Jerome Robbins interviewed by Deborah Jowitt

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Jerome Robbins interviewed by Deborah Jowitt
Robbins, Jerome (Interviewee)
Jowitt, Deborah (Interviewer)
John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (U.S.) (Associated name)

Jerome Robbins Video Archive

Dates / Origin
Date Created: 1995-07-11
Table of Contents
Reel 1 (ca. 57 min.). Topics include: the initial opposition of his Russian Jewish family to his occupation of dancer; beginning to choreograph; the genesis of his first ballet, Fancy free, created with composer Leonard Bernstein; his first contacts with George Balanchine; joining Ballet Theatre; his wish to treat American themes in dance; joining Balanchine's New York City Ballet; creating The guests, The cage, and Dances at a gathering for New York City Ballet; his belief that his choreographic invention draws upon and is replenished by his experiences outside the dance world; the difficulty of finding a producer for West side story; his interest in the human qualities of his dancers; working with the ensemble in Goldberg variations; New York City Ballet's understanding of his work, as evidenced in the revival of Watermill; the performances of Edward Villella and Jean Guizerix in Watermill; his collaboration with Bernstein on The dybbuk; his re-use of a Debussy score in Antique epigraphs; the use of space in Antique epigraphs and Afternoon of a faun; finding inspiration for Ives, songs in the paintings of Maurice Prendergast; the magic of dance gesture; filming West side story; collaborating with Balanchine on Firebird and Pulcinella; his decision to end his work on musicals; his opinion of Fiddler on the roof; co-directing the film of West side story; collaborating with Twyla Tharp on Brahms/Handel -- Reel 2 (ca. 49 min.). Topics include: his flair for character roles; dancing for Michel Fokine at Ballet Theatre; dancing the title roles of Balanchine's Prodigal son and Tyl Ulenspiegel; his decision to retire from performing; Nikolaj Hübbe's interpretation of Riff in West side story suite; his comfort with ballet as a language; working with students of the School of American Ballet on 2 & 3 part inventions; capturing the quality of spontaneity in his choreography; Kyra Nichols' performance in Goldberg variations; Mikhail Baryshnikov's intelligence as a performer; Baryshnikov's performance in Balanchine's Harlequinade; reconstructing his own dances for Jerome Robbins' Broadway; his involvement with American Theatre Laboratory; his work The poppa piece; his work as a stage director; choreographing to minimalist scores by Philip Glass and Steve Reich; Tanaquil Le Clercq's versatility as a dancer; his ballet In memory of..., created for Suzanne Farrell; his dislike of assigning specific meanings to his choreography; his keen awareness of his Russian heritage; his establishment of the Lena Robbins Archive (now the Jerome Robbins Archive) at the Dance Collection; his resistance to having his own works recorded; his favorite works among his own oeuvre; receiving feedback from Balanchine; his heroes Gluck-Sandor, Antony Tudor, and Balanchine; his belief that interviews are accurate only for the moment in which they occurred.
Library locations
Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Shelf locator: *MGZIDVD 5-171
Robbins, Jerome -- Interviews
Bernstein, Leonard, 1918-1990
Balanchine, George
Villella, Edward, 1936-
Guizerix, Jean
Prendergast, Maurice, 1858-1924
Tharp, Twyla
Fokine, Michel, 1880-1942
Hübbe, Nikolaj
Nichols, Kyra
Baryshnikov, Mikhail, 1948-
Glass, Philip
Reich, Steve, 1936-
Le Clercq, Tanaquil
Farrell, Suzanne, 1945-
Gluck-Sandor, Senia
Tudor, Antony, 1908-1987
Ballet Theatre (New York, N.Y.)
New York City Ballet
American Theatre Laboratory (New York, N.Y.)
Fancy free (Choreographic work : Robbins)
Guests (Choreographic work : Robbins)
Cage (Choreographic work : Robbins)
Dances at a gathering (Choreographic work : Robbins)
Goldberg variations (Choreographic work : Robbins)
Watermill (Choreographic work : Robbins)
Dybbuk (Choreographic work : Robbins)
Antique epigraphs (Choreographic work : Robbins)
Afternoon of a faun (Choreographic work : Robbins)
Ives, songs (Choreographic work : Robbins)
Firebird (Choreographic work : Balanchine and Robbins)
Pulcinella (Choreographic work : Balanchine and Robbins)
West Side story (Motion picture)
Brahms/Handel (Choreographic work : Robbins and Tharp)
Prodigal son (Choreographic work : Balanchine)
Tyl Ulenspiegel (Choreographic work : Balanchine)
West Side story suite (Choreographic work : Robbins)
2 & 3 part inventions (Choreographic work : Robbins)
Harlequinade (Choreographic work : Balanchine)
In memory of ... (Choreographic work : Robbins)
Choreographers -- United States -- 20th century
Video recordings
Content: Title from original container; location and date spoken on tape.
Venue: Videotaped in the library of Jerome Robbins' home in New York, N.Y., on July 11, 1995.
Physical Description
Extent: 2 videocassette (Digital Betacam) (108 min.) : sound, color ; 1/2 in.
Interview conducted for Kennedy Center's Oral History Archive. Jerome Robbins (1918-1998) looks back on his multifaceted career as dancer, choreographer, and stage and film director.
Type of Resource
Moving image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b16111735
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 43916a70-75e9-0138-11c8-0e3eb9f35de1
Rights Statement
The copyright and related rights status of this item has been reviewed by The New York Public Library, but we were unable to make a conclusive determination as to the copyright status of the item. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use.

Item timeline of events

  • 1995: Created
  • 2020: Digitized
  • 2023: Found by you!
  • 2024

MLA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Jerome Robbins interviewed by Deborah Jowitt" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1995.

Chicago/Turabian Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Jerome Robbins interviewed by Deborah Jowitt" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 27, 2023.

APA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. (1995). Jerome Robbins interviewed by Deborah Jowitt Retrieved from

Wikipedia Citation

<ref name=NYPL>{{cite web | url= | title= (moving image) Jerome Robbins interviewed by Deborah Jowitt, (1995)|author=Digital Collections, The New York Public Library |accessdate=September 27, 2023 |publisher=The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations}}</ref>

Jerome Robbins interviewed by Deborah Jowitt