Week of July 6-10, 2020
This week we celebrate the Fourth of July with ABT’s all-American ballet Fancy Free!
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On April 18, 1944 Jerome Robbins premiered his landmark ballet Fancy Free at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.
As a 25 year-old dancing in the corps de ballet at Ballet Theatre (ABT), Robbins collaborated with an equally young composer, Leonard Bernstein, and designer Oliver Smith to create an iconic ballet that would go on to inspire On the Town, both a Broadway musical and Hollywood film!
At Ballet Theatre, Robbins was exposed to several different choreographers. He was noticing that many ballets had a strong tradition in Russian folklore, so much so that he thought to himself, “Why not create an American ballet based on an American theme?” It wasn’t long before the opportunity arose for him to propose his own ballet. And he did just that!
Fancy Free was a groundbreaking work because it was one of the first ballets where American’s could look at the characters on the stage and see themselves in those characters. The characters were not Princes or Princesses, but three sailors exploring the sites in New York City on a hot summer night.
While Robbins is remembered primarily for his groundbreaking choreography and for revolutionizing the American Broadway musical, he began his journey as one of the founding dancers in the corps de ballet of American Ballet Theatre 80 years ago.
Join one of ABT’s Teaching Artists as they introduce you to one of ABT’s fabulous ballets. Learn a dance, stop and sketch, and don’t forget to have fun!
Up this week: Mr. Richard!
The term “fancy-free” has its origins in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream (1598). The term means without any ties or commitments.
That very time I saw, but thou couldst not,
Flying between the cold moon and the earth,
Cupid all arm’d: a certain aim he took
At a fair vestal throned by the west,
And loosed his love-shaft smartly from his bow,
As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts;
But I might see young Cupid’s fiery shaft
Quench’d in the chaste beams of the watery moon,
And the imperial votaress passed on,
In maiden meditation, fancy-free.
Fancy Free tells the story of three navy sailors in the late 1940s who have been released from their ship in New York City on shore leave. This means they have 24 hours to see whatever sights they like, but it’s right back to the ship at the end of the night.
If you were one of the sailors, what sights would you want to see in New York City? Below are 10 postcards from famous New York City attractions. Click on each postcard to further explore each site and decide how many sites you think you can explore in one day!
Every Thursday we pull a photo from our archives and share it with one of our ABT dancers. You never know what stories may come from a single snapshot!
“This photo is from my final ABT Summer Intensive in New York before I joined ABT Studio Company in 2006. I had previously attended two other ABT Intensives, one being in Austin, Texas and I remember being very excited because this was my first time I was placed in the Aqua level.
That summer, my level danced the Pas de Action from Act I of La Bayadère. I was extremely grateful and very nervous to dance the role of Solor. I was to share the part with another dancer that summer, but unfortunately he was unable to dance in the final performance, resulting in me performing both shows with two different partners; Devon Teuscher and Faye Hideko Warren, who were also joining Studio Company with me that year.
It was a very special experience to dance with both of them because we were already close friends and I think we shared the nervousness and excitement of what the future held for us. I remember feeling as if these performances were symbolic as my passage into Studio Company and feeling grateful that I was surrounded by my colleagues, many who have gone on to join the Company as well. It gives me a sense of joy to look at this photo now, after so many years, because it was such a challenging and special time for me. I feel lucky and grateful for the experience I had and will always cherish the memories.”
Write about a time that an opportunity presented itself unexpectedly.
Today we are going to look at one the 1940s’ most popular toys: The Secret Decoder Ring!
These inexpensive toys were made famous by companies that would use them as promotional items to advertise their company during radio and television programs. One of the most famous examples was in the 1930’s when Ovaltine sponsored the Little Orphan Annie radio program.
These decoders came in the form of badges and rings and fascinated children with their ability to share secret codes and hidden messages back and forth to each other.
Watch this Ovaltine Commercial from the 1950s to see a real decoder badge in action!
Test your decoder skills with this week’s top secret sailor mission!
(Which is code for: a Super Funny Sailor Joke!)
Click the image to download the Top Secret Message.
In the Spring of 2020, @ABTSchool launched virtual classes taught by former ABT dancers, ABT JKO School faculty and ABT teaching artists – all certified in the ABT National Training Curriculum.
These classes engaged, recommended for ages 2-4 and 5-8, by explore musicality, foster creativity and imagination, and teach ballet fundamentals. These classes engage ABT’s youngest students and their families, as well as the global community at large!
View the full series on @ABTSchool IGTV or ABT’s YouTube Channel.