons, Jr. glided across the stage like the Royalty of Dance he is while majestically wearing a floor length gold gown, using a walking stick due to a recent back operation.
The Men Dancers: From The Horse’s Mouth is an important production for it shines a light on instances in the dancers’ life that would later come to both guide and help define them. The cast changes from show to show, so each evening is a unique experience.