Ballet's history is not just about choreography and technique — it's also a history of nationalization, the changing ways we view the body, shifting gender norms and class struggles. Historian Jennifer Homans chronicles the art form in a cultural history, Apollo's Angels.
This interview was originally broadcast on December 13, 2010. Apollo's Angels is now available in paperback.
Dancer and actress Marge Champion starred in some of the great musicals of the 1950s, including the films Show Boat and Mr. Music, as well as several stage productions and television shows, along with her partner Gower Champion. She acted in some notable films, including The Swimmer (1968). Her career spans many decades and she was most recently in a Broadway revival of Follies. Champion teaches classes at Jacob Pillow Dance Festival.
Choreographer and dancer Merce Cunnigham. He's been called "one of the great iconoclasts in 20th-century art." He revolutionized modern dance, pioneering abstract movement with his music director John Cage. This week the Lincoln Center in New York City is honoring him. (REBROADCAST FROM 12/17/1985).
Dancer and choreographer Marta Renzi. Typical of her work is "Mountainview," a half-hour dance narrative that premieres this Thursday, August 3 on the PBS program "Alive From Off Center." "Mountainview" is set at the bar of rundown resort run by three generations of the same family. The families loves and jealousies are played out to the sounds of the jukebox, which features the music of Bruce Springsteen, Tammy Wynette and Aretha Franklin. RENZI choreographed the dances and other movements and collaborated with filmmaker John Sayles on the camera work.
Merce Cunningham is an influential choreographer and dancer. He began studying tap as a child before moving on to modern dance, and he joined the Martha Graham Company in 1939. He eventually formed his own company in 1953, and his work has rejected certain dance conventions such as story, emotion, and choreographing to coincide to the music. Cunningham often works with composer John Cage as well as modern artists. Cunningham says he is interested in movement for its own sake.