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Mindy Aloff
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POETS' "JEOPARDY" Special Edition: Poetry and the Dance Question: What do the careers of Thomas Hardy, Emily Dickinson, Louis MacNeice, Marianne Moore, Amiri Baraka (né LeRoi Jones), James Merrill, Kenneth Koch, and Frank O’Hara have in common, apart from the fact that they all wrote poetry in English? Answer: All of them wrote at least one poem about the ballet, not as a metaphor but as a self-contained art. Many of their ballet poems, in fact, are about particular ballets or named dancers. Question: What do Edwin Denby, Jack Anderson, and Jay Rogoff have in common? Answer: All of them were or are known as poets and also as working dance critics. Question: What do Théophile Gautier, Jean Cocteau, and Louis-Ferdinand Céline have in common, apart from the fact that they wrote in French? Answer: All of them wrote libretti or scenarios for ballets. Gautier’s brainchild was the 1841 ballet Giselle. Cocteau, who served Diaghilev, founder of the Ballets Russes (1909-1929), wrote ballet scenarios after Diaghilev’s death as well—most famously for the 1946 Roland Petit ballet Le Jeune Homme et la Mort, which Cocteau also conceived. Céline, a balletomane, wrote several scenarios that he hoped would be adopted by a ballet company in the U.S.S.R., to which he traveled in 1936 to try to get his ideas produced. For some reason, none of them seemed to attract the Soviets’ attention. And, yet, who could possibly resist Céline’s ballet scenario “Scandal in the Deep,” a bit of which goes: “There he is, Captain Krog, with his spike in his hand. . .with his men. . .on the ice floe. . .massacring a thousand baby seals surprised in their little games. . .the blood of innocent seals runs everywhere on the ice. . .on the men. . .splattering Captain Krog. . .Captain Krog and his men dance with delight!. . .The Dance of the Massacre!” (Thomas and Carol Christensen, trans., Ballets without Music, without Dancers, without Anything, Los Angeles: Green Integer Press, 1999.) Question: In terms of the New York City Ballet, what did the poets W.H. Auden and Lincoln Kirstein have in common? Answer: They both wrote program notes for the company. (Read those ballet programs! You never know who the anonymous authors actually are.) Question: Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, Arthur Rimbaud, Edith Sitwell, and Gertrude Stein were some of his choreographic inspirations. Name the choreographer. Answer: Frederick Ashton. Question: What poet’s work provided the title of the Martha Graham-Aaron Copland masterpiece of modern dance, the 1944 Appalachian Spring? Answer: Hart Crane’s “The Bridge.” Question: The title of Paul Taylor’s 1990 dance Of Bright & Blue Birds & the Gala Sun comes from the work of what poet? Answer: Wallace Stevens’s poem of the same title. Question: What soloist from the original, 1948 group of dancers for the New York City Ballet—where her culminating assignment a decade later was to serve as a member of the original cast of the landmark Balanchine-Stravinsky Agon—and who subsequently performed as a member of the... Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
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May 28, 2014