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Great Performances: Dance in America: City Center Joffrey Ballet [January 21, 1976]

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Video Identifier: V.2011-05-0422
Run Time
0h 57m 49s
Date Produced
Dance in America is a subseries of the program Great Performances, which has aired in the US on PBS since 1972. Dance in America began in 1976 and is technically still running, though its episodes are infrequent. 

"City Center Joffrey Ballet" is the 16th episode of Great Performances' third season. It includes excerpt performances from "Remembrances," "Olympics," "Parade," "The Green Table," and "Trinity" by the City Center Joffrey Ballet (then located in New York; it ws renamed Joffrey Ballet the following year, in 1977, and moved its permanent residence to Chicago in 1995). The "City Center Joffrey Ballet" episode was nominated for a 1976 "Outstanding Classical Music Program" Emmy.

This video seems to represent a taped-from-television recording of the program. Its container notes suggest that it may have been fimed by Bill Atkinson and/or Ann Etgen, one-time directors of the Dallas Metropolitan Ballet.
The video begins an excerpts from "Olympics," one of the ballets to be featured in the episode. A few moments afterwards, the title "Dance in America" appears, superimposed over the image, and grows larger before disappearing. Additional excerpts follow, and the video pauses at a key moment in each excerpt before cutting away. Eventually, the video returns to "Olympics" and the title "City Center Joffrey Ballet" is superimposed as a conclusion to this introductory sequence. 

The video then cuts to a shot of the barre portion of a ballet class being taught by Robert Joffrey. A voiceover explains Joffrey's company philosophy (the repertory company model: each dancer is valued equally) and offers an introduction to the company repertory, giving Massine's "Parade" as the first example while the video cuts to a dress rehearsal of the ballet. Massine oversees the rehearsal and offers notes for improvement. The voiceover continues, explaining the history of the ballet and introducing additional voiceover explanation by Massine himself. More titles appear onscreen: "Parade;" "Dance of the Chinese Conjurer," followed by additional credits for the ballet's creation. The camera then moves from backstage onto the stage, where it follows the male soloist perform highly stylized movements in full costume. As he completes the solo with a knee slide, the video fades to black.

The video then cuts to an explanation by Joffrey of his interest in Parade as a "multi-media ballet." This leads him to transition to a discussion of his ballet/film "Astarte," of which the video then includes a brief excerpt. Finally, he speaks on the relationship between dancers and choreographers, after which the voiceover returns to introduce Joffrey's "Remembrances." After it does so, and once credits flash across the screen, the excerpt begins. A female dancer costumed in a Victorian era dress dances a quick introduction before sitting down to remember: behind her, the camera dollies forward to focus on the male dancer who enters behind her (presumably as part of her "remembrances").  He dances a brief, elegant solo before welcoming a young female dancer (presumably meant to be the younger version of the rememberer) onstage with him. The two begin a pas de deux, and the video appears to enter a 'slow-motion' state while they do so. About halfway through, with the rememberer visible in the background, it returns to normal speeds. As they complete the pas de deux, the camera returns to a close-up of the rememberer. Many couples then enter stage behind her, all performing the same pas de deux but offset from each other by a few counts or bars. They enter and exit at intervals, such that not all are onstage at the same time--before long, only one couple remains. They dance a long pas de deux and end it frozen, reaching toward one another. The rememberer rises and walks over to the couple; they separate and dance around her, again in slow motion. Eventually, they disappear into darkness and she is left alone, clutching herself. The video then fades out.

Next, the video cuts to a rehearsal of Jooss's "Green Table," again with accompanying explanation by the voiceover. It is followed by a sit-down discussion of the ballet (originally choreographed for a Germany entering WWII) between Jooss and Joffrey. Then, credits run to introduce the excerpt itself. For the first scene, a group of ten men in masks surrounds a table and perfoms a somewhat silly ensemble dance at the table. While they leave the table several times during the dance, they always return to it as a sort of center of discourse, some even standing on it at times. The dance ends as the group steps away from the table in two rows and all snap loudly (which almost sounds like gunfire). The camera zooms past them into blackness before cutting to a male dancer performing a syncopated solo, apparently dancing the role of death. As he seems to complete the solo, the camera fades to more by the same dancer: a stylized continuation of the inexorable march of death. As he continues, the camera pulls back to reveal an entering standard bearer, performing his own military-style solo with his flag. Soon afterwards, a series of three soldiers enters stage and stands at attention; they perform an ensemble dance. A fourth young soldier joins them, chased onstage by his young female lover; the two dance a 'goodbye' pas de deux. Next, an older soldier with aging famly members enter; they perform a similar dance. Finally, a giddy profiteer enters and dances delightedly in front of the rest, as the standard bearer leads them forth...toward and eventually passing Death.

The video again fades to black before cutting to the next rehearsal and voiceover, about Gerald Arpino (who is leading rehearsal). The video then cuts to a sit-down discussion between Arpino and Joffrey. Arpino discusses his choreography of "Trinity" in the context of 1960s America; the video cuts to credits for the piece and then the piece itself (in its entirety?). It begins with several male dancers performing leaps at various locations onstage; female dancers then enter to be partnered by them. There is a great deal of crossing and moving around by all but the central couple and a central male soloist. The rest then file onstage in two long lines, meeting at center and proceeding to perform an ensemble dance in a large circle. This includes an interval of popular/vernacular dancing; eventually, the circle breaks away and leaves another male soloist to dance at center. He is replaced by yet another male soloist for a few moments, but returns afterwards to complete his dance. Next, a female soloist enters and performs her own variation; she is followed by another series of male soloists. Three of them take the stage together for a fast-paced trio dance. After they exit, two female dancers (and then four more) enter for a similarly paced jazzy ensemble dance. They split into two groups of three for a sequence of traveling turns and jumps. Eventually, they exit and the group of three men returns for a reprise, though two soon exit to leave the central male soloist alone once again. As the solo nears completion, the rest of the dancers rush onstage and collapse to the ground in a circle behind him. As the next movement begins, they slowly rise up, pair off, and dance adagios away from center. Thought others continue moving around the stage, one central couple eventually becomes the focus of the camera. Their pas de deux involves several dramatic lifts. (The video becomes extremely dark at this point, and is difficult to make out). Soon, not only this couple but many couples run across stage with the female partner in a lift above the male's head. As the music slows down again, the couples each embrace before beginning another adagio. Finally, the female dancers are lifted offstage. The camera then fades into the third movement, led by the central male soloist from the first movement; he walks foward holding a candle and the others follow in a group behind him. (The video remains dark and difficult to make out). Before long, the group exits and one of the other male soloists breaks into a dance alone onstage. Again, much of the choreography includes popular/vernacular dance. He is then joined by the central male soloist for a duet. Once they exit, the third soloist enters and dances briefly before the central soloist returns, only to exit again for the third soloist's return. He begins a very jazzy dance, and is soon joined by one of the female soloists. She is followed onstage by two more couples. All but the male soloist soon exit. When he completes this section, the other two male soloists return--the third soloist joins them momentarily for a trio. The rest of the group enters stage to dance around and with them, leaving the two central soloists alone only occasionally. To end the ballet, all of the dancers slowly reenter stage to drop off candles and then exit again. All that is visible are the candles' tiny lights; the video eventually fades to black.

To end the episode, the video returns to Joffrey's ballet class from the beginning, now working on center exercises. "Dance in America" reappears onscreen, followed by final credits. Toward the end, the voiceover advertises a future broadcast. Finally, the ballet class ends, all applaud, and the video ends.
Main Credit
National Endowment For The Arts (corporate name)
Exxon Corporation (corporate name)
Venza, Jac (is executive producer)
Ardolino, Emile (is producer)
Brockway, Merrill (is co-producer)
Corporation For Public Broadcasting (corporate name)
Schnur, Jerome (is director)
Additional Credit
Arpino, Gerald (is choreographer)
Cohen, Frederic (is composer)
Holdridge, Lee (is composer)
Holmes, Ralph (is lighting director)
Joffrey, Robert (is choreographer)
Jooss, Kurt (is choreographer)
Massine, Leonide (is choreographer)
Mayazumi, Toshiro (is composer)
Raph, Alan (is composer)
Satie, Erik (is composer)
Syrcus, Crome (is composer)
Wagner, Richard (is composer)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Joffrey, Robert (is commentator)
Massine, Leonide (is commentator)
Jooss, Kurt (is commentator)
Arpino, Gerald (is commentator)
Sultzbach, Russell (is performer)
Singleton, Trinette (is performer)
Zomosa, Maximiliano (is performer)
Chryst, Gary (is performer)
Cowen, Donna (is performer)
Estner, Robert (is performer)
Fowler, Tom (is performer)
Hilding, Jerel (is performer)
Jerry, Philip (is performer)
Orio, Diane (is performer)
Corkle, Francesca (is performer)
Sutherland, Paul (is performer)
Hanniford, Jan (is performer)
Arthur, Charthel (is performer)
Carman, Adix (is performer)
Edwards, Donn (is performer)
Fraley, Ingrid (is performer)
Hughes, Jeffrey (is performer)
Jurkowski, Krystyna (is performer)
McCabe, Jean (is performer)
McKenzie, Kevin (is performer)
Thomas, Robert (is performer)
Jensen, Chris (is performer)
Whitener, William (is performer)
Holder, Christian (is performer)
Burke, Dermot (is performer)
Cartier, Diana (is performer)
Nearhoof, Pamela (is performer)
Danias, Starr (is performer)