Laura Jacobs

Laura Jacobs’s most recent book is Celestial Bodies: How to Look at Ballet.

‘It seems​ that I have written miles of words,’ the choreographer Martha Graham wrote to the composer Aaron Copland in 1943. ‘But that is the way I work … to make a skeleton and then to be ready and willing to change when the music comes. The story is not so important … as the inner life that emerges as the medium takes hold.’ Copland had already...

The​ 1940s was the generative decade for American dance. George Balanchine, who was inching towards the founding of the New York City Ballet in 1948, produced eight works for other companies. Antony Tudor moved to New York from London in 1940 and quickly created two visions of psychosexual implosion, Pillar of Fire and Undertow. In 1944, Jerome Robbins burst onto the scene with Fancy Free,...

The Girl Who Waltzes: George Balanchine

Laura Jacobs, 9 October 2014

In 1973​, when George Balanchine was asked by his biographer Bernard Taper to appraise the previous decade of his life, he replied: ‘It’s all in the programmes.’ He meant that the most important information was already onstage: in the new ballets he made, the old ones he revived and the dancers he chose to perform them. ‘You have to look everywhere, everything, all...

To the Great God Pan: Goddess Isadora

Laura Jacobs, 24 October 2013

There is only one piece of film that shows Isadora Duncan dancing. It is four seconds long, the very end of a performance, and it is followed by eight seconds in which Duncan accepts applause. This small celluloid footprint – light-struck in the manner of Eugène Atget – contains quite a bit of information. It is an afternoon recital, early in the 20th century, and it takes place en plein air, trees in the background, like so much of the painting of the day. Duncan enters the frame turning, her arms positioned in an upward reach not unlike ballet’s codified fourth position, but more naturally placed.

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