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Patricia Klekovic No. 02 [July 3, 1985]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0599
Run Time
0h 20m 50s
Date Produced
July 3 1985
Q: Did your husband . . . . I had just asked you whether or not your husband was involved
in the world of ballet at all?
A: Yes, he is.
Q: Start out by saying, "My husband . . . ."
A: Yes, my husband is also a dancer. Or I should say he . . . well, he's still a dancer. He still does Nutcracker. But he's also teaching in the school now. I met him in Pittsburgh after Miss Page's company closed. He had been in New York and had gotten the job in Pittsburgh, and Kenneth, my partner, and I had gone to Pittsburgh with Ruth to set her Carmen, and then we stayed there since her company had folded. And we were in Pittsburgh for four or five years. And that's where I met my husband, and we started dancing together. I think the reason I started dancing with him, I thought, "If something happens with Ken, who can I dance with in this company?" and I picked out this tall, strong, good partner, and we ended up getting married a couple years later.
Q: Tell me why you like Juliet so much? You said two roles: Juliet and Carmen.
A: Well, Juliet was completely the opposite of Carmen. And it was something that was set for me. I mean it was one of the few, the only other ballet that Ruth -- I shouldn't say the only other ballet, after Juliet then a few other things were set with the idea of my dancing them in mind. But it was . . . the only one before that was Concertino pour Trois, which was originally supposed to be done with two girls and one boy. And because there weren't any girls around but me, it ended up being two boys and one girl. My partner was upset, because it was supposed to be his ballet and it ended up being mine. But Juliet, I got to work on it from the beginning, and I could use my own ideas. I read the book a few times. I saw the movie, and I kind of decided which way I wanted to go with it. I liked the movie a lot, but I didn't feel that they were such children. So we did it a little more . . . I mean, even though they're young, they were more grown-up in those days. You know they're not like our children. We're kind of pampered, and we stay young longer.
     I got to work with my partner, too. Instead of just telling me what I should do and how I should feel, we talked about the feeling between us, how we felt this should go and how that should go. And especially the death scene. That was a big thing because we took artistic license on the death scene. Have you ever seen hers? Right. Juliet sees him again at the end while he's still alive and then he dies in her arms. Well, we did this because we felt in the ballet, being just the two of us, without having all the extra people around, emotionally and story-wise it was much more dramatic at the end. And he didn't feel that way at first, but we, after discussing it and Ruth discussing it, kind of came out that way. And, I think, ended up being very dramatic at the end. Considering it was just a, you know, small -- hers isn't one of those gigantic -- it's just the small twenty-minute version. Getting that whole story into twenty minutes was kind of hard. I also liked it because I was the only girl. Everybody else was boys. I was the only girl in the ballet. So I got to do all the pretty stuff.
Q: And that rarely happens that you're the only girl.
A: It sure does. It's usually the other way around; there's millions of girls and one boy. But I got to be the only girl and had the most beautiful costumes. André Delfau designed them for us. And that was another funny story. Miss Page and I had a lot of fights over costumes. Because she would have them designed, and I would look at them and say -- this was after I was doing lead parts for her -- that they look terrible on me. And the same thing happened with her Romeo and Juliet. She brought the sketches in, and she had told Mr. Delfau it was going to be modern. But it wasn't modern. We had really done an old, you know, old-fashioned version, as far as the dancing went. And he had sketched very modern costumes. So I was going to wear high white boots and a slip-type thing, and I said, "Ohhhh, noooo, I won't do Juliet in that. It's not going to fit." And as usual she got very angry with me and said I was difficult, I never like the costumes. And I asked Mr. Delfau to please come and see the ballet. And he came and saw the ballet and said, "Oh, I know what you mean." And he designed the most gorgeous costumes. I felt so beautiful in those costumes. And I think when you feel beautiful, you dance beautiful. If you're in something that makes you feel ugly, if you're not supposed to be ugly in the part, if you're uncomfortable, you can't be the person that you're trying to portray. And he made me feel like Juliet in his costume. So it made it easier to dance the role.
Q: Costumes have always been important to Ruth.
A: Very. And most of them are absolutely gorgeous, but once in a while, they, you know, things just kind of didn't work out.
Q: Tell me, Pat, do you remember when Ruth stopped dancing?
A: Yes, I do. She didn't come that much with our company when I was in the company. She danced before I joined the company with Mr. Stone a lot. But I didn't get to see that much. The only thing I ever saw her do was her Susanna and the Barber. And it was a lot of fun to have her in. Well, one reason we were very happy because we all -- that's when we were still very young and bad children. We were very glad she was dancing because then she couldn't see us fooling around. She was out there in front of us, working very hard. And if we made boo-boos back there, she didn't see it. You know, she couldn't come back and holler at us for dragging the bench when it got caught on our costumes, because she was too busy dancing. So that was one great thing about it.
     But she was very . . . I couldn't believe how strong her feet were. I was always in shock. She's the only lady, and I think she must have been in her sixties at the time, that could jump that high off the floor and land on both toes. I couldn't believe. I wouldn't have tried it. My toenails would've all turned black. She had the strongest feet with the biggest arches I've ever seen. And it's not fair. She didn't need them anymore. But dancing with her, I must say, it was fun.
Q: How was it for you when you had to stop dancing?
A: Well, what happened to me, I figured it was something that had to happen. I tore a muscle in my fanny, dancing in a theater that was too cold. That's the only thing I can figure out because I was warmed up. I took as good care of myself as you possibly could. I tried not to get injured. And I was doing Carmina Burana in Pittsburgh, and in the middle of it, I felt something very weird, and all of a sudden I felt like my leg was going to fall off, like I had to hold it. I had torn a muscle, and I thought, God must be telling me something. You know, if things like this are going to happen for no reason, my body must be saying, "Hey, this is it, stop now before you cripple yourself, or before you start dancing badly and people are going to go, 'Get her out of here.' " So it was kind of hard, but I thought, I danced while I was still looking really good and nobody's going to see me start going down. And actually, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, because I had started teaching already, and I love it.
     I love working with the children because I feel that I can give them things that I had to take a long time learning, and maybe they can get it a little bit faster. And I'm not going to say I could dance through them, but maybe I can instill in them the love I felt for it. And it didn't hurt so much. It's not like it was cut off and I wasn't a part of it anymore. I still can see my kids dance The Nutcracker, and it makes me feel so great. You know, I start off the little kids and suddenly, wow, some of my kids are angels now, maybe next year they'll be in "Snow." It's the greatest feeling in the world to see my kids coming up. I just love it.
Q: Tell me about your relationship to Ruth. You said before that she doesn't know how much you love her.
A: Well, she . . . I don't think she can understand. I always felt we had a good rapport as far as working together. But I don't know, maybe some of Balanchine's ballerinas felt that way about him. I don't know. I think he was a little more, what would you say -- tougher than she was. It's kind of hard to explain. It's like a mother that you adore, that's there and you can't really say. Now my mother I can hold in my arms and say, "I love you." But she was different, you know. She was like that somebody that's up here and you love them from afar. And you feel that you know they like you in return, but it's different. And I don't think she'll ever realize, because we did fight so much, you know. And she'd throw things at me and say, "You don't like the costumes, you don't appreciate what I . . . ." But it's like a mother with a bad child. And sometimes, she was glad I did what I did, because it came out better in the end. But I think that's why I loved her, because she was just like a mother without really being a mother. She nurtured me and gave me a chance to do things that I might not have been able to do otherwise. I really felt like one of her ballerinas, like she created me. There wasn't much outside influence.
Q: And yet you feel she doesn't know?
A: I don't think so, because I don't think she kind of . . . it's like you have to do with your students. You can't let them know that you really feel for them, because then they'll take advantage of you. You have to treat them all alike and not let them know that I like you a little bit more because you're out there working, you know. And this one's going, "Lalala." You have to treat them all the same. But you feel for that one that's giving their all, and you try to push them along. But you don't really let them feel that you feel more for them than you do for the other kids. And I think that's the way she was with us. So, we really don't know how she felt about us, except the way she treated us, which was pretty much alike.
Q: Do you think that she knows that you love her?
A: I don't know, but she's a very kind of . . . I can't say she's a distant person, but I don't think she really expected it. I think if she felt you didn't like her, she could feel it. If she felt that you really hated her -- like some there just can't stand doing this kind of stuff, and she's a terrible woman, and I just hate her -- that she could feel. But I don't think she, I may be wrong, but I don't think she can really feel the other side, because Orrin said the same thing. He doesn't feel that she really knows how he feels about her.
Q: Can you imagine a life, your life, without Ruth?
A: Well, it would've been different. Maybe I would've made it, and then maybe again I wouldn't have. I had a chance to leave once and didn't, because I felt I wasn't ready to tackle other things, and I was very happy doing what I was doing. And that was the story ballets that I enjoyed so much. And dancing in her company wasn't like dancing in Ballet Theatre. Of course, you know, people will say, "Okay, it wasn't the biggest company." But we were like a family. There wasn't -- mostly because she tried to keep her dancers from Chicago and the Midwest -- there wasn't what they call the bitchiness, the back-biting, the kids . . . like when we came into the company, if you were having trouble, they wouldn't go, "Hahaha." They'd try to help you. And if somebody new came in and they were having trouble, you'd say, "Come on, I'll show you what this is so you don't get hollered at and you don't get embarrassed."
     You don't have that in those other companies. I mean, everybody's trying to hold their own, so they're not going to help you because you might get ahead of them. And our company was like a nice little Midwestern company where everybody helped everybody else, and she was bringing this company up. Well, she did from the bottom. And then the people that stayed with her, the nucleus, went up in the company and became soloists and lead dancers. And I guess I was afraid to leave that. And maybe if I had, who knows? Maybe I would have danced, maybe I wouldn't. I don't know if anyone would have had the confidence in me she had.
Q: Do you think that Ruth is unappreciated or not sufficiently appreciated as a choreographer?
A: Yes, I've always felt that way.
Q: Start by saying, "I've always felt that Ruth was unappreciated."
A: I've always felt that Ruth was unappreciated because I feel she was ahead of her time. She did things before other people. People are doing now what she did years ago, and everybody was going, "Oh, that's horrible, that's terrible stuff." I think if she could've been state-supported like some of the other companies, I think she could have done marvelous full-length ballets. And she's probably going to be like every other great artist: they'll appreciate her after she's dead, and it's too bad. But a lot of people are starting now. She's finally starting to get the recognition I thought she should have gotten a long time ago. She's getting awards finally. People are saying, "Wow, Frankie and Johnny was good. You can still do it. It's a good theater piece." And the same with a lot of the other ballets. Maybe some of them with a little bit of changing could be done again today. Merry Widow I think could be a classic, like Swan Lake. People say dated; I don't say dated. You can still bring the operetta around and nobody's going to go, "Dated, dated." It's a good . . . her Merry Widow, I think, could go into any company and be done in any repertoire. I think she is finally starting to get recognized, but it's been a long time, and she deserved a lot more.
Q: I asked you before and I'm going to ask you again to talk about the time after the ballet company closed when you went out with those lecture series called "Invitation to the Dance." And you went to high schools, two schools a day. Can you tell a story that starting from, you know . . . .
A: Well, that isn't the most joyous part of dancing. I will say that.
Q: Just describe them. What were they like?
A: Most horrible part of it is getting up real early in the morning and having to dance, and I can't remember if it was eight or nine o'clock. It seemed like six to me. I'm not a morning person. Trying to get yourself warmed up to dance at that time of the morning. Sometimes it's fun because, if you're appreciated, it's fun. If you get an audience that starts not understanding, it can be very funny, to say the least. I mean, they can get you laughing like, you know, they'll say funny things because they've never seen, like, "Who's the guy in the white milk shorts," or something, you know. But Miss Page, I must say, when we did those lectures . . . if somebody came out with something funny, she was right on top. She'd come out and explain things and not put them down, but say things in such a way that they would learn, and yet not feel embarrassed or stupid. She put things in a very nice way.
     And I can't say I enjoyed those as much as touring, but at least it was a chance to dance. And also, I think, dancing in the schools is good for the people. It's not always fun for the dancers, but it's bringing ballet, which they . . . it's hard. It's really easier for actors and singers to do that, because dancing is so . . . it's so physical and you've got to go through the whole warm-up process. Not that singers don't, but you need the space to warm up and you need something to hold on to. I mean, if they've got a nice little room, they can do it. But with us. . . and you've got the different floors, you know, and you're putting rosin on the floor and Coke on the floor and stuff so that you can stand up. It was a whole different thing. It would have been more fun at the end of your career. I think if you were really a young dancer, it wouldn't have bothered you so much. But once you've done the tours and done the lead roles and the full ballets, then to have to do that, it was more like, well, we're trying to bring ballet to the schools so let's do our best and, you know, show them what it's all about. But it wasn't as much fun for us, I think, as it was for them! [Laughs]
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