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Combinations [1963, Chicago, Civic Opera House]

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Film Identifier: F.2011-05-0103
Run Time
0h 20m 16s
Date Produced
"Combinations" is an off-beat, abstract ballet about being on the telephone. It was choreographed by Ruth Page, with a score by Isaac Van Grove and designs by André Delfau.  It premiered on October 31, 1963 at Chicago Teachers College (now Chicago State University), and was then performed on tour in 1964.

This 1963 rehearsal at the Chicago Lyric Opera House predates that tour; some dancers are in practice clothes, while others wear costumes.
The film begins with a shot of a stage with 2 prop-doors installed on it. Almost immediately, a man in practice clothes walks through one and stands momentarily, as if in thought, before launching into a solo dance during which he thinks, comes up with an idea, thinks a bit more, and beckons toward someone off-camera as he dances his way offstage. Two young women then enter in costume--flowing dresses, large bows in their heads, and bows on sticks as props. They dance a duet en pointe together. As they begin to exit, another young woman enters stage in a slightly different dress and dances a long solo. The camera cuts and allows her to repeat several portions of it. As she completes it, the man from before enters just behind her. The camera then cuts again and four more men push additional doors onstage and enter through them, posing behind the initial man as he performs another brief solo and then dancing as an ensemble when his solo is completed. Next, the group dances opposite him, mirroring his movements as if his disciples. When he bows and exits, the young woman from the previous scene returns, seeming to dismiss each young man in turn. The central man then reenters and begins dancing a lengthy pas de deux with the young woman; they then part, reluctantly. Suddenly, the man is tossed a telephone from offstage, and this inaugurates a chaotic scene in which dancers holding phones attached to long cords scurry on and offstage, dance in groups, and eventually hold a double-(or quadruple-?)dutch jumprope session gone haywire. In the climax of the scene, a man stands at center, trying to hold up all of the phone lines, with other dancers and their phones collapsed on the ground all around him. Afterwards, they all arise again, dance around him a bit, and slowly make their way offstage. Fed up and alone, the man covers his ears, and is then tossed a sword. Slightly confused, he takes it and exits stage as four women enter stage (3 of them at least partially in costume with flower-like skirts) and begin an ensemble dance. As they do so, the man and reenters with his sword raised (this time wearing some sort of turban + vest). The women seem to flirtatiously convince him against using the weapon. Despite this, he then injures one, who hobbles around as he watches the other three dance. Similar sword/dancer shenanigans continue until he instructs all the women to kneel and prances off, leaving four young men to come replace him. He hangs his garb on one of the women, and the men lift all four women offstage. The man then dances a solo reminiscent of the opening solo, after which he gestures groups of other dancers onstage and hides behind a door. These eight enter and dance as a lively ensemble, occasionally breaking into pas de deux, doing the twist, etc. They eventually break into couples and the original man enters with the original young women from one of the doors; all couples dance a pas de deux. The central couple then reprises a bit of their initial pas de deux while the rest watch, and they exit as the other dancers begin a lively finale. The couple rejoins them for a silly final ensemble dance. The film ends once all strike their final pose.
Additional Credits
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Kayan, Orrin (is performer)
Everett, Ellen (is performer)
Related Place
Chicago (production location of)