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Billy Sunday

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Film Identifier: F.2011-05-0033
Run Time
0h 13m 59s
This original Ruth Page ballet was conceived in 1941 but not premiered by her company until December 13, 1946 in Mandel Hall at the University of Chicago (as a workshop version, with incomplete staging and no scenery or costumes). The full version was presented by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo at the New York City Center on March 2, 1948. Page originally approached Kurt Weill to compose the score but he fell through, so Page then considered John Cage, Virgil Thomson, and Nicholas Nabokov, before finally settling on Remi Gassman. There was also originally the possibility that Alexander Calder would design for the ballet but this also fell through, so Paul du Pont was chosen. "Billy Sunday" is based on the life and sermons of the American baseball player-turned-evangelist Billy Sunday. This film appears to depict an earlier version in rehearsal, as the performers are in practice clothes and the setting appears to be a dance studio. The film canister is labeled to suggest that the two dancers are Ruth Page and Jerome Andrews and that these pas de deux scenes are "Joseph & the child;" "Mrs. Potiphar & Joseph;" "David & Bathsheba;" and "Mrs. Pot & Joseph" again. Also included in the film is a brief home movie segment depicting an older woman walking a dog in the outdoors.
This film includes several "Billy Sunday" rehearsal segments as well as two home movie segments. It begins with a man in casual practice clothes, smiling at the camera and rehearsing steps in a dance studio. Soon a woman (wearing 'flat shoes') enters from the right, performs her own small solo, and joins the man; the couple then rehearses a pas de deux, including both floorwork and complex lifts. The film cuts fairly often, sometimes preserving a sense of continuity by repeating the last step and other times not. At one point it includes two simultaneous parts sequentially since they don't fit in the frame together. The second segment features the same couple in different, slightly more formal practice clothes (he wears a vest and she wears pointe shoes). In this pas de deux sequence, the man largely resists the woman's flirtatious advances. The dancers noticeably speak (though the film is silent), seemingly as part of the choreography. The third segment returns to the original practice clothes and a far more intimate pas de deux, again with several cuts and repetitions of/variations on choreography. About three-quarters of the way through the film, there is home movie footage of an older woman walking a dog out of doors. This is followed by apparently accidental footage (while the camera is on its side) of a large window and a body walking by. Then the film returns to rehearsal footage in the second costumes (pointe shoes and vest). This pas de deux represents a cycle of fighting and winning over, and includes a sequence of the woman getting upset as a result of looking at a hand mirror prop. At the very end the couple seems to have resolved their conflict, but the choreography does not seem complete when the film ends.
00:06-00:13 - The film begins with a MLS of a man in pants and a tank top, smiling at the camera while rehearsing choreography in front of a light-colored curtain 00:13-00:48 - Cut to a LS of the man being restrained by two other men in an arched position (resembling a figure at the bow of a ship) at the far right corner of the same room, and a quick pan left to a female dancer in pigtails, a blouse, dance briefs, and flat ballet shoes scurrying forth from the far left corner, where a light fixture and ballet barre are visible. The camera follows her perform a quick, light, solo. 00:49-01:18 - The woman makes her way to the far right corner to fetch the man, and the two move to the center and begin a pas de deux that includes both floorwork and lifts 01:21-01:49 - After the woman attempts to balance in attitude without the help of her partner, the film cuts to a different portion of choreography, also involving a complex lift. At the end of the segment, both dancers look at the camera as if hailed by the cameraperson. 01:50-02:13 - The film cuts again, and the dancers repeat the last few counts of choreography, begun from the back corner (suggesting that their previous position did not allow enough room for the sequence to follow). 02:14-02:22 - The couple separates and the camera follows the woman toward the back right corner 02:23-02:42 - The film cuts again to show the male's part simultaneous to the woman's above (the two mirror one another); she then rejoins him from the right and after they cross the room diagonally, she "exits" out of the frame while he balances, reaching toward her, in an arabesque 02:45-03:00 - The film appears to cut to a different rehearsal; the couple is slightly more costumed (he wears a vest) and the woman is wearing pointe shoes. He is kneeled to the left; she stands in sous-sus on the right, and begins to bourrée toward him. 03:00-03:30 - Trying to avoid her advances and eye contact, the man edges away as she approaches, and when she lays flirtatiously on the ground, he speaks something into the camera before being convinced to help her up. 03:31-03:37 - The resisted flirtations continue into a pas de deux 03:38-04:29 - There is an abrupt cut to a later part of the pas de deux choreography. The dancers speak frequently (perhaps as part of the choreography) as she seduces him. 04:30 - Again, a cut to repeat a few counts of the choreography 04:40-4:44 - Blank/damaged frames 04:45-06:18 - Cut back to original rehearsal clothing and another pas de deux; this pas de deux is intimate rather than reluctant and includes floorwork again 06:19 - Cut to several bars back for a different version of the choreography that followed; the pas de deux continues 07:53 - Cut in the choreography 08:11-08:20 - A radical change in the choreography occurs; the man suddenly becomes angry, shouts, and turns away from the woman, exiting the frame 08:21-08:52 - Cut backwards several bars again for a reprise of the intimate choreography leading into the anger and exit 08:53-09:10 - Cut to completely different material: home movie footage of an older woman walking a dog out of doors, including close-ups of her and the dog 09:11-09:17 - Cut to empty frames, apparently with numbers written on them 09:18-09:26 - Cut to footage of the camera apparently lying on its side, facing a window; a body walks by 09:27-10:53 - Cut to rehearsal for Billy Sunday again, with the later outfits (woman is in pointe shoes, but man's vest is missing). Another pas de deux ensues; this one seems to represent the process of the woman 'winning back' the man after his angry departure. 10:53-11:07 - The man runs out of frame and produces a prop that appears to represent a large handheld mirror for the woman, who studies her reflection 11:08-11:36 - Cut to a repetition of the hand-mirror sequence, which transitions into reactions of shame and disgust on the woman's part 11:37-11:40 - The man returns from the right with grand jetés, now wearing the vest again 11:40-12:39 - The woman throws the "mirror" at the man, very upset; the camera cuts him out of the frame on the left to focus on her rage in MLS & LS 12:40-12:54 - The woman collapses and the man runs toward her, concerned and trying to comfort her; their ensuing struggle becomes a frenzied dance around the room 12:55-13:54 - The man suddenly turns away, and once again, the woman tries to win him over with a modified vaudeville-style dance; his response is to drag her around in circles, run away, and suddenly return to pick her up and embrace her. He then puts her down and backs away 13:55-13:59 - The film clouds over and ends
Additional Credit
Gassmann, Remi (is composer)
Page, Ruth (is choreographer)
Actors, Performers and Participants
Page, Ruth (is performer)
Andrews, Jerome (is performer)