Interview with John Taras,1978-1979
NamesTaras, John (Interviewee)Conway, Peter (Interviewer)
Dance Oral History Project
Dates / OriginDate Created: 1978-12-19Date Created: 1979-01-10
Table of ContentsStreaming audio file 1, December 19, 1978 (approximately 52 minutes). John Taras speaks with Peter Conway about his background as the son of Ukrainian immigrants including his dancing, as a child, with a Ukrainian folk dance group; his early acting experience and eventual association with the Washington Square Company; graduating from high school and taking class with Michel Fokine while supporting himself; teaching a children's dance class at Hofstra College; his serendipitous finding of a sponsor (Joseph Hirshhorn and his wife) who funded his classes with Elizabeth Anderson and otherwise helped him; his impressions of Anderson; some of his other teachers including Bronislava Nijinska; his father's death, when Taras was 21, and his first professional dance experience, performing at the New York World's Fair (1939-1940); touring with Catherine Littlefield, in the United States; studying at the American School of Ballet; his first South American tour with American Ballet Caravan [predecessor company of New York City Ballet] including the repertoire; his impressions of George Balanchine's choreography; more on the South American tour including anecdotes about various mishaps [ends abruptly but resumes directly on streaming audio file 2]. |||| Streaming audio file 2, December 19, 1978 (approximately 43 minutes). John Taras speaks with Peter Conway about American Ballet Caravan's South American tour including anecdotes; performing with Ballet Theatre [later American Ballet Theatre] in Mexico City; MIchel Fokine's ballet Helen of Troy including the fact that it was performed in Mexico City, as created by Fokine; his continuing association with Ballet Theatre, in particular as a director of rehearsals; being asked by Bronislava Nijinska to rehearse her ballet Harvest time, with Tamara Toumanova; additional requests to rehearse ballets by others including Agnes de Mille and George Balanchine; his friendship with Vera Zorina; his impressions of Tamara Toumanova; Agnes de Mille's ballet Tally-ho; De Mille as a choreographer; Antony Tudor as a choreographer including his working methods; Tudor's ballet Le jardin aux lilas [Lilac garden]. |||| Streaming audio file 3, December 22, 1978 (approximately 52 minutes). John Taras speaks with Peter Conway about some of the American Ballet Caravan dancers and the repertoire on the South American tour including George Balanchine's ballet Errante; Antony Tudor's choreography as compared with Balanchine's with respect to how a character is evoked; Tudor's ballet Romeo and Juliet, in particular his failure to finish it in time for opening night; Ballet Theatre's repertoire during the period Taras was with the company including Leonide Massine's ballet Aleko; his impressions of Massine; Catherine Littlefield's Barn dance; Balanchine's Apollo including Vera Zorina as Terpsichore and the costumes; the reason Alicia Markova did not want to dance Terpsichore; other ballets and dancers including Massine's Capriccio, Anatole Oboukhoff; Tamara Toumanova, Jerome Robbins' Fancy free (including the reason Taras was dropped from the cast); Massine's Boutique fantasque including an anecdote about Sono Osato [ends abruptly but resumes directly on streaming audio file 4]. |||| Streaming audio file 4, December 22, 1978 (approximately 45 minutes). John Taras speaks with Peter Conway about his time at Ballet Theatre including his impressions of Karen Conrad; [Adolf] Bolm's The firebird; Sol Hurok's relationship with Ballet Theatre including his influence on the repertoire and casting; Lucia Chase, including with respect to the funding of the company; some of the dancers in Bronislava Nijinska's Harvest time; David Lichine's complete rechoreographing of Michel Fokine's Helen of Troy; (very briefly) Jerome Robbins' Interplay; Melissa Hayden; his memories of other dancers including Maria Karnilova and Miriam Golden; Leonide Massine's Mademoiselle Agnot; other ballets performed by the company during his time there and the dancers, including Anton Dolin's Romantic age and Agnes de Mille's Three virgins and a devil; his continuing to take class at the time, with Tudor and others. |||| Streaming audio file 5, January 10, 1979 (approximately 52 minutes). John Taras speaks with Peter Conway about his beginnings as a choreographer including his initial commission for a production of The merry widow, in Toronto; his first ballet, Graziana, created for Ballet Theatre; the lead dancers and the costumes including an anecdote about Sol Hurok's funding of new costumes; his goal to create a classic ballet; leaving Ballet Theatre and choreographing for Anton Dolin and Alicia Markova, including the "Onegin waltz" for a Chicago production of the opera Eugene Onegin; his ballet Camille (set to music by Franz Schubert, arranged by Vittorio Rieti); his trip to South America, at the request of Sol Hurok, to stage Camille on Colonel W. de Basil's company (known since 1939 as the Original Ballet Russe); working with Alicia Markova; his impressions of Anton Dolin in the role of Camille's lover, the costumes, designed by Cecil Beaton; the sets; his work as ballet master for Dolin and Markova [ends abruptly but resumes directly on streaming audio file 6]. |||| Streaming audio file 6 (approximately 45 minutes). John Taras speaks with Peter Conway about working with Anton Dolin and Alicia Markova; his ballet The minotaur, including how he came to choreograph this work (for Ballet Society) at the request of George Balanchine; some of the cast members including Paul D'Amboise (Jacques' brother) and Edward Bigelow; being asked to tour (as a dancer and as an assistant to Serge Grigorʹev) with Colonel W. de Basil's company in London and Paris; more on the Minotaur including his difficulties with the costumes and the libretto; more on Adolf Bolm's Apollo; staging Virgil Thomson's opera, Mother of us all including his memories of Thomson; more on the European tour with Colonel W. de Basil; Renée (Zizi) Jeanmaire; his ballet Designs with strings, for the Metropolitan Ballet; identifies the artistic director, George Krista, as this ballet's set designer, and names some of the cast members including Erik Bruhn; the inspiration for this ballet [ends abruptly].
Library locationsJerome Robbins Dance DivisionShelf locator: *MGZTO 5-662
TopicsFokine, Michel, 1880-1942Balanchine, GeorgeMassine, Leonide, 1896-1979Tudor, Antony, 1908-1987Toumanova, Tamara, 1919-1996Hurok, Sol, 1888-1974Zorina, VeraChase, Lucia, 1897-1986Taras, JohnNew York City BalletAmerican Ballet Caravan (New York, N.Y.)American Ballet TheatreDesigns with strings (Choreographic work : Taras)Apollo (Choreographic work : Balanchine)Camille (Choreographic work : Taras)Graziana (Choreographic work : Taras)Minotaur (Choreographic work : Taras)Errante (Choreographic work : Balanchine)Harvest time (Choreographic work : Nijinska)Aleko (Choreographic work : Massine)Boutique fantasque (Choreographic work : Massine)Romeo and Juliet (Choreographic work : Tudor)Helen of Troy (Choreographic work : Lichine)Firebird (Choreographic work : Bolm)Jardin aux lilas (Choreographic work : Tudor)Designs with strings (Choreographic work : Taras)
NotesContent: For transcript of interview, see *MGZMT 5-662.Content: Sound quality is good overall. The recording is marred by occasional extraneous noise.Funding: The processing and cataloging of this recording was made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. The support of the National Endowment for the Arts is also gratefully acknowledged.Content: Title supplied by cataloger.Venue: Recorded for the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Performing Arts, Jerome Robbins Dance Division Oral History Project December 19 and 22, 1978 and January 10, 1979 New York (N.Y.)
Physical DescriptionAudiotape reelExtent: 2 audiotape reels (approximately 4 hours and 49 minutes) : polyester; half-track; 1.875 ips ; 5 in.
DescriptionInterview with John Taras conducted by Peter Conway on December 19 and 22, 1978 and January 10, 1979, for the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Jerome Robbins Dance Division Oral History Project.
Type of ResourceSound recording
IdentifiersRLIN/OCLC: 80735168NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b12118476Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 32c36580-86ed-0137-04cb-0e36257e6b30
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