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Interview with Richard Thomas,1979

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Interview with Richard Thomas,1979
Thomas, Richard, approximately 1925- (Interviewee)
Conway, Peter, 1929 July 18- (Interviewer)

Dance Oral History Project

Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1979-03-13 - 1979-05-16
Library locations
Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Shelf locator: *MGZTO 5-682
Thomas, Richard, approximately 1925-
Dolin, Anton, 1904-1983
Slavenska, Mia
Celli, Vincenzo
Shollar, Ludmilla, 1888-1978
Leslie, Caird, 1899-1970
Robbins, Jerome
Vilzak, Anatole, 1896-1998
Mouradoff, Grant
Harrison, Ray, 1916-1981
Romanoff, Boris, 1891-1957
Tudor, Antony, 1908-1987
Le Clercq, Tanaquil
Markova, Alicia, Dame, 1910-2004
Fallis, Barbara
Balanchine, George
Danilova, Alexandra, 1907-1997
Franklin, Frederic, 1914-2013
Krassovska, Nathalie, 1918-2005
Boris, Ruthanna
Alonso, Alicia, 1920-2019
Denham, Sergei, 1896-1970
Page, Ruth, 1899-1991
Nijinska, Bronislava, 1891-1972
Foxhole Ballet
American Ballet Theatre
Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo
New York City Ballet
Circus (Choreographic work : Mouradoff)
Seventh symphony (Choreographic work : Massine)
Pas de quatre (Choreographic work : Dolin)
Opus 34 (Choreographic work : Balanchine)
Ivesiana (Choreographic work : Balanchine)
Nutcracker (Choreographic work : Balanchine, after Ivanov)
Oral histories
Content: For transcript of interview, see *MGZMT 5-682.
Content: Interview with Richard Thomas conducted by Peter Conway for the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Jerome Robbins Dance Division Oral History Project.
Content: Sound quality is good overall. However, the recording is marred by occasional extraneous noise including, at times, "tape hiss" and slight distortion due to damage to the original tape.
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 at the New York School of Ballet, for the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Jerome Robbins Dance Division Oral History Project March 13, 15, and 27 and May 16, 1979, New York (N.Y.).
Physical Description
Audiotape reel
Extent: 2 audiotape reels (approximately 6 hours and 27 minutes) : analog, half-track; 1.875 ips, polyester ; 5 in.
Streaming audio file 1, March 13, 1979 (approximately 52 minutes). Richard Thomas speaks with Peter Conway about his family background, in Paintsville (Ky.); his early dance training with Caird Leslie, in Seattle (Wash.); his background in acrobatics; the various techniques taught by Leslie; moving to Los Angels (Calif.) and taking class with Bronislava Nijinska; Nijinska as a teacher, a choreographer, and a person [short gap]; more on Nijinska; his experience as a dancer in the operetta, Song without words, choreographed by Anton Dolin; his impressions of Dolin as a choreographer and director; his memories of Mia Slavenska; Paul Petroff including an anecdote about their night on the town; Dolin's choreographic method; Mitzi Gaynor, who was his dance partner in Song without words [ends abruptly but continues directly on streaming audio file 2]. Streaming audio file 2, March 13, 1979 (approximately 45 minutes). Richard Thomas speaks with Peter Conway about the operetta Song without words; studying with Vincenzo Celli in New York including Celli's strict adherence to the Cecchetti method; some of the other dancers who took class with Celli including Royes Fernandez; Thomas' belief that dancers should study all aspects of dance, not just technique; the constraints on his social and professional life in Los Angeles; Nina Youshkevitch; his experience performing in Billion dollar baby, a musical comedy choreographed by Jerome Robbins; his impressions of Robbins including his genius for staging and his perfectionism; performing in Broadway shows as way to make ends meet. Streaming audio file 3, March 15, 1979 (approximately 52 minutes). Richard Thomas speaks with Peter Conway about classes with Anatole Vilzak including his memories of Svetlana Beriosova; his teacher Madame [Ludmila] Shollar; Grant Mouradoff' and his Foxhole Ballet; his season with the company including the repertoire and his impressions of Mouradoff; Sonia Wojcikowska including an anecdote about her mother Helena Antonova dancing when pregnant with Sonia; touring with the Foxhole Ballet; Mouradoff's work Circus; an anecdote about Barbara Karinska; more on his time touring with the Foxhole Ballet and Mouradoff; the choreographer Boris [Georgievich] Romanov; Ray Harrison; the circumstances of his joining Ballet Theatre [now American Ballet Theatre]; his difficulties with the repertoire; Anthony Tudor and his gift for dramatic choreography; (briefly) Nora Kaye; ballerinas he has seen in the role of Giselle including Nora Kaye, Alicia Alonso, and Alicia Markova [ends abruptly but continues directly on streaming audio file 4]. Streaming audio file 4, March 15, 1979 (approximately 44 minutes). Richard Thomas speaks with Peter Conway about Alicia Markova as Giselle; more on his time at Ballet Theatre; joining the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo shortly after being fired by Ballet Theatre; his time at the company including his impressions of Sergei Denham; Denham's attempt to end the company's association with AGMA [American Guild of Musical Artists]; Alexandra Danilova; his memories of Nathalie Krassovska; his impressions of other company members; John Martin's and other critics' bias against the company; the stability of the company at this time (1947); Edward Caton's Lola Montez including a performance anecdote; Denham as a manager; other ballets performed during the [1947] season including George Balanchine's Night shadow and Concerto barocco; Ruth Page including her working methods and frequent use of props; her ballet Billy Sunday. Streaming audio file 5, March 27, 1979 (approximately 52 minutes). Richard Thomas speaks with Peter Conway about the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo including Alexandra Danilova's rehearsing of Raymonda (choreographed by her and George Balanchine, after Petipa); distinguishing style from technique; more on Danilova including her dedication to the company and her charisma; [Leonide] Massine's Seventh symphony including his memories of Massine at rehearsals; Alicia Markova; Mia Slavenska; Edward Caton as a teacher; Robert Lindgren; Frederic Franklin's versatility as a dancer and his popularity with the public; (briefly) various dancers who joined the company following the closing of the Original Ballet Russe [Ballets russes du Col. W. de Basil] including Roman Jasinski; Sergei Denham's control of casting; how standards regarding dancers have changed, for example with respect to lead male dancers; Mary Ellen Moylan [ends abruptly but continues directly on streaming audio file 6]. Streaming audio file 6 (approximately 45 minutes). Richard Thomas speaks with Peter Conway about Mary Ellen Moylan; Alexandra Danilova including in the roles of Lola Montez and Giselle; her generosity in teaching other dancers her roles; Tatiana Chamié's Birthday; (briefly) various dancers including Patricia Wilde who were in the company; Frederic Franklin and his role in reviving ballets in the repertoire; Agnes de Mille's Rodeo including an anecdote about De Mille and Danilova; the collegial atmosphere of the company; Anton Dolin and Danilova in La sylphide; Tatiana Grantzeva; the revival of Balanchine's Mozartiana; Ruthanna Boris and her ballet Quelques fleurs; José Torres and his guest appearances with the company; Antonia Cobos, in particular her difficulties in setting her ballet Madroños on the company. Streaming audio file 7, May 16, 1979 (approximately 52 minutes). Richard Thomas speaks with Peter Conway about Antonio Cobos, in particular, an anecdote about her ballet Madroños and Nathalie Krassovska; the 10th anniversary season of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the ballet Pas de quatre (choreographed by Anton Dolin) with Alicia Markova, Alexandra Danilova, Mia Slavenska, and Nathalie Krassovska as the four ballerinas; Agnes de Mille as the cowgirl in her ballet Rodeo; Nina Novak including as a dancer; Sergei Denham, in particular Denham's lack of artistic integrity as the primary reason for the company's decline; more on the company's repertoire; (briefly) Ruth Page including her ballet Love song; his memories of various dancers and choreographers he encountered during this period (around 1948) including Oleg Toupine, [Vladimir] Dokoudovsky, and Tatiana Chamié; leaving the company and joining Alicia Alonso's company in Cuba [Ballet Alicia Alonso; as of 1955, Ballet de Cuba; as of 1968, Ballet national de Cuba]; his time at Alonso's company including his marriage to Barbara Fallis; the repertoire including Alberto Alonso's choreography; his return to New York and the birth of his son; touring in Cuba; joining New York City Ballet with his wife, as corps de ballet members, in 1953; the dancers at the company at that time as compared with the dancers at the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and Ballet Theatre; George Balanchine's ballets Opus 34 and Ivesiana [ends abruptly but continues directly on streaming audio file 8]. Streaming audio file 8, May 16, 1979 (approximately 45 minutes). Richard Thomas speaks with Peter Conway about George Balanchine including his ballets Gounod symphony, Roma, and Opus 34; his general preference for dancing characters rather than in abstract ballets; his dislike of dancing monsters, rocks, and animals including an anecdote about how he came to dance the head monster in Balanchine's The firebird;Tanaquil Le Clercq including as compared with Maria Tallchief; Tallchief's inimitable Firebird; Lucia Chase as a great performer even today; Balanchine's speed and sureness when choreographing; an anecdote about the casting of George Lee [phonetic spelling] as Tea in the first production of Balanchine's The nutcracker; his roles in The nutcracker including Drosselmeyer; William Dollar as a choreographer; (briefly) Allegra Kent; differences between the dancers of his generation and later generations with respect to their economic situation and opportunities; more on Tanaquil Le Clercq as a dancer and as a person; more on Ivesiana.
Type of Resource
Sound recording
RLIN/OCLC: 82473029
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b12118527
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 13676080-033c-0138-01cf-01f665e377ab
Rights Statement
The New York Public Library holds or manages the copyright(s) in this item. If you need information about reusing this item, please go to:

Item timeline of events

  • 1979: Created (Approximate)
  • 2020: Digitized
  • 2023: Found by you!
  • 2024

MLA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Richard Thomas,1979" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1979 - 1979.

Chicago/Turabian Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Richard Thomas,1979" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 28, 2023.

APA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. (1979 - 1979). Interview with Richard Thomas,1979 Retrieved from

Wikipedia Citation

<ref name=NYPL>{{cite web | url= | title= (sound recording) Interview with Richard Thomas,1979, (1979 - 1979)|author=Digital Collections, The New York Public Library |accessdate=September 28, 2023 |publisher=The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations}}</ref>

Interview with Richard Thomas,1979