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 Post subject: Students of Kosloff & Baldina
PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2002 8:53 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
Posted in another thread.

Originally posted by Basheva:

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I just finished a book about Marion Davies. She was a very famous actress in the 1920's and '30's - both silent and sound films. She was also the life long mistress (it was a very open relationship) with William Randolph Hearst. For those of you who might not know he owned, among other things like hotels and such, several newspapers and built Hearst Castle - San Simeon.

In the book I read that Marion Davies trained in ballet with Theodore Kosloff, in Southern California. He and his wife, Alexandra Baldina, were part of the original group of dancers who left Russia with Diaghelev. Baldina was the original waltz girl in Fokine's Les Sylphides. My first teacher was a student of the Kosloff's. Agnes De Mille was also a student at that school.

I was really excited to read about this in the book - even just these tidbits. I would like to find out more information about the Kosloff school in LA.

So, I know I got side tracked here, but Marion Davies is another who got side-tracked...

Here's a site about:

Marion Davies

and some about:

Theodore Kosloff
Liscarkat
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Member# 2029

posted 11-16-2002 03:05

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What a coincidence Basheva--my first teacher was also a former student of Kosloff and Baldina. Her name was Irene Wilson (a.k.a. Irene Snow), and she owned the Montmartre School of Imperial Russian Ballet in Tustin and Newport Beach. She was rather eccentric and unorthodox, especially in her training of male students, but the technical things she was strict about paid off when I was studying elsewhere later. For a while I lived in a very tiny room adjoining the studio she had in her house in Newport Beach and took care of her yard in exchange for classes. Was this the same teacher you started with? Sorry this is off the topic, but I had to ask!


<small>[ 11-16-2002, 09:55: Message edited by: Basheva ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Students of Kosloff & Baldina
PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2002 8:54 am 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
My teacher was Marguerite Ellicott. She was "THE" ballet teacher in San Diego for many, many years. For several decades anyone who truly wanted to study ballet in this city studied with Miss Ellicott. By pure chance I began my studies with her.

She was incredible. The sweetest lady - outside of class. But in the class, well, class was very serious business, indeed. She was a stickler for detail - and details of those details. But as much as we suffered/sweated/mumbled under our breath - the lessons stayed for a lifetime. People who went on to careers always said, that every day of those careers, they silently thanked Miss Ellicott.

When she died (in the mid 80's I believe it was) the San Diego Union Tribune carried a huge article. She had already been retired for many years, but the church was filled with mourners.

She was the choreographer for Starlight Musical Theater for decades. I was also told that she was the choreographer for several of the large musical/dance films that were so popular in the 1930's and 1940's. I have never checked that out - but that's what I was told.

My 'favorite' personal recollection was of one particular class of her's I took. I had the ill-luck to be the only one to turn up for pointe class one day. She had difficulty seeing the wristwatch she wore - and she had difficulty seeing the clock on the far wall. However, she had NO difficulty at all of seeing me and all my mistakes. The class went on and on and on. Then she said to me "why are you so tired? What's your problem?" I didn't dare tell her......

Finally she really held her watch up to her nose and said, "oh, it's been only an hour - wait, it's been two hours. Uh, - over two hours. Well, my dear, I guess class should be over."

Over two hours of 'private' class on pointe with Miss Ellicott - and I survived to type about it. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Students of Kosloff & Baldina
PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2002 9:35 am 
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Quote:
Originally posted by Basheva:

Over two hours of 'private' class on pointe with Miss Ellicott - and I survived to type about it. :)
I guess if you typed with your toes, you WOULDN'T be typing this!


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 Post subject: Re: Students of Kosloff & Baldina
PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2002 2:03 pm 
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And for a moment, Basheva, I thought maybe we'd been at the same studio (at different times). Oh well. It sounds like Marguerite Ellicott was a wonderful teacher. Miss Irene (as Irene Wilson was called by her students) danced in the Kosloff-Baldina company during the 1920s, and claimed to have also appeared as a chorus dancer in some of the very earliest MGM musical films, circa 1929. She had many stories of Kosloff and Baldina, and photo albums full of pictures of them and their company. I started out at her school of "Imperial Russian Ballet" because I'd seen an article about her in the L.A. Times. She could be a tyrant, but was also sometimes very kind. Her ideas about teaching were somewhat eccentric. She wouldn't allow any stretching without her direct supervision, and had me wearing pointe shoes with ribbons the whole time I studied with her (but not going on pointe). She only taught pirouettes from fifth position. She claimed this was all tradition straight from the source: Kosloff and Baldina, but I suspect she had gone a little dotty. We used no rosin or Marley on the floor in the studio--instead she had us sprinkle the bare boards with a watering can, like you see in old films from Russia. Miss Irene claimed to be the only teacher still teaching proper ballet, and her studio was very cliquish. We were forbidden to attend ABT or NYCB performances because they would "corrupt" us, and San Francisco Ballet was considered the Antichrist (I secretly went to see all the companies anyway). She referred to students who left her as "defectors." There was sometimes a very stressful atmosphere around the studio. On the other hand, she was meticulous and insistent about attention to the rudiments of technique, and while I was at the barre she would sometimes swat me on the legs with a stick she carried. She was unorthodox, sometimes cruel, definitely delusional, and occassionally brilliant. As I said in an earlier post, she put me up at her house for a while, which was good of her, but at the same time tried to control every detail of my life. Eventually I realized there was a whole ballet world on the outside and I had to get away from her, but a lot of what she taught me benefitted me throughout the rest of the years I danced. So that's my somewhat strange experience with a student of Kosloff and Baldina. She had quite a following of devoted students who probably have a differnt viewpoint. Are any of you out there?

<small>[ 11-16-2002, 15:04: Message edited by: Liscarkat ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Students of Kosloff & Baldina
PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2002 4:57 pm 
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Yes, yes, yes, pirouettes only from and to fifth position. Miss Ellicott said that if one could execute pirouettes beginning and ending in fifth position, then all the other positions were that much easier. I personally, think that there is much to be gained by using all the positions, but that was her philosophy - only fifth.

We also dare not EVER use our arms to impel the turn. Arms were an 'adornment' she said, and so we learned pirouettes with arms over our heads, behind our backs, crossed over the chest.

Yes, the cane. Always the cane. she used it to walk, she used it to stamp out the time and she used it for "improvement." When she said "jump higher" and it was not as high as she thought possible, well, the cane came skittering at high speed along the floor and, oh my, one discovered height one never knew it was possible to possses in an assemblé or petit jeté.

As I have mentioned in previous threads, she regularly gave us a rather peculiar sliding/stretching tendu combination in the center that was most taxing. She told us it was straight from the Maryinski School through the Kosloff's. Sure enough, when many years later I saw "Children of Theatre Street" the children were doing that exercise.

No water drinking - ever. Only after class and it had to be room temperature.

We began class by lining up and walking up to her chair, making an individual reverence "good afternoon, Miss Ellicott." After class we did a group reverence, but then again another lineup - and an individual reverence "Thank you, Miss Ellicott."

For the first few ballet classes I was aghast at these obeisences - but I soon fell in love with the traditional aspects and used them as an opportunity to really work on my port de bra in reverence. One day I was rewarded when she said, "Basheva has discovered her arms."

Wasn't there was also - along with the Kosloff-Baldina school in LA, another studio run by Bronislava Nijinska? or was it her daughter? I met a lady in the 1970's who had been a student there.

Anyone know anything about that?


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 Post subject: Re: Students of Kosloff & Baldina
PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2002 5:49 pm 
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One student of Mme. Baldina's still currently teaching is Larry Long, Director of the Ruth Page Foundation School of Dance.


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 Post subject: Re: Students of Kosloff & Baldina
PostPosted: Sat Nov 16, 2002 6:18 pm 
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This thread is bringing back memories of my first ballet teacher. She had been a student of, and a member Mordkin's company. Remember all these teachers had their pet sayings that they would trot out on a regular basis? Things like "You won't find this in a little pink pill under your pillow. You have to work for it." And yes, the ubiquitous cane used to clomp out the rhythm. And didn't they always wear "unique teaching outfits?"

Did anyone study under that veritable dragon (said with utmost fondness and respect)with the incredible legs that had a rolling walk like a sailor named Edna Macrae?


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 Post subject: Re: Students of Kosloff & Baldina
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2002 9:19 pm 
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Yes, that "rather peculiar sliding/stretching tendu combination in the center" brought back memories. Miss Irene used to have us do a combination that I'm sure was exactly that same thing. I had forgotten about it. She also beat out the tempo on the floor with the end of the stick, as well as prodding legs to urge more turnout, etc. And the arm-free pirouettes from and to fifth with arms behind our backs or overhead--it all sounds very familiar.


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 Post subject: Re: Students of Kosloff & Baldina
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2002 10:13 pm 
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I think I can still describe that sliding tendu combination.....

Stand in fifth position, right foot front, croisé. Tendu the right foot to the front, the left leg is in fondu. Now, without putting any weight on that right foot tendu, stretch it out fully to fourth position, and further out, and further out - just as far as is physically possible. The left leg is still in fondu, and there is still no weight on the stretched out right tendu. Now when you think it's absolutely as far as it can go - well, unless you want 'improvement' from the cane, stretch it out some more.

Now, finally transfer onto that right foot - but its knee never bends, it's a transfer onto a straight leg. Close up the left foot to the right foot in fifth position. You are now in fifth position, right foot in front, croisé. Just like you started.

Imperceptably change to un face as you extend the right foot in tendu to second position. Fondu on the left leg, and stretch the right foot out to second - now go further, and further (again remembering the cane - so you go even a bit further), and finally transfer onto a straight right leg, closing the left foot to fifth position front. You are now in fifth position, left foot front, croisé.

Repeat the whole thing using the left foot. And then reverse. This can also be done (believe it or not) without the fondu - from straight leg to straight leg (oy). There was another variant of this with a pirouette every time you came to fifth....it's best not to remember that one.


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 Post subject: Re: Students of Kosloff & Baldina
PostPosted: Mon Nov 18, 2002 10:23 pm 
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Yes, that's it! And in reverse. And another variation I remember from my teacher involved staying low (very low) in the fondu position and doing a sweeping ronde de jamb with the extended leg, closing in fifth without coming up from the demi plie, and repeating on the other side, in sort of a continuous smooth movement across the floor.


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