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Patricia McBride No. 06 [April 15, 1987]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0610
Run Time
0h 16m 30s
Date Produced
April 15 1987
A: By the way, I'm glad they did Merry Widow, because it was a big success at the time, and they really put themselves out. But it's been on in New York all of the time. They show it all the time.
Q: Do people ever talk to you about having seen it on television?
A: Yes, they like it. Everyone likes it. I like it, and I'm very critical. I don't usually like myself too much. There are always things that I say could have been better, or the camera shot isn't that good. Overall, I thought it was wonderful, and I liked it.
Q: You were saying about Ruth that she's really an original and there's nobody like her.
A: Ruth is really an original. There's really only one Ruth Page. There's just nobody like her in the world. She's really special and fun to be with.
Q: Tell me about class. Did you ever take class?
A: When we were filming the Merry Widow, that was five years ago in 1982 . . . . When we were filming the Merry Widow in 1982, Ruth would do barre. She'd try that every day. She'd do her barre, and was very involved in the filming, looking at, being in the back with the camera, in the control room.
Q: Did she give you any good guidance in playing the role?
A: I just felt that she was with me. I think that's really important. Because Larry Long -- I think she had talked a lot with Larry, and she trusted him so much to stage the version. He had staged it, and he had been in the performances. He was her right-hand man and really wonderful. He was so helpful in setting it in such a short time. He did a wonderful job. I think most of the things that she had said were, "Balance a little longer there." I know I balanced and I know that she was happy, but we did something there and she was happy. I think that she would also tell Larry what could be better.
Q: There is one scene that I remember. At that time I was working at that same television station where they were shooting that. I had in my office . . . there was what we call a line feed from the studio. You could punch up a dial on your television set and see what was being seen in the control room. You were doing the "Vilia" pas de deux, and it was the part where he had to put you down on the couch, and then you had to jump off the damned couch. I was working away and talking on the telephone, and every time I looked up, there you were doing it again. And I thought, "She's got to be the toughest dancer that ever lived!" Was that an awful experience? Talk about that, was that a hard part?
A: I remember it was the most difficult part. It was the last section that we filmed. And working with the couch . . . I think we had worked with a chair before in rehearsals or putting two chairs or a bench or something. And just getting it right was difficult. It's always hard when you film. Live performances are much easier to dance, but to get things just right for the cameras so that you're in the light and things are just perfect, it was difficult doing that. I remember there's a place where I would fade away and they made several cuts. If you do it live, you could never do this. But I remember feeling so ridiculous, because I faded away but was crawling on my knees through him. The camera could not see me, but it was the only way that it would work so that I would disappear properly and not be seen. They did that section in several cuts because of the spacing. Every time we would go away, someone would be out of the frame. It's difficult to film ballets; it is. It's hard on dancers to film ballets.
Q: So you'd rather do a live performance?
A: I love dancing with a real orchestra, on stage. But somehow, when something's done and you have a wonderful souvenir of what you've done, it's very nice, if it's good. I've had several experiences where I wanted the film burned, I hated it so much. I don't want to ever see that again. But something that's really filmed well is so nice to have. It's worth all of the hard work because you have something that's nice to remember.
Q: Something you're proud of?
A: Yes, I think so.
Q: When you think about Ruth, what do you think is her major contribution to American dance? What role has she played?
A: I wish I knew more about what she's done. I haven't seen . . . .
Q: She's a pioneer. It's what you said before. She did it on her own.
A: I'll say she's a pioneer. I think what's so special is that she's a pioneer. She was doing things that no one did in the '40s, '50s, '60s, and '70s. She's just given dancers something really special to dance. I saw the company when she came to New York at the Academy of Music and she brought Rudi. It was the first time the New York audience saw Rudolph Nureyev. She did it. She brought him, and I just loved the company. It was a very exciting evening. I remember making the trip and being really excited about the ballets. In New York, we haven't seen a lot of her ballets. Unfortunately, her company didn't tour [to the New York area] that much. If they were here, we were away touring somewhere. So, I really didn't see the company too much -- I think Fledermaus and Frankie and Johnny. I didn't see Revenge. There was a lot that I really didn't see.
Q: You were away, and they didn't tour in Europe much. They were in other parts of the country. In the beginning, you said that you knew of Ruth. What was it about her reputation that you remember?
A: I think one thinks of Ruth's ballets as opera ballets. I think she spent a lot of time and effort into putting music together from operas and making wonderful story ballets out of them. I had heard of Ruth Page and the Chicago Opera Ballet, but never having seen them, one only wondered what it was like. Also, I was very involved in my life as a dancer and was totally immersed in Balanchine and my own career. I had gone to performances that came to New York City -- the Royal Ballet, the Russian companies: Bolshoi and Kirov. I grew up on that. But Ruth's company didn't come to New York that much, so I was totally ignorant of what she was doing. I think it's so great that her ballets are filmed, because it's a wonderful way of seeing something that's great. I have people who love seeing the Merry Widow.
Q: Does it ever bother you that as a dancer that the essence of dance is such that there is no way that your performances can be preserved? Does that bother you?
A: I don't know. I guess I'd like a nice remembrance, and I think it's nice that I have the Merry Widow. The other films that I've done, I'm not very proud of, so I'd love to do more. I'm waiting for Ruth to ask me to do another ballet, something that they'll film again. I'm looking forward to that.
Q: How difficult was it to dance? Were the steps particularly hard, or was that a particularly hard role to do?
A: No. It was challenging. What I'm sad about is that I didn't get to dance it after filming it. That was it: rehearsing two weeks, filming it, and then that was it. I really would love to do it again.
Q: It would be fun to do it on stage?
A: Yeah. It would be wonderful, and I'd love it. I also love the music. It's wonderful music, and I love what she did.
Q: Is there anything that I haven't asked you or anything that I haven't thought of that you would like to mention?
A: I just think we're lucky to have had a Ruth Page. I think that Chicago is very lucky to have had her, and I hope that the people appreciated her as much as she should have been and should be appreciated. I feel it's sad that she doesn't have her company anymore because they don't have her company now. There's a place for all kinds of companies, and it's sad because generations of dancers in Chicago won't grow up with that. That's kind of sad because it's wonderful to do story ballets. I think the public loves it, and the public goes away happy. It's a very uplifting experience . . . .
     I think Ruth's ballets are very happy ballets. She tried to entertain; she does entertain. And it's always visually beautiful what she had, and it was fun. It was just a positive and good experience. I was lucky to have had the opportunity, because it was fun for me to do. I just hope the people appreciated Ruth. It's mostly for the people of Chicago, because it's a shame that her company didn't come more to New York. They did come a few times, and in Europe.
Q: [Instructions to repeat]
A: I don't even like saying that. It doesn't feel right. I think it's more for . . . that I hope she's loved in Chicago. I mean, I hope the people appreciate her in Chicago because that is her city where she worked all of those years.
Q: And do you appreciate her?
A: Of course, I do.
Q: Okay, that's it. Thank you.
Related Place
New York (production location of)