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Larry Long No. 06 [October 24, 1985]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0532
Run Time
0h 18m 41s
Date Produced
October 24 1985
Q: What kind of circumstances, Larry, were you . . . . We were talking about Ruth and her feelings, and I asked you if there were any instances you could recall when . . . .
A: I remember, I know of one that comes to mind, and I think of it often. We were doing class at Bentley Stone's studio one time, and this was not very long before the end of the company, so it's not that long ago. And the class pianist was playing -- I think it was a Schumann piece for the exercise. And in the middle of the exercise Ruth burst into tears and dashed down the stairs to the second floor where the dressing rooms were. Mr. Stone was conducting class and couldn't go after her, so he motioned that I should go and see if Ruth was all right. So I did. And then went downstairs, and she was sitting on a bench in the reception area just crying her eyes out. Well, this was so unlike Ruth to be so . . . to show such kind of vulnerability. So I went and sat beside her, and I put my arms around her, and I was, you know, just for a moment just holding her, just . . . and then finally I said, "Miss Page, what's the matter, what did you, did you hurt yourself or what?" And she said, "Oh, no," she said, "my mother used to play that." It was as though she had [snap] turned her off like that. And she went, "I'll be, I'll be perfectly all right. How silly of me, how silly of me. I'll be perfectly all right. You go back up and finish class." It was as though in that one moment she . . . her defenses were down, for whatever reason, and her insides just came out. And yet the moment that she had realized that she'd exposed something quite personal to her . . . it was . . . she had to regain control. And regain her control of the situation.
Q: When she was mugged and had to have the hip surgery, tell about that.
A: Oh, that was absolutely . . . that was just awful. It happened twice, you know. The first time was bad. The second time was actually really, really awful. She was in the hospital the second time. She had, I think, there was something in her collar bone or her shoulder or something that was very . . . that was either broken or fractured or something. She was . . . that was very bad. And you know that almost the most devastating thing, I think, to Ruth about that was not actually the physical violence, but it was the realization to Ruth that there were people out there that could do something like this.
     You know Ruth had been a very, very free spirit. Ruth would go anywhere. She knew no fear. Ruth was never afraid to encounter any kind of person in the world. Not at all. She has no conception of violence, I don't think. And I think it came as a total surprise to her that something like this -- so senseless, and so hurtful -- could happen, that it happened to her, or it could happen to anybody. I think it was totally out of her realm of experience to know that this kind of thing went on. She has no conception of how dangerous the real world is, or how real the real world is, you know. From that . . . in that point of view.
Q: Tell about the time when she was having the hip surgery, and what she said to you about not being able to live.
A: Oh, that was, that was the most endearing thing in the world. When she went in for her hip surgery, we knew the day that she was having the surgery, and so the very next day, actually the day she had the surgery, I called the hospital because we had a student, an adult student at the school who was a nurse at the Wesley Pavilion or Passavant Pavilion. So I called and I said, "How is Miss Page doing?" And they said, "Well, she just came out of surgery. She's back in her room, but she's asleep." And I said, "Do you suppose I could just come over and see her?" And the nurse, the lady said, "Well, she's asleep, she won't know." And I said, "It doesn't matter, I'd just like to see her. I want to see if she's all right, or if she's . . . I would just like to see her." So I did. I went over, and the nurse took me to the room and all I had to do was look through the door and see that she was there. And she was resting and she was pale. She looked so small. But I was satisfied to know that she was there.     
     The next day Dolores and I went regularly in visiting hours to see her. And she was actually sitting up in a chair the very next day. They were changing the linens on her bed, and her room was filled with flowers and with books. And with her calendar marking down social things and what she had to do and where she was going to go, and she was very, very busy. And she was sitting in this chair, and we went in and kissed her and said, "Well, how are you doing? You look absolutely wonderful." We were surprised to see her sitting up. And she says, "I just want you to know I think this surgery was a disaster." And I said, "What do you mean, 'a disaster?' " She says, "Well, it's just, it's pointless that I've had this at all. It's just a disaster." And I said, "Well, why? Why would you say that? You've had trouble walking, your hip was really bothering you, why would you say it was a disaster?" She said, "Well, I'll never get my leg up here again. I'll be lucky if I get my leg at ninety degrees. I'm not going to be able to dance. What was the point in doing this if I can't dance again!" And I thought to myself now there you are. There, that says that's about . . . that's Ruth Page, you know. Here she's, not an incredibly young lady in age, incredibly young in every other way, was having a terrible time walking because of the deterioration in the hip and everything. And she just thinks it's a disaster because she won't be able to really dance again, like she did before. And she won't get her leg up by her ear. Only ninety degrees.
Q: Only.
A: And so it was a total failure. And I knew from that moment she was going to be all right. She was going to be all right. Somebody would spend a year getting out of bed. And as a matter of fact she was, I think, ten days in the hospital after the operation. She was two weeks at home walking around, but at the end of that two weeks, like clockwork, she was into the school, walked up the stairs, walked into the ballet school, and took a barre.
Q: She was, and this is 1982.
A: This is 1982.
Q: She's 83 years old.
A: Eighty-three years old. And this was two weeks -- fourteen days plus ten -- twenty-four days after she had that operation. She was doing barre in the studio.
Q: At age 83.
A: At age 83.
Q: Amazing.
A: Now that really tells . . . that's Ruth Page. Right there is the essence of Ruth Page.
Q: You know she's written about you, that she wishes you were her son. She wrote a little piece about you, and it ended with the line, "I wish he were my son." What do you think she means?
A: Well, I hope she means just that. Because that's exactly how I feel about Ruth. I feel about Ruth as though I were her son. I feel about Ruth . . . I feel about Ruth . . . I could fill a barrel with the things I feel about Ruth. But the most important thing I feel about Ruth is a kind of, in a funny way, a kinship.
     Ruth has done more, not in the material way, but in every other way to make me the man, the teacher, the dancer . . . the whatever I am, now, really relates more to Ruth than almost any other single . . . not more than, almost, but more than any other single person, certainly more than my parents. I love my parents and my parents instilled all kinds of things, but as a human being, you know, you take, you assume from people that you admire their attitudes, their outlook, their standards. And of all those things, all of those things that I have assumed, I trace back in one fashion or another to Ruth. Her insistence on excellence, her insistence on being original, not being derivative, but be your own person, be yourself. That means a great deal to me. I hope it's reflected in my teaching, because all of those things go back to Ruth. And in a way, I feel about her like I'm her son. And to me it's an accolade that she would say that about me; that I hope one day I'll deserve.
Q: You once said to me, "I wish she knew, I wish I thought she knew how much I love her."
A: I think I mean all the things I just said. I wish she really knew what influence she's had. She's had influence on all of us, you know, on all of us, on development of our taste, of our standards. I wish she knew that. You know when you love your parents because of all the things they have sometimes unwittingly given you in growing up. Well, I feel like I've had several stages of growing up. I've had my growing up with my parents, I had my growing up with my teachers. The kind of growing up I hope I'm giving to somebody now who's a student. And then I had the rest of my growing up, and the rest of my growing up, which has taken longer than the first two all together, has all been in the hands, as it were, of Ruth Page, you know. And I wish she knew that. Because that's the kind of love that you give, that you can't give back. You can't express that except in your life. That's how you, I think, that's how you show that love, in the way you live the rest of your life as a result of somebody's interface with you. And I wish . . . that's what I wish she knew.
Q: Why do you think she doesn't?
A: Maybe she does. Maybe she does. I hope she does. It's not anything that I would say to her, and it's not anything she would ever say to me. But I think maybe she does. Maybe she does.
Q: It would be nice to think that she would know at this stage in her life how much she's done for you and how much she shaped you, because it strikes me that if she has a real heir, you're it.
A: Well, that's a big burden to be heir to, I must say. If she has an artistic heir, I would love to be it. And if I am it, I hope because of what I've gotten with me from the years with Ruth that that legacy is what will make me bear, will make me worthy of being the heir, you know. So she will have created really the work, and she will have created the carry on. Again she's done it all.
Q: What do you think, Larry, do you ever think about what it will be like when Ruth is gone? The school will continue, I assume. It's endowed and it will; we know that the school will continue. It's hard to imagine this place with her not coming in, you know, every day for class. Do you think she thinks about it?
A: Well, probably. I don't think she thinks about it in a morbid way, because I don't think she's a morbid thinker. I mean, I don't think . . . that's not her way. I think that she does think about it, yes. I hope, I hope that as long as the school goes on, Ruth will be here, whether she's here or not, because she's the reason for everything. Ruth is the reason. Ruth is the catalyst that has made all of this happen. Not only all of this, but all of us. So, as long as the school is here and as long as we're here, Ruth is really going to be here. Ruth, I can't . . . I don't think Ruth will ever leave the building. Ruth will, of course, whatever . . . but Ruth is. . . Ruth is here. She is. The whole place is Ruth. Even the way we teach is Ruth. The things that we teach in the class are Ruth. Her legacy is all-encompassing here.
Q: I hope she knows that, because the feeling that André, her husband, said to me, what she's afraid of is that when she dies it will all end. You don't think that's right.
A: No, I don't. No, I don't at all. As a matter of fact I think like a lot of things . . . I just read a book about Pisarro, the painter, and, of course, it's kind of a cliché story, but Pisarro hardly ever made enough to earn a living while he was painting, and the moment he died, up went the value of the paintings, you know. And, well, in a way, I think when Ruth is no longer here, I think people then will divorce themselves from Ruth the personality and look at Ruth the work. You know? There won't be . . . Ruth is a very colorful woman and sometimes, of course, that colors your perceptions of things. Well, when she's no longer there, and I hope it won't be for years yet because she's got lots of things to do, when she is no longer there I think that people will look not at Ruth personally, but at Ruth the work. And then people will say, "Well, where was this wonderful woman all those years?" Of course, she was here. Vibrantly here. But she was; it will be seen. It won't . . . it will not disappear. It will not disappear. Things like that don't disappear.
Q: I think you're right.
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Chicago (production location of)