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 Post subject: Ruthanna Boris
PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2007 3:05 pm 
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Location: Seattle, WA, USA
Ruthanna Boris, former Ballets Russes dancer and choreographer of "Cakewalk," passed away on Friday, January 5, 2007. She taught ballet at the University of Washington from 1965-83 and moved from Seattle to Berkeley, California upon her retirement from the University. The obituary is by Jack Anderson in the New York Times:

Ruthanna Boris obituary


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 10, 2007 12:32 pm 
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Location: Seattle, WA. USA
Howard Sayette is quoted in the SF Chronicle's obit of her
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.c ... NF6S41.DTL
that she was "...stubborn and opinionated."

I thoroughly agree she was very talented and devoted to ballet. I do also know that UW dance students were terrified of her (probably a good thing). Her language could also be rather salty and sometimes used images that would have made a Marine blush. Nevertheless, she got results.

I first saw her work in a performance when the dance department at the UW was then in an old amory -- lots of space but no mirrors with portable barres as I recall. She made a ballet that had the dancers wheel in the lighting instruments, which were singularly on poles w/tripod wheels. I thought this very creative and visually stricking and unusual.

Hannah C. Wiley, the former UW Dance Department Chair, was one of her students and in this group that I saw. Also in this group was Kansas City Ballet's Executive Director, Jeffrey Bentley.

In the UW Archives is a report from Lincoln Kirstein who was brought out many years ago to assess, what was then the troubled UW dance program. He observed that while the dance department was run by "those two ladies" (Joan Skinner and Boris) it would continue to be troubled. [Think modern vs. ballet.] Sayette's adjectives apply to Skinner as well as Boris.

You have to realize that this was on the heels of the times when big personalities ruled and things were very "tribal." Martha Graham passing Doris Humphrey on the street and calling her a snake; later modern dancer/choreographer and faculty member Bill Evans at the University of Utah coming into his office area via the outside fire escape so he could avoid going through the ballet office area, and thus also avoiding those he did not wish to encounter. "Who's that on the fire escape? Oh, that just Bill Evans. He comes that way to avoid..."

In the pre-PNB era, Seattle was not immune to "star wars" and dance studio turf-dom. This was one of the reasons that I got out of Seattle (as did so many before me!) as quickly as possible to pursue training and a dance career elsewhere!

Boris was a local icon and legend. A genuine character, smart, and completely sure of her art.

I remember reading that she had planned to write her memoirs and my fond hope is that she got to the point of this project at least where they could be printed and made available.

_________________
Dean Speer
ballet@u.washington.edu


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Thu Jan 11, 2007 10:48 am 
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Location: Seattle, WA, USA
R. M. Campbell has written an obituary for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that includes a focus on her years with the University of Washington Dance Program:

Seattle P-I


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 Post subject:
PostPosted: Sat Jan 20, 2007 4:20 pm 
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Location: Seattle, WA, USA
A wonderful tribute published as an editorial in the Contra Costa Times:

Contra Costa Times


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 12, 2007 11:20 am 
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Location: Seattle, WA, USA
Seattle Times art critic Sheila Farr writes from personal experience as a student of Ruthanna Boris at the University of Washington in the late '60s/early '70s:

Seattle Times


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