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André Delfau Interview No. 06 [October 24, 1985]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0537
Run Time
0h 16m 53s
Date Produced
October 24 1985
Q: Let's start with what we were talking about before. Do you think that Ruth's collaborations as a choreographer are not fully appreciated?
A: Yes. Because she worked in Chicago and not in New York. That's very simple and very clear. You see, most of the ballets of Ruth's were never danced in New York. Never.
Q: Never, I know.
A: It is incredible. I mean . . . .
Q: And you were also saying that there was another factor -- that she didn't have a Lincoln Kirstein.
A: Yes, that's another thing.
Q: Would you explain what you meant by that?
A: Well, Lincoln Kirstein had a mission in his life. He found very early his mission was to promote the work of a genius of choreography who was George Balanchine. And he did that with all his intelligence and was great, and all these possibilities of public relations. And so it was an enormous help for Balanchine's career in America. In fact, I can't imagine Balanchine's career in America without Lincoln Kirstein. Nobody could. So the beginnings were difficult, and he was there all the time.
Q: And Tom Fisher really couldn't play that role?
A: Of course not. It was not his position. He was a lawyer. He had to make a living, and he had all . . . he gave Ruth all he could give, but he couldn't give that kind of promotion.
Q: You called Ruth before a "happy, creative person" -- a "happy creator."
A: Yes, a natural one.
Q: Start a sentence so I can just edit it in that begins with, "I think Ruth is a natural creator," and go on from there. Just start by saying, "I think Ruth is a natural . . . ."
A: I think Ruth is a natural creator. Things come to her, and she puts them in movement. It's not terribly intellectual or terribly mystical, or there is no hard feelings. She just put her
life in what she does. And so creation is not an agony like it is for some people, you see.
Q: Is creation . . . .
A: I could imagine a creation with Twyla Tharp. I think that could be something very painful. And some creators are like that, others are . . . .
Q: How about you? Is creation an agony for you?
A: Oh, no. I don't create. [Laughs]
Q: You do it because it is fun.
A: Yes.
Q: I want to get back to the friendship between you and Ruth that has gone on so long. I said to you before that in reading her diaries, your name appears over and over and over, and
not merely by virtue of the fact that she is spending time with you, but that there's a sense of camaraderie, of renewal -- a feeling that she needs you. Do you think she needs you?
A: How could I say that? I don't know, really. How could I say?
Q: Do you feel that she needs you?
A: I hope not. I mean, I think it's a terrible thing to need somebody completely. I mean, I don't think she needs really anybody. I think she's very strong, and she could [manage on her own]. But maybe I'm wrong.
Q: Do you need her?
A: Certainly, yes.
Q: Why?
A: Why?
Q: Yes. Your own feelings. I mean what is it about Ruth that . . . .
A: Ruth is more in real life than I am, you see.
Q: What do you mean?
A: I have this feeling very often that I am not in real life.
Q: That you are not in real life?
A: Yes.
Q: That you are just moving through it? That your mind is somewhere else? What?
A: Yes, that I'm . . . even my body . . . I mean, is this kind of feeling I have very often.
Q: Do you have it especially when you are painting?
A: No.
Q: No. Especially not when you're . . . is that when you are most real, when you are painting?
A: Yes, I think.
Q: It's very, almost existential.
A: Well, maybe [laughs].
Q: What do you mean when you said that Ruth is real? Involved in reality?
A: Well, she is a strong person, you see. She can deal with things.
Q: And you can't?
A: Well, I suppose, if I have to do it, of course, I would, but I don't like to.
Q: To hear Ruth tell it, you're bored by most of the everyday things of life. Bored with having to bother to eat, having to bother with . . . oh, just the "everydayness" of things.
A: Yes. Yes, it's true. But bored, it's a strong word. I mean it's too strong. I'm not exactly bored, but kind of, sort of . . . .
Q: It's not important.
A: Hmmm?
Q: It's a sense that these things aren't important.
A: Because, yes, this kind of feeling.
Q: Yes. So what is important? What would you say are the most important things to you?
A: Well, the quality of life or something like that.
Q: And the most important things to Ruth?
A: Oh, I think her world. Her real world is very important to her. I mean, the school; I mean, her class. Those are the most important things to her.
Q: She talks about the fact that you are an intellectual and a cultured person and have a great deal more education than she.
A: Oh, she has a great deal of education. She speaks very nice French, and no, she doesn't need education at all. I'm more of an intellectual than she, I think, yes.
Q: Do you find her good company?
A: Oh yes. Otherwise I wouldn't be here. She's marvelous company because she doesn't impose, she doesn't wait. She has her own life, so she doesn't need to be in your life.
Q: Has she been to this studio yet?
A: No. Well, once, yes, when I take [rented] it. But not yet, no. She's waiting to see the paintings.
Q: Talk a little bit about these paintings. I mean, do you . . . .
A: Well, this is a new series. And it's more or less about theatre.
Q: Do you have any idea how long it will go on that you will keep doing this particular series?
A: No, I don't know. But I have lot of ideas, so I could do this for a long time, I hope.
Q: Ruth says you paint a painting every day.
A: No, it is not true.
Q: I didn't think so.
A: No, it's not true. I could do it sometime, but not as a whole. It's not like that.
Q: When you come in to paint, André, you get here at about what time in the morning?
A: Nine. Around nine.
Q: And you paint all day?
A: Yes, I walk usually. I walk from 209 and arrive here. I never look at the view, and begin to work, and I stay still four or five in the afternoon.
Q: Every day?
A: Every day, yes.
Q: It's like Ruth and her dancing and her classes every day.
A: Yes.
Q: It's what you do.
A: Yes, yes.
Q: Has it been difficult for you to be spending as much time in this country and in Chicago as you have since you and Ruth have been married these last few years.
A: Well, I've not many friends in Paris, but in Chicago I have none, you see, except Ruth, of course.
Q: Except Ruth.
A: And so it was kind of difficult, sometimes. Sometimes, I feel like having a chat or conversation.
Q: About your marriage to Ruth. She said she asked you to marry her.
A: Yes.
Q: And she said . . . .
A: She was in New York. It was in the . . . we were in the Mayflower Hotel.
Q: What did she say?
A: Hmmm?
Q: What did she say?
A: She said, "Will you marry me?" And she said, "It won't change anything in your life, and I would be very happy."
Q: And you said?
A: "Yes."
Q: Were you surprised?
A: Yes. Oh, yes, I was, yes.
Q: But it didn't take you any time at all to make up your mind?
A: No, I said, "Yes."
Q: You're two such independent people, you and Ruth. Does that make it easier because you are both so independent?
A: I imagine. I imagine, yes, because she could respect that in another person.
Q: I've said before that I think she's . . . you're her best friend, the best friend she's ever had in her life. Is she your best friend?
A: I think, yes. Yes, I think, yes.
Q: What is there in the friendship that makes it so good and has made it last so long?
A: Well, common interest, I suppose. Difference of character and community of interest.
Q: It strikes me, André, that there are very few people in this world who aren't to some degree afraid of Ruth.
A: Afraid?
Q: She's so strong and so . . .
A: She is strong, definitely.
Q: . . . firm in her ideas, but I don't think you're afraid of her.
A: No. I'm afraid of another kind of person, not Ruth.
Q: What do you mean? What kind of . . . .
A: I'm afraid of people who try to impose on others. I mean, who want to force . . . .
Q: It strikes me that there's a great deal of respect in your relationship.
A: Yes.
Q: Was it always there?
A: Oh, yes, certainly.
Q: Has there ever been another choreographer or partner, creative relationship that you have had that has been as long as the one you've had with Ruth?
A: No. But my relationship with Skibine was interrupted by his death. Because he died, as you know, very young. Otherwise, I'm sure I would still be working with Skibine, too.
Q: Was there ever a time in all the years when you thought, I don't want to work with Ruth Page anymore?
A: Oh, no, I never thought of that.
Q: So it was good from the start?
A: Yes.
Q: Do you think that she treats you differently from the way she treats other people?
A: Yes, I think, yes. I think she is very nice with everybody, as you know, but I think she treats me a little better.
Q: Why?
A: Because she likes me [Laughs], I suppose.
Q: And you like her.
A: Yes.
Q: Okay, that's it. Is there anything I haven't asked you that I . . . that you can think of that you'd like to have on this tape?
A: No. [Laughs]
Related Place
Chicago (production location of)