RUTH PAGE EVENT KICKS OFF DO40’S
20TH ANNIVERSARY SPRING SEASON!
CURTAIN CALL: Joellen Meglin, Dr. Mel A. Tomlinson, Helene Alexopoulos, George de la Pena,
Cynthia Roses, Suzette Boyer, Lawrence Leritz, Andrew Wentink, Patricia Rozow, Bill Reilly,
Gildo di Nunzio, Patricia Klekovic, James Dybas, Dean Badolato, Dolores Lipinski, Bil Badolato
DANCERS OVER 40’s YEARLY EVENT DEDICATED TO
DANCE AND THEATER GREATS AT ST. LUKE’S THEATER, NYC
An impressive array of nearly two dozen dancers from ballet, Broadway and film, and distinguished curators and historians came from all over the country to celebrate the great American dance pioneer Ruth Page in DO40’s tribute “Ruth Page: A World Apart,” at St. Luke’s Theater, on Monday, March 23, 2015.
The evening began with a brief introduction by program coordinators DO40 member Lawrence Leritz and DO40 Board member Andrew Wentink, both of whom worked with Ruth Page, Leritz as a dancer in her The Nutcracker, and Wentink as her archivist/editor for 17 years. Three panels with video interludes followed in which Ruth Page, who died in 1991, and many of her famous collaborators from the dance, music, and art worlds spoke about Page and her career.
The first panel, “Ruth Page and Dance in Chicago,” featured Dolores Lipinski, Patricia Klekovic, Gildo Di Nunzio, Bill Reilly, Dean Badolato, Bil Badolato, Tom Gold, Lawrence Leritz, and moderator James Dybas. The panelists reminisced about working with Ruth Page at the Chicago Opera, in regional industrials, in her Chicago Opera Ballet (in Chicago and on tour), and in Page’s lavish production of The Nutcracker. All remembered her as a unique character both charming and demanding, who had a lifelong impact on their artistic and personal lives.
Panel #1: Gildo Di Nunzio, Bil Badolato, Dean Badolato, Patricia Klekovic, James Dybas,
Dolores Lipinski, Lawrence Leritz, Bill Reilly, Tom Gold
“Ruth Page Ballets ln Stage and Television,” moderated by Andrew Wentink, featured Cynthis Roses-Thema, Suzette Boyer-Webb, Patricia Rozow, Mel A. Tomlinson, Karen Brown, Helene Alexopoulos, and George de la Pena. These dancers discussed working with Ruth Page, as well as ballet masters Larry Long and the legendary Frederic Franklin, on revivals of her ballets for the Cincinnati Ballet, the Dance Theater of Harlem, and in the Peabody Award-winning television production of The Merry Widow. Among the many fascinating topics raised in the discussion was Page as a champion of African American dancers since the 1920s. Both Mel Tomlinson and Karen Brown acknowledged the petite mid-westerner as a great influence on their performing careers.
Panel #2: Cynthia Roses, Mel A. Tomlinson, Karen Brown, Andrew Wentink,
Helene Alexopoulos, Suzette Boyer, Patricia Rozow, George de la Pena
The last panel was something of a departure for the usual DO40 tributes – an historic and scholarly appreciation of its subject and her place in American dance history. Dakin Hart, Senior Curator of the Isamu Noguchi offered a compelling insight into the artistically productive and personally intimate relationship between Ruth Page and the great Japanese-American sculptor/artist Isamu Noguchi. Jan Schmidt, Curator of the Jerome Robbins Dace Division, gave an overview of the vast collection of research materials donated by Page to the The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Preservation of and online access to hundreds of rare and historic films of Ruth Page’s work and dance research around the world dating to the early 1920s, was discussed by Nancy Watrous, Director of the Chicago Film Archives. Dance historian Joellen Meglin, the last presenter of the evening, explained the personal journey of researching her new biography of the fascinating Ruth Page for Oxford University Press.
Panel #3: Joellen Meglin, Jan Schmidt, Moderator Andrew Wentink, Nancy Watrous and Dakin Hart
The evening ended with the beautiful and romantic finale of the television of production of Page’s The Merry Widow, featuring Patricia McBride, Peter Martins, Rebecca Wright, George de la Pena, Warren Conover, Larry, Long and members of the New York City Ballet. The enthusiastic audience, which included a large contingent of Ruth Page’s family, left feeling delighted by an evening spent learning so much about this American dance original.
DO40 President John Sefakis (right) with Ruth Page event creators DO40 member
Lawrence Leritz (left) and DO40 board member Andrew Wentink (center)
Born in Indianapolis in 1899, Ruth Page made her professional debut on Broadway in 1917, then with Anna Pavlova’s Company on its tour of South America in 1918, and at Chicago’s Auditorium Theater in John Alden Carpenter’s The Birthday of the Infanta in 1919. She danced ceaselessly for the next 40 years, with Adolph Bolm’s Ballet Intime, on Broadway in Irving Berlin’s Music Box Revue, with the Chicago Allied Arts, Diaghileff’s Ballets Russes, the Metropolitan, Ravinia, and Chicago Operas, the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, Les Ballets Americains, choreographed for all but one of those companies, choreographers the 1947 Broadway show Music in My Heart, and served as director/choreographer for the various manifestations of her own Chicago-based companies well into the 1970s. Among hundreds of dance works to her credit are landmark Americana ballets, dances with words and music, and her innovative opera-into-ballets.
Her staging of The Nutcracker became a Chicago tradition and featured some of the world’s great dancers as guest artists. She danced with great partners Bentley Stone, Walter Camryn, and Harald Kreutzberg, and worked with the greatest composers and designers of the 20th century, including Aaron Copland, Darius Milhaud, Jerome Moross, Isamu Noguchi, Antoni Clave, George Wakevitch, Nicholas Remisoff, and Andre Delfau. Her ballets have been revived and performed by ballet companies throughout the United States including Chicago, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, New York, and the Dance Theater of Harlem, as well as in Europe. Ruth filmed her ballets throughout her career and several, including Frankie & Johnny, The Merry Widow, and Billy Sunday were made into award-winning television films. She is the subject of two award-winning documentaries: Ruth Page: An American Original (Otter Productions) and Ruth Page: Once Upon a Dancer (Thea Flaum Productions). The Ruth Page legacy lives on in several major archives including the Dance Division at Lincoln Center, the Ann Brzel Dance Collection at the Newberry Library, and the Chicago Film Archives, as well as at the dynamic Ruth Page Center for the Arts in Chicago.
DO40 board member (and panel moderator) James Dybas with
Ruth Page ballerinas Patricia Klekovic and Dolores Lipinski