Chapter 12 Maturing Classics 1945-1959
I. From the end of World War II until 1959 there was a recovery from the war to a new economy, a baby boom and a suburban lifestyle. This was the greatest economic and population explosion in the history of America. Contractors built thirty houses a day.
A. Although prosperity continued in the 50's, there was a conflict in Korea.
1. The expansion of communism in the Far East caused concern in America.
2. The United States and the Soviet Union were the most powerful political entities and the arms race caused a cold war.
3. Bomb shelters were built in people’s backyards.
4. General Dwight Eisenhower, as President of the Untied States, encouraged Americans to focus on home improvements and to cultivate the home life. He oversaw the building of 40,000 miles of interstate highways.
a. In 1959, President Eisenhower opened up communication with Soviet premier Nikita Krushaev to discuss nuclear disarmament.
B. The influx of Veterans changed the societal structure by their resumption of the place in the work force.
1. During WWII, many women had taken jobs previously performed by men.
a. Some women returned to the home to become full-time homemakers while others stayed in the work force.
2. Fashion during this time changed from drab and somber to flared skirts and comfort and the two piece bikini swimsuit was introduced.
3. The 1950's became known as “The Ozzie and Harriet era” after the famous T.V. couple who lived in the suburbs and solved all of their problems easily during a half of an hour weekly show.
4. Radio, television and movies were central to family life. By 1951, one and a half million televisions were in American homes.
5. There was a rebirth of rhythm and blues in music and Elvis Presley became the first rock star.
6. Social dances
a. American Bandstand televised teen-agers dancing the latest steps and competing in dance contests.
b. Swing, sometimes called the jive, replaced the Lindy.
c. Line dancing became popular with two lines of couples dancing a stroll while a couple improvised a dance in-between the lines to the end of the line to be replaced by the next couple at the other end.
d. The mambo evolved to the cha-cha.
C. America had been isolated during WWII and had to rely upon its own resources for artistic development and worked at creating mature works.
D. Major Figures in Ballet during this time
1. Jerome Robbins (1918-1998) was born Jerome Robinwitz in New York City. He studied ballet and other forms of dance along with music and acting. He attended New York University and then pursued a career in dancing and choreography. He joined Ballet Theatre in 1940 and was a lead dancer. In 1950, Robbins joined New York City Ballet as a dancer and choreographer and within a year he became associate artistic director. Robbins had appeared in several Broadway musicals before joining ballet companies and he returned to the Broadway sate to choreograph “West Side Story” in 1957 which was an instant
success. He started his own ballet company, Ballet:USA in 1958. He continued to choreograph musicals and direct plays and in the 1970's returned to New York City Ballet until 1990. Jerome Robbins is known for his jazz-flavored ballets.
2. Jacques DAmboise (1934- ) was born in Massachusetts and attended the School of American Ballet and performed with Ballet Society and New York City Ballet. He created many leading roles in Balanchine ballets.
3. Marie Tallchief (1925- ) was born in Oklahoma and was the daughter of a chieftain of the Osage tribe. She studied ballet with Bronislava Nijinska in California. She began her professional career with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and then joined Ballet Society, which became New York City Ballet. She danced with them from 1947- 1965 and was married to Balanchine in the 40's.
4. Alexandre Dainlova (1903-1997) was a Russian dancer who trained at the Imperial Theater and danced with the ballet of the Maryinsky Theatre. She came to America to dance with Diaghilev’s Ballet Russes until his death in 1929. She was one of the most prestigious ballerinas of the 1930s and 40s and was known for her versatility in roles ranging from classical to dramatic.
Nora Kaye (1920-1987) was born Nora Koreff in New York and studied with Fokine and Tudor and danced with the America Ballet, Metropolitan Opera and Ballet Theatre.
D. American Modern Dance during the post war period was used by the United States Government during the cold war to create national awareness of American arts by sending artists around the world. Modern dance was developing in technique and expression and small companies formed to rehearse for a performance and disband until the next performance.
1. Modern dancers in the 1940s and 50s became known as a phenomenal art force.
2. The first generation of modern dancers were mostly female and in the second generation, strong male figures emerged to form a broader base and to continue to work of Ted Shawn and Charles Weidman.
3. José Limón (1908-1972) was born in Mexico and moved to California as a child and studied with Humphrey-Weidman for ten years. In 1946, he formed the José Limón Company with Doris Humphrey as artistic director and co-
choreographer. He believed that man is the finest subject for choreography and he provided a strong male role model for men in modern dance. He taught at
Bennington, Sarah Lawrence and Connecticut colleges and the Julliard School Dance Division.
4. Lester Horton (1909-1953) was born in Indianapolis and was interested in art and theater and especially Native American culture. He moved to Los Angeles in 1928 and choreographed for a variety of venues including nightclubs and musicals. During this time, he trained a dance group and choreographed dances that integrated the cultures of African American, Haitian, Mexican and Native American which were appealing to a wide-rage of audiences. His company was the first to include African American, Mexican, Japanese and Caucasian dancers. His productions also relied on costuming, scenery and theatricality to create a total theater experience. He developed a movement technique with Bella Lewitzky which was codified in the 1950's. Besides Bella Lewitzky, Alvin Ailey also danced with him and continued his work through their own.
5. Anna Sokolow (1910-2000) was born in Connecticut and grew up in New York’s Lower East side. She joined Martha Graham’s company in 1930 and was a
member for eight years. She was the first choreographer to set her work to jazz music and none of her works have endings because she believed there were no final solutions to conflicts in human relationships and so, her dances simply stop of fade out. In 1938 she toured the Soviet Union performing solo concerts.
6. Erik Hawkins (1909-1994) was born in Colorado. He graduated from Harvard where he studied Greek, history, mythology and philosophy. He was also a graduate of the School of American Ballet and performed with American Ballet and Dance Caravan during the 1930's. Hawkins studied modern dance with German expressionist Harald Kreutzberg and then danced with Martha Graham, holding the distinction of being the first male dancer in her company. He became both dance partner and husband ( for a short time) to Graham. In 1951, he left the company to start his own school and company. He was a champion of the role of the male modern dancer in modern dance and his choreography melded the influences of classical ballet technique and expressionistic dance with the philosophies and influences of ancient civilizations and Zen Buddhism. He always used live accompaniment for his performances and his dances seemed to describe floating and effortless movement with costumes that allowed the body lines to be unencumbered.
7. Pearl Primus (1919-1994) was born in Trinidad but raised in New York City. She graduated from Hunter College and began presenting concerts in New York in the early 1940s as a soloist with her company.
E. Connecticut College
After World War II, the new summer training for modern dancers was Connecticut College and like Bennington, it became a mecca for University dance teachers from all over the world to attend and study with the leading artists and choreographers.